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Be Your Own Champion

Refinery here! Before you read on, make sure you check out Meghan’s first post “The Road to My Refinement” here. Meghan is sharing her journey to refinement with us as she preps for the upcoming Women’s Half Marathon on April 19, 2015. Now, back to Meghan’s story:

Here’s a confession about my physical fitness: I haven’t really exercised since last summer. Yep. Not proud of that, but it is a fact.

Last August, I was running about three or four times a week. My average run was the 5k loop in Prospect Park, in Brooklyn.  But, for those who are doing the math, yes, it’s been 7 months of inactivity and now I have less than a month to train for a half marathon… NBD.

Based on that information, I’m not shooting for an epic time, or calculating how fast my pace should be. I just want to cross that finish line without injury. Ideally, I’d like to get there before the volunteers start breaking down the race and everyone heads home to eat pasta and have a bubble bath.  So, in order to do that, I need to finish the race in 4 hours.  I think I can do that…

To get my body back into running mode, I’ve returned to Prospect Park. I am consistently running the 5k in 34 minutes, which is about an 11 min/mile. So, perhaps I have been using the term “run” a little loosely, I think that pace more accurately describes a jog.  But, whatever ok? At least I’m getting out there!

I will say that I feel pretty good, which is surprising, since I haven’t been exercising.  Admittedly, I have been working in the restaurant business for 10 years, so I spend my workday on my feet.   I do feel some leg soreness after my runs, but otherwise, I feel relatively strong.

Since I never ran track, I wanted to do some research on how to train for a half marathon with limited time before the race.  I was overjoyed to see that it is recommended to begin pre-race training 10 weeks before game day. Whelp, (checks watch), that won’t be happening! Thanks for the anxiety, Google!

Instead, I will need to focus on building my stamina up with short runs, slightly longer runs, throw in some interval training; and one run a week, where I increase my mileage.

A few days ago, I decided to go for my first 6 mile run.  I called up my dear friend, Sarah Douglas.  Sarah was a casual runner up until 4 years ago when she signed up for her first half marathon.  Since then she has completed an Intermediate Ironman race, is training for her first full marathon, run 5 half marathons, and 14 other shorter races.  (Just for the record, an Intermediate Ironman is about a mile swim, followed by a 25 mile bike ride, and then finished with a 6.2 mile run, because that’s how she likes to spend her weekend.  She is obviously superhuman.)


It was a balmy 32 degrees out.  Prospect Park still had a dusting of snow from the eternal winter.  Let me say that running in the cold is not my favorite.  I get really sweaty during the run and then really cold afterward. I don’t enjoy it.  So I layered two shirts, a cotton hoodie, my trusty orange windbreaker, and two pairs of pants. My arms were sticking out from my sides, but I was ready.

Sarah showed up with her long hair in a perfect braid, fitted running pants, sleek sunglasses, and fancy jacket. She looked like Katniss Everdeen, if Katniss was on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine.

I asked her, “Won’t you be cold?”

“Not at all.  Everything I am wearing is Heat-tech. I’m actually boiling up.”

Newsflash Readers: you shouldn’t wear cotton clothes when you are running (especially long distances).  Workout gear made of synthetic fibers helps to wick away sweat from your body, keeps you dry and prevents blisters!  How did I not know this very basic pro-tip?

I surprised myself in the first 5k, because I was able to run and chat without much trouble.  The tables were turned when we started that second loop (around the 3.5 mile mark).  Here’s where I started really huffing and puffing and Sarah did most of the talking. She asked me if I had any tools to help me during the run.  I pictured Inspector Gadget’s Go-Go Gadget spring shoes that allowed him to leap down the street.  And, no I didn’t have anything like that… Wait, do they make anything like that?

The answer is no. Sarah was referring to mental tools to help you when you “hit the wall” in a race.  Hitting the wall is the moment when your run goes from being hard to being REALLY FREAKIN’ HARD.  Your body wants to quit and your brain tells you that you can’t go any further.   Your brain and body are being tested in the same moment and it feels hopeless and all you want is to collapse on the side of the road in a pile of sweat, tears, and spandex.  Google suggests resting and eating when this happens to you.  This is clearly not an option for many runners, because they have a race to finish.  I asked Sarah what she did when this happens.

She smiles.

That’s right, when her knees are aching, she has a cramp in her side, and she wants to throw the towel in, she grins from ear to ear.   Apparently this action actually tricks your brain into thinking more positively.  So when you are at the point where your brain starts screaming at you: “You’re done, you are SO done! Stop running right now!” You force yourself to smile, and eventually you’re brain switches to: “See, that wasn’t so bad, you totally got this!!!”

Sarah also has a mantra.

She says chanting a mantra can be really powerful. She recommends a simple, positive phrase that you can repeat over and over.  Just one little sentence can be enough to convince your brain that YOU GOT THIS.

I was a little skeptical of this idea, because I would think when your body has given up—that’s it, time to go home—the race is over.  But for Sarah, when she hits the wall, she smiles and repeats her mantra, and BOOM! She has broken through the wall.

As we were running, all of a sudden, it started getting tough for me. I thought to myself, “why am I doing this, again? This is hard. I want candy.”

I smiled. And smiled. And smiled. And, I kept going. I didn’t feel like I had to give up anymore. I broke through the wall!

“See?” said Sarah, “You have to be your own champion.”


Nobody else is going to run this race for me. It’s my body, my mind.  I have to believe in myself. There will be times when I think I can’t do it, and I want to stop, but I must be my own biggest fan.

“So what’s your mantra, Sarah?”

She smiled at me, as her braid swung behind her, “I tell myself: I’m the boss.”

I’m the boss. I’m the boss. I’m the boss!

We invite you to book your stay at Refinery Hotel for the NYRR Women’s Half-Marathon. We’re celebrating all the women who run the world!  #Womenruntheworld.


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