I’ve always considered myself a runner. Not because I’m fast or because I’m good at it, but simply because I run.
Running and I have a love-hate relationship. At times, it’s defined part of my identity: It has been my escape and my time to think, be alone, and be competitive. It’s enabled me to be healthy and accomplish goals.
Other times, it’s been my least favorite pastime. It’s made me feel slow and unmotivated. It’s a reminder of whether I’m in shape and or not.
But for whatever reason I always come back to road races — I just love them. And I’ve run plenty, from 5Ks and 10Ks to half and even full marathons. Up until this point, though, they’ve all been within a 30-minute drive of my home.
I’m a homebody, local-loving, Minnesota resident. I know what it’s like to run here. I know what to wear in every season. I know how to analyze the temperature, humidity, and possible precipitation and dress confidently and accordingly.
I know the trails that are flatter (or if I’m being honest, easier), the ones that present a hilly challenge, and those that have more picturesque views than others. I’m comfortable here.
That being said, running during Minnesota winters can be a drag, making for a freezing cold face, cold feet, and cold hands (since I suffer from Raynaud’s disease, my hands quite literally turn white).
The idea of running a destination road race has always intrigued me, and this past summer, I started thinking: What if I ran a race in a warm destination? What if I traveled to a sunny town as a reward for training in the cold season here at home?
I put that desire into action in July 2021 when I discovered and signed up for Life Time’s Miami Half Marathon in early February 2022. This is a big (but not impossible) goal — both physically and mentally.
Forming a Plan
Whenever I sign up for a road race, I get a pen and a brand-new wall calendar and plan every single run up until race day. For example, the first few weeks of training look like this: two miles on Mondays, three miles on Wednesdays, two miles on Fridays, then a long run on the weekends (in the beginning, this is still typically three miles).
As the weeks progress, so does my mileage, and a week could look like this: three miles on Monday, five miles on Wednesday, three miles on Friday, then seven miles on Saturday or Sunday. I allow myself some flexibility in the schedule — I may run Monday and Tuesday and skip Wednesday, for example. This offers a general blanket of grace for weather, my schedule, and how my body is feeling.
Since road races take place on pavement, I try to train outdoors most of the time, though I do occasionally “treat” myself to an indoor session at Life Time. This consists of running on the treadmill, stretching and foam rolling on the workout floor, then time in the whirlpool for the most rewarding recovery.
Hitting a Wall
Whether my training has taken place outside or inside, this time around has been hard — though I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly why. Although my desire to run this race has remained strong, I’ve felt at times like my running shoes were mocking me. I lost my running watch charger and didn’t care to find it. I’ve outlined the miles I needed to hit every week and not come close to achieving those benchmarks. I hit a wall.
I’ve only trained for races longer than a 5K in the spring, summer, and fall, simply because of how brutal Minnesota winters can be. Sometimes I think I was too optimistic when I decided to train for a February half marathon. But I know deep down that’s just my mind playing tricks on me.
The mental aspect is a challenge. I’m telling myself inaccurate reasons why I can’t do this: The weather is a challenge. The window of sunlight this time of year is short, forcing me to run at times of the day I don’t prefer. My schedule is a challenge.
I do have the time to train, yet it’s been so hard finding that time to get my feet out the door. It’s also only gotten colder.
Despite mental roadblocks or lags in my training, I’m committed to completing this race — and not only to complete it, but to accomplish it. I have a few tricks and tips that I find help me when I’m stuck, including the following:
- I set out my entire running outfit the night before a morning run, including my socks, sports bra, hat, mittens, and charged AirPods — everything. That way, when the alarm goes off, there’s no excuse but to go. Sometimes I even buy a new article of clothing to spruce up my running wardrobe (sometimes this is what gets me out and hitting the trail).
- I pay attention to my fuel. I run better when I’m staying hydrated throughout the day. I start my workday each morning with a water bottle and a cup of coffee. (Does the coffee help my running performance? Probably not, but I try and drink one cup of water per cup of coffee to ensure I’m hydrating.) I continue to refill my water bottle multiple times throughout the day to track my water intake. I’ve also been drinking one protein shake a day using Life Time’s Whey Protein Powder, and I’ve found energy from blending that with a banana and almond milk.
- I stay accountable by telling people about my training plan so that they ask about it. There’s nothing worse than when a friend asks how it’s going and having to admit, “not great.” That’s been a motivator. People know I’m running this race, and as a result, help keep me motivated.
- I create new Spotify playlists to run to. I typically need the tunes to be upbeat to keep me moving.
Coming Back to the Why
At the end of it all, despite all the hacks and motivators I come up with, the main thing keeping me going is my “why.” Why do I run? I always go back to this when I’m struggling to move forward.
My why has changed throughout the years, but here’s my honest answer as of today: I run because of that feeling I get when I cross the finish line. I run because it makes me feel healthy, because I know it’s good for me, because I like spending time outside, because it makes my legs and heart feel stronger. I run because I feel giddy when I run farther than I thought I could, and because I have a healthy body and this is one way I love reminding myself of that.
So, what is your why? What gets you out of bed and into your workout clothes? What helps you run a little farther, push a little harder, and keep going? Your why can inspire others, too. I’d love to hear about yours if you want to follow me along my training journey @callieefreddy. See you in Miami!