Wednesday, October 12, 2016


I remember a little over five years ago when I trained for my first half marathon. That first 5-mile run was monumental in my training. I didn't know my knees could take such a long run, and I also first thought about how it would be crazy to ever run the marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Josh ran a marathon the following year. Yeah, I thought he was crazy, but when my fast friend Pam qualified for Boston a couple years later I thought for the first time, Maybe I could run a marathon.

Then I dismissed that crazy thought.

About two years ago when I started training seriously with weekly mileage goals and speed work outs, I started getting stronger and faster. And I didn't automatically dismiss the marathon idea when I would think about it. I still thought it was crazy, and though I kept the idea secret: maybe a full marathon was doable for me one day. Two summers of running in Oxford helped too.

Fast-forward to three days after my first full marathon, and I still think running 26.2 miles is crazy, and maybe it's the high from the finish talking, but I'd do it again. There's something beautiful seeing an accomplishment come to fruition that can be traced back two and half years when all I wanted was to get back into shape after having my third child. Somewhere along the way, I started to really love running.

All the miles.

Lack of sleep from early morning runs.

A whole lot of ice.

And pain.

It was all worth it when I got to cross the finish yesterday.

We've all read and heard the motivational stories involving marathons. Marathons serve as perfect illustrations for life lessons and the spiritual. With close friends and family that have ran full marathons, I've heard their inspirational stories. My cousin Annie who cheered me on Saturday wrote, "It takes a lot of support to train. It takes support to run. I don't know why we think we can do life alone...God gave us people for a reason. Find your people. We're all in this together. We need Him and we need each other." So true. I love that phrase, "Find your people," but alas, that will be another blog post I've been writing.

Training for and running a marathon taught me a few things...

I'm still amazed what our bodies can do. For a girl who has never been athletic and inherited weak knees, I'm grateful that God gives us the ability to get stronger when we train. 

Running has been a great stress-reliever and a good way to manage my health, plus it's the only sport I'm good at (it's true, ask my boys about my catching "ability"). I was grumpy for the couple of weeks leading up to the race. I realized it was because my stress-reliever was taken away as I was tapering before the race.

The support and love I've been shown is overwhelming. 

From Josh and the family who watched kids so I could get my miles in and get a good night's sleep the night before the race. 

To all the Facebook love and encouraging texts from friends and family. Race day (and the weeks leading up to it) brought lots of encouragement. 

The crowds were great, and I saw the same spectators throughout the race as they moved along the race route to cheer their person (and others in the pace group).

Seeing my family twice on the route and at the finish helped so much. 

Can you tell this was around mile 9?
I was feeling awesome here.
And then there were the runners I met at the race. In my experience, the running community is typically very encouraging to runners at all levels. And there's something that bonds people together when they discover that they share a love for running. 

This is around mile 6 I think.
I ran with these guys the first half: Ricardo my pacer and Steve,
a first-time marathoner from Kansas City. 

I was thankful for my pace group at this race, especially my pacers. I don't think I would have done as well at my first marathon without a pace group. I would have burned out too early because I would have gone too fast during the first half. The pacer Ricardo had us walk at each water station for about 10-15 seconds. That little relief helped to sustain me. The first 13 miles flew by as I swapped running stories with Ricardo and Steve.

These awesome female pacers took over the second half. 
The race route wound through neighborhoods even cutting through a few yards to get on a path a couple of times. Because there were so many turns, it was a good distraction to the amount of miles. Shortly after the women took over, I had to stop to stretch my hips at a water stop. Annette gave me some electrolyte tablets because my calves and hips were cramping up. I hit a wall about mile 15, and I got really tired and slowed down. I took another gel, made myself catch up with the group, and Steve and the pacers encouraged me until I shook it off. I did okay for another couple miles, but started falling behind little by little around mile 19. 
Miles 20-24 were pretty awful. I was by myself. My legs were so heavy. I was hurting in places I had never hurt before. I was having to stop and walk way too much. This was when I had the crazy-two-extreme-line-of-thoughts. 

"So next time I train, I'm going to work on building up more strength in my legs so I can get through these miles quicker...."

and then 

"Can I just stop? I could call the fam to pick me up."

