Training for the Cleveland Half: Running My Own Race

Right before the Freeport 5 Miler two weeks ago, Sassymonkey sent me an email. She told me to kick butt and run my own race. She’s a smart one.

The race went well.


But, man, I’ve been struggling with that whole “run your own race” concept.

I read a lot of blogs by female runners now. I read them for inspiration. I read them for information. I read them for encouragement, for product reviews, for tips and tricks and advice. I read running blogs by the big bloggers and small bloggers alike. Each of these blogs teaches me something about myself, about running, about health, about life. I have learned so much since I started actively seeking out running blogs this past fall.


I have also learned that I am not the fastest runner.

It’s kind of a bummer at times.


I’ll be running along, happy as a running clam, and a time check-in will sound on my Runkeeper app. Hearing my average pace and my current pace often makes me sad. Especially on, say, mile 10.5 of an 11 mile run. While I could easily turn off the pace check-ins, they are important to me right now as this return to running has been a learning process for me. My body, after that back injury in 2010, feels new and different. I am not quite in a place where I want to give up information about pace. I don’t yet trust my body to hit and stay at my preferred speed — either too fast or too slow.

And so, the app tells me my pace, and for a moment I think, “Woo! Right where I wanted to be today. Look at me go!” And then I’ll have a flash of a recent post or tweet by a much-faster-runner and my face falls. I then begin talking to myself. (I talk to myself a lot on runs, so if you see me run by and my lips are moving, just smile and nod. Maybe wave. Holding up signs is also acceptable.) I repeat, “Run your own race. RUN your OWN race. Run YOUR own RACE. RUN YOUR OWN RACE!” And then I get all Baz Luhrmann and deep and emo-before-emo-was-a-thing and repeat, “The race is long. And in the end, it’s only with yourself.” Then I remember that I forgot to put on sunscreen. And then for a little bit I get lost in memories from 1999 and eventually wind up back at, “Man, I was so much more fit and ran so much faster in 1999.” Then I sigh and go back to chanting, “Run your own race, Jenna! RUN YOUR OWN RACE IN 2013!”

It’s hard.

This whole process has been hard. Which, I mean, obviously. If running a half marathon was easy, everyone would do it. Like getting tattoos. Or something. Running longer distances may feel easier now than it used to, but any time I do a speed workout, I feel like I’m going to die or going to fall over or pass out or cry or just plain old quit. Great running friends have reassured me that speed will come in time, but I get all, “I don’t have time for “in time.” I want it now!” Something about our present day culture and immediate gratification belongs here, but I’m stuck with the fact that I am slower than I want to be. I will finish my first half marathon, I have no doubt. Finishing my first 11 mile run this past weekend feeling downright giddy showed me that, but it will be a slow finish.


And that’s okay. This is my own race.

I am forced to put my perfectionist personality aside and focus on running this race with and against myself. It’s good for me; to focus on just running the best race I can at any given time on any given run forces me to look at other areas of my life. Comparing myself to others on any number of topics isn’t fair to myself or others. Weight loss, career success, writing, fashion, oh my goodness all of my gray hair, our kitchen, and, you know, parenting. Letting go of the comparison and just letting myself be in the moment, running the best race I can or writing the best piece I can or being the best mom I can is remarkably freeing. I struggle with it, but I’m getting there.



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14 Replies to “Training for the Cleveland Half: Running My Own Race”

  1. I’m training for a 5K locally, but some runners in our training group are training for the 10K in Cleveland that weekend. Now I wish I were ready for a 10K because I would have loved the chance to meet up with you in person. :)

    I am struggling with running my own race these days, too. I’m not struggling against much-faster runners online, though; I’m struggling against myself 20 years ago, when I *was* a much faster runner. When I was home at Christmas I realized just how much I’ve lost in all those years off; not only was I faster than I am here, where it is pretty flat, but I had to walk up some of those big hills I used to run with ease.

    I can’t wait to read about your half! I’ll be reading you for tips and inspiration as I work my way up from a 5K to (hopefully) a half one of these days… :) xo

  2. There was a reason I sent you that specific message. lol I know you too well.

    I’ve had a post brewing for a long time about this topic and at some point I’ll actually write it.

  3. Oh goodness can I relate! Have the same love/hate relationship with Runkeeper. And wow, totally admire that you can do long runs! I’m only good for about 5 miles, which makes me incredibly bummed. When I hit that “I’m so slow and can’t run well” mode, I remind myself how amazing it is that I am actually running (because I was certainly not made for running of any kind) and how hard it is for me to do it. Then I get all proud of myself for a minute that I’m doing something which doesn’t come naturally and conquering it! Even if it is slowly… Having fun reading your blog! Pix–Cheese Curds and Kimchi

  4. A wise person told me last year when I was training for my first half not to worry the pace others ran or try to be “like ” them. This still is a hard lesson and I do run slow (12 -12:30 pace). The important thing for me is to enjoy the run. I think you are doing very well and congratulations on the 11 miles.

    The other thing I realized is that each day I run is different and some days just for me go mile by mile while others I can run the entire mileage without a problem. I can always say I feel better in the end.

    Continued success and have fun

  5. That is such good advice! I am a slow runner. I always have been, and while I’ve gotten a teensy bit faster, I think I always will be. I have to remind myself over and over that I’m running much faster than I would be if I was home in front of the computer. I guess it’s all a matter of finding the words that work for you – and trying to keep them in your head and your heart: Run your own race. Be kind to yourself. Getting out there and doing something is better than doing nothing. You have permission to believe you’re a superhero. ;-) So many good thinks to think.

  6. I just wrote about this and oddly my metaphor was about a 4 minute mile. You know what you need to do — run your own mile — but this RIGHT NOW culture makes running the marathon for ourselves so difficult. For me, I need to stop worrying. You fit this and so do I; at our own pace.

  7. I hear ya! I am a slow runner myself and only recently have I begun to accept this and I am trying notto compare myself to my running friends & the running bloggers I read about.
    I really like the saying “run my own race.” I will use that. Thanks for sharing.

  8. I completely understand that need. I started running in November of last year and I’m running a half in June. It’s going to be a slow half marathon. I ran five miles today and I know that many people are a lot faster than I, but my mantra is “Just keep running.” Running fast can’t be the point because I can’t do it yet and I don’t know if I ever will be able to. Whether or not you see yourself as fast, you are providing inspiration – thank you!

  9. i want to start running and i have downloaded the couch to 5k app for training. could you tell me some of the blogs that you follow???

  10. I’m a Cleveland runner too and struggle with my speed. I have been running about 2 years and completed many 5K’s and ran my first half in September (River Run). I had 3 goals for that one- to run the entire time (no walking), to finish and to finish before the 3 hour time limit! I finished in about 2:40 and hope to run the Cleveland half a bit faster. Good luck with your training!

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