a year of running awesomeness

I am sure that awesomeness is not even a real word, but it perfectly describes my 2013 running season. Sure, I experienced failure, but, for the most part, I crushed it. Here’s a look back.

The year started off with an absolutely wonderful opportunity! I was picked to be an official blogger for the 2013 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, and I was able to share my training stories with readers all over the US and world (shout-out to my overseas readers!) Being a blogger not only helped me motivate others; it helped give me the motivation I needed to train for and complete my fourth full marathon. The training piece went well, exceptionally well, and I felt like I was in the best shape to capture a new marathon PR. I trained from December 2012 through May 2013, devoting my time to this race. Sadly, the race didn’t go my way, and I was down on myself for a while after that. I thought running a marathon well was not in the cards for me, and I admit that I gave up the idea of doing another any time soon.

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all smiles after finishing the rite aid cleveland marathon

Instead of being a whiney-pants, I used my Cleveland debacle to look at myself and change some things in order to be a better runner. Before, I used the old excuse, “I’m running, so I will burn it off!” when it came to eating and running. Not a strategy I would recommend. In June I began tracking my food and physical activity using MyFitnessPal and Runtastic. I was able to drop 10 pounds, found I didn’t have a lot of gastrointestinal issue anymore (THANK YOU, JESUS!), and just felt better about myself. I also didn’t fall off the running wagon, like I had done every single time after a major race. I would always take a break, which would put me back at square one when I had to train for another major race. I continued to run throughout the summer, and I saw my times dropping. I have stated before that being fast wasn’t important to me, but this year I just wasn’t content with my slower pace. Getting faster was exciting, and I kept pushing myself hard in training runs.

I had a real “holy crap” moment in September when I ran the Downtown Willoughby 5K. I will quickly tell you that a 5K is my absolute least favorite distance to run, but I was kinda excited to see what I could do in terms of speed. My 5K PR was last set in June 2009 when I ran the Ohio City Run and Crawl with a time of 26:40. I never, ever thought I could touch that speed again. I don’t know what I was worried about because I blew it out of the water! I ran the race with a time of 24:56, which worked out to an 8:03/mile pace! I was completely floored, and although I was dying at the finish, it was all worth it. Just a few months before, I felt like I was flying if my pace was in the low 9:00 range, and sub-9 was amazing! And want to know the best part? I had just run a double-digit training run the day before. BOOM!

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we earned those drink tickets after this race!

With a new 5K PR under my belt and restored confidence, I wanted to see what I was capable of for longer distances and wanted a challenge. October became Half-tober, and I ran 4 half marathon in less than a month’s time. It started off with a bang when I set a new half marathon PR of 2:03:58 in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Cleveland half, only to crush that PR the following week by running my first sub-2 hour half at the Northern Ohio Half Marathon in Fairport Harbor (1:58:30 to be exact, which is a 9:05/mile pace). It was a sweet finish because all four kids, my parents, and my sister and her husband were there cheering for me. Next up was the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon, a race I was looking forward to since last year. I signed on to be a Children’s Champion and was able to raise over $650 for the hospital through the extremely generous donations of family and friends. I ran Columbus with my friends Susie and Bee and helped them through their second half marathon, which was rewarding in itself. The government shutdown worked in my favor because I was able to round out my month with the rescheduled Towpath Half Marathon in the first weekend in November. Again, this race was not about time; the goal was to help Susie PR her half. Although the PR was not to be that race day, we had a great time. With the completion of four half marathons in less than 30 days, I qualified for Half Fanatic status, making me official member #5223. That month of racing also solidified the half as my favorite racing distance.

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rock ‘n’ roll cleveland half marathon with jeffrey

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smiles with the kiddles after my sub-2 hour half at the northern ohio half marathon

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on the way to the finish at the columbus marathon

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towpath half marathon finishers!

I rounded out race season with another amazing accomplishment. After my half marathons, I kept training hard, with the hope of running a sub-8:00/mile 5K race. I had the opportunity to put my training to the test when I ran the Turkey Day 5K in Painesville on Thanksgiving morning. Despite the extremely cold temperatures and ice on the course, I crossed the finish with a time of 24:08 (7:46 pace) and placed 6th out of 97 in my age group and 36th out of 759 women! The impossible was now possible.