Back and forth. What kept me going was all the encouragement and advice I had been given by my running friends. I replayed it in my mind to stay motivated. Fast friend Pam telling me that you work with what you've got on race day. My Oxford running friend Myron's comments were running through my mind, "It's going to be hard. Your legs will alternate between feeling like rubber, lead, and fire. You will want to quit. You'll want to quit, but you won't. You'll run the next step, and the next, and the next, and you will persevere one agonizing step at a time."

As I neared the 24.25 mark, I told myself I was going to pick it up and get the race done. That would only be about 2 more miles. I was able to pick up my pace. My legs were still hurting, but they didn't feel like lead anymore. I got about a mile out from the finish, and I saw Ricardo.

He had come towards the end of the route to cheer on the pace group and join them, and realized I had fallen behind. He jumped on the course exclaiming, "There you are, Amanda! How you feeling?" As he ran alongside me, I told him I was really hurting and tired. He said, "Yep. You should be - it's almost the end of the marathon. But you have to finish. I'll be your personal pacer now and windbreak." He ran in front of me setting the pace - getting ever so faster. About a tenth of the mile out, he got off the course and said I had finish it on my own and "Run it out."

And I did.

There are few things in this world that parallel that elusive runner's high. I'm thankful I get to run; thankful God gave me the opportunity to run a marathon. And yeah, I'll probably do another one again. But I'll let my knees heal up first...

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

It's Almost Here

My first full marathon that is.

I had a friend ask me about a week ago, "It's almost here - are you getting nervous?"

I stared at her blankly.

"Your marathon?"

Oh that. I'm either blocking it out or I'm just ready for it to be over.
I'm past the nerves (for now). I'm ready to be fast again and just have to run 13 miles. I had heard others say the same thing about their marathon training. It's a lot of time and miles, and something happens to my body after mile 18.

This is me after 14 miles with 8.25 left to go on my last really long run. 
It gets incredibly tired. And a bit emotional. I might have cried a bit when I hit 20 miles. From pain? From disbelief of what I had done? Because I'm a little crazy? Yes to all of the above.

I've been tapering. I'm in the grumpy-because-the-way-I-can-burn-away-stress-has-been-taken-away-to-rest-my-legs stage. Leave me the coffee and the chocolate and run walk along.

I got to do a short long run on Saturday and was joined for part of it by two of my running friends.

It was a celebration of sorts. Pam had just been released from knee surgery recovery, Hartman is building back mileage from heart surgery, and it was my last "long" run. It was a good way to wrap up my marathon training (I've had a couple short runs this week, but I'm all done now). I've had so much support from friends and family about my running. Makes me thankful for all of the special people in my life.

Here's to hoping Sunday is a good running day!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Fall In Full Swing

1. At 3, H is very entertaining...

She currently poses for pics with a thumbs up or jazz hands.
Notice that freaky mask covering her face. Though entertaining, it's a bit creepy.
2....except her fits. Then she's not so entertaining.

3. We're in full swing of sports: baseball and soccer. 

4. I'm surviving the start of the semester with coffee. 

And so is H....

Kidding people. She steals my mom's cooled London Fog.
5. On our free evenings, everyone now is old enough to play games. 
It's one of my favorite things to do with the kids.

C is practicing his Vegas roll.

6. I got to see one of my favorite bands for the first time thanks to Josh.

The Avett Brothers - and Bonus! Jordan and Chris were here and got to go with us.

7. I've gotten to see a lot of family this month: siblings, cousins, and Mamaw.

And more are visiting tomorrow!
 8. School is picking up as classes get busier and events are getting more frequent.
I got to catch up with Oxford friends in person.

J got to meet my Museum of the Bible peeps.
Ran into Heather the curator.


Got to hear Ted give a lecture.

My co-author Myron got to visit to recruit and to speak at OC.

Off-campus-friend lunches/coffee began again.
I got to meet up with Adub and Pam already this semester.
I've gotten to speak at a few different venues. Here's me with the incoming Honors freshmen. 
Josh got to speak too at this event. It was a fun experience.
I'll probably blog more about this later, but for now: I'm thankful for the experience and enjoying it overall.

9. One of the things I'm especially thankful for are the little moments when the kids seem to really love each other.

Especially amongst the wildness that ensues from day-to-day.