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the walking dead

Running on my own has always been fun, but I had the pleasure of introducing more family members to running this year. My oldest daughter, Alexandra, really got into it, and she ran the St. Malachi 2-miler with me in March, making it her first official race! Not content with only 2 miles, she begged to run a 5K, and she has already completed 2 of them – the Skeleton Run For Your Bones 5K (which she ran after competing in the Funny Bone 1 mile race) and A Christmas Story 5K. Adrianna, Cole, and Cael also took part in two runs this year – the Milk Run 1 mile family walk/run, which they turned into a competitive race, and the Funny Bone 1 mile run, where three out of four kids placed in their age groups. My sister Sarah also joined me on the race course, completing the Women Who Run 4 mile race in Cleveland, Run or Dye 5K in Cleveland, and the Downtown Willoughby 5K, which she completed with her husband, Rhett. Sadly, Raymond was absent from running this year due to a back injury, but I have my fingers crossed that he will be able to run again. Recovery has been extremely slow, and he is still out of commission. Let’s hope for a full recovery in 2014 because I want my running partner back. The only positive to this – I can finally beat him in a race (never said I wasn’t competitive).

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my fave race pic, taken after lex finished her first 5K

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showing off their bling

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with her major award after a christmas story 5K

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sarah’s first race

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run or dye!

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with my favorite spectator at the children’s champion breakfast

And that leads me to 2014. How can I top this year?! It begins with a burning desire to completely crush the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon this year, and I am not leaving that race course without a PR. I am so thankful to be back as an official blogger for 2014, and I am looking forward to the motivation from my readers, family, friends, and fellow bloggers. Between the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon staff and the other bloggers, we have an amazing team, and I am proud to be part of it and represent the city and race I love. Cleveland will also be a family affair for me, and I couldn’t be more excited! My parents and sister will be joining Alexandra and me as we run the Cleveland 5K the day before the marathon. I encourage you to join us, or sign up for the marathon, half marathon, or 10K! You don’t want to miss out on The Cleveland Experience, so get your registration in before the price increase on January 15.

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isn’t it just beautiful?!

2014 brings not one but two marathons to my schedule. I will also be running the Columbus Marathon and will participate as a Children’s Champion again. My goal is to help raise $1000 for Nationwide Children’s Hospital to help children and families battling illnesses. I have another purpose in running the Columbus full this year – I am going to help pace my friend Susie through her first marathon! How cool is that?! We ran two half marathons together this year, and she wants to take the plunge and run a full. I will do whatever I can to help her achieve that. Running a marathon is a life-changing experience, and I am glad to be part of her journey.

And what about speed? I would like to set a new 5K PR by running around a 7:30 minutes/mile pace. With the training I have already been putting in, I don’t see how I couldn’t accomplish this. I would also like to drop my half marathon pace to sub-9:00 mile, which again is very doable and would only require me to shave off 6 seconds per mile. I have already been running sub-9 on my treadmill long runs in preparation for this. To add a different challenge to the year, I would like to run back-to-back half marathons. Not quite sure when this will occur, but that’s the plan.

Lastly, family and running! My kids really enjoyed taking part in races this year, and it is something I will continue in 2014. Both Alexandra and Adrianna want to run the St. Malachi 2-miler, which would be a first for Annie, and Alexandra can’t wait to hit the pavement for a more 5Ks. She wants to get faster and improve her time. Cole and Cael are content running the 1 mile races, and their biggest competition is each other. The thing about this that makes me a very proud mom is my kids are truly enjoying themselves, and they are learning a lifelong sport. I am trying to lay a foundation that encourages physical activity and healthy eating, and by living it and practicing what I preach, I am setting an example for them.

Lots of exciting stuff coming up in 2014, and I can’t wait to share it with you as the year unfolds. Thank you for your support, motivation, and thoughts. Let’s make this a great one!

What is something running-related you accomplished this year? What are your running goals for next year?

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One thought on “a year of running awesomeness

  1. Reblogged this on Resiliency Fitness and commented:
    Steph is an amazing person. Read her story and you’ll know exactly why. A single mom of 4 who uses her motivation, humor, and love of running to show others how to make fitness a way of life. She’s the epitome of the phrase: #noexcuses. So proud of you, Steph :)

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