Monday, August 15, 2016

126 Miles

One of the best things about having a month in Oxford was all the running time I got to have. Mostly cool, clear weather - much better than the Oklahoma humid heat I'm running in right now. July was good timing because I was starting my marathon training plan. It was a good kickstart of getting into the habit of steadily increasing my weekly mileage and long runs. Like last year, Myron was usually up for running so I had some accountability to get up early and get my miles in before lectures and research most days. We started the first weekend with a 10-mile run near my favorite Oxford neighborhood Jericho and out to the meadow along the river.

Because of the ample running time I got last year, and I knew there were several runners in the group, a group of us planned to run a race in the nearby town of Adderbury. The second Sunday was a fun day: group traveling, race, and a meal together. Four of us ran the half marathon, one ran the 5K, and one ran the 10K.

Our Meeting Spot*
Mark was awesome! He booked a van for us to rent, and he drove it. With April navigating, we got to the race in plenty of time!

Road Trip!
Adderbury was a cute little English town. I enjoyed walking through it (and running through part of it at the end).

Typical cute English street

One Spire
I had decided to approach this race as just fun, not to worry about the time. I knew within the first couple miles that was a good decision when I reached this:

That's right. There was a line to jump a fence. It turns out the route goes through several patches of private property so I ended up jumping several fences and gates.

The race was described as a trail run. 

Yep, that was a correct description.

I'm so glad Erin took pictures along the race. She got some great shots.

There were maybe 3-5 miles total that were along a main road. 
The rest was usually through forest areas and fields. 
Beautiful fields.

Paths like this had you basically running through the stalks. There was one point, I jumped the gate and the race marshall pointed in the direction I was supposed to run. 
There was no path. 
I asked him, "Over there?" 
So I ran in that direction until I found some runners up ahead of me. 

It was pretty hilly. We would call one of the hills I ran up a mountain here in Oklahoma.

Check out the elevation gain.
I enjoyed the run and was glad I got to run a race in England!

I was really thankful I had friends to join me for the race.

Erin, Mark, Myron, April, me, and Dennis
Some kindly Adderburian (or someone at the race) recommended a great place to eat over in a nearby town so we headed there after the race. 

We weren't disappointed. Great ambience and yummy food!

I'm liking the training plan I am using so far. Now of course, ask me that after my race in October. For now, I am liking the built-in recovery weeks. I have a smaller distance for my long run every fourth week. I had a short 8-mile run to do the following weekend after the race which worked out well. We had a group tour all day on Saturday, and I took a day to rest and work a little on Sunday. It was easy to squeeze in a smallish long run that weekend.

Eleven of us traveled to Amsterdam together the next weekend. There weren't any races going on (I looked), but Myron and I got a 12-mile run in Saturday morning.

Before we set out, we asked the hotel concierge of a good 12-mile route. The next five minutes of her explaining the proposed route was lost on me. All I kept hearing her say was, "So, you just keep running along the canal..." See the map above? Amsterdam is all canals. I had no idea what canal she was talking about. Thankfully, for two directionally-challenged folks, we found a 6-mile route that went around the main part of town and through the industrial area.

It was a direct path with pretty trees on both sides most of the time. Despite a little motorized bike traffic, it was pretty quiet.

Had to stop and pose by the modern Dutch windmills.

Part of the route was through the town by the serene canals and picturesque Amsterdam homes.

My favorite doors in Amsterdam.

I counted it as a win that we didn't have to use Google Maps to get us back to the hotel.

A tad tired after 12 miles.
The weather in Amsterdam reminded me of mild Oklahoma summers: overcast skies and humid. It was definitely warmer than England in July.

Got another shorter run the next morning.
Once my last week in Oxford arrived, I was pretty mindful that my English morning runs were numbered. I was soaking up the beautiful runs along the Thames and fully enjoying the cool mornings.

Myron organized some speed work for April and I one day. After warming up, April and I ran ten uphill sprint repeats.

It was fun to stretch my legs and have something different to do even though the hill wasn't too steep.

My last run in Oxford was a long run. I was scheduled for 14 miles; it was my first time ever to run longer than the half marathon distance.

It began with a south run through town past Christ Church 
and along part of the Thames I had never ran. 

Then ended up circling back up north along the water towards Port Meadow...

...ran by the Old Nunnery one last time...

...and ended in Jericho.

It was a perfect way to end a month of a lot of running. 
Approximately 126 miles of a lot of running.

*Many of these pictures were taken by other BTC peeps. Thankful for easy access to steal share photos!