Editor's note: This is a guest column, written by my friend, co-worker and running client Cameran Richardson. I trained Cameran for a half marathon in November 2018, followed by a 16-week training program for her first marathon in March 2019. This is her unedited story of her journey.
A goal achieved. A result unexpected.
26.2. It was a number I always took notice of on the windows and bumpers of cars. And “Marathon” was often an option to select each time I registered for a half marathon. But it was a number I never imagined I physically and mentally could run. The thought of increasing mileage past the half marathon point seemed scary, especially when my commute to work isn’t even 26 miles!
However, my mindset toward 26.2 all changed last November when I ran a 6-minute half marathon PR under the coaching of Henry. It was a huge confidence boost as a runner. And one that inspired me to set a new goal.
I was turning 40 early in the new year and decided to celebrate by running my first marathon. Through his coaching, Henry had given me the support, courage and confidence to do so. And I knew it was going to be him who could get me across the marathon finish line healthy, strong and filled with positive thoughts.
So I registered for the Carmel Marathon, March 30. A fairly flat course and a Boston Qualifier race.
Henry put together a solid 16-week marathon training plan tailored toward my strengths as a runner that consisted of easy pace and long runs, speedwork, cross training and core workouts. I ran four days a week, with my long run on Saturday and a short, easy pace run Sunday in order to get my legs used to running tired. Which definitely helped because on race day I always heard it’s easy to crash at mile 20 but my legs and energy felt good. I wasn’t willing them to run. And twice a week I had core workouts. This was something new for me but it definitely built strength and stability. For my one-day of cross training, I cycled.
My mileage peaked out at 38.
Several time during my training cycle Henry had me run Yasso 800s to get an idea of what my marathon time may be. And these proved to be accurate.
It was winter in Indiana so I ran in single-digit temperatures, wind and snow. But I never ran in the rain. Come race day, weather forecasted 100 percent rain and temps in the mid-50s. I told myself it’s Indiana, the weather will change and the rain will clear. Not this time.
The day before the race Henry sent me an email filled with encouragement and excitement for me. In it he reminded me that my training has me in a position to have a great race and that the weather is what it is. “Your training will overcome anything Mother Nature throws at you.” They were words I needed to hear because my nerves were high and I was worried about the rain and how I would fare in it both physically and mentally.
About an hour before race start I huddled under my running group's tent to stay as dry as I could. I mainly wanted my feet to be dry. In the end it didn’t matter because I stepped in a puddle on the way to the start line, soaking my right foot. I kept my head down as the rain came while waiting to cross the start line, reminding myself that my training will overcome everything.
Based on my Yasso times, Henry and I agreed to start between the 3:40 and 3:50 pace group. I’m not sure if the rain had everyone distracted, or if it’s just how the race is, but when I went to find the pacers in the start area the 3:35, 3:40 and 3:50 were standing together. So I made the decision to go out on my own.
A few miles in all three pacers passed me. What?! I looked at my watch and I was maintaining an 8:45 pace. How could the 3:50 pass me? I shook it off instead of letting it mess with me mentally.
I don’t recall how many miles in but I passed the 3:50 pacer. Relieved and right on track.
At mile 16 I saw the 3:40 pacer just ahead. Now, I thought, it was time to put the 3:40 pacer behind me. And I did.
About mile 19 I saw my husband up ahead on the sidewalk to cheer me on and all I said when I ran past him was, “The 3:40 pacer is behind me!” I kept the pacer behind me, not knowing what that time meant for me until I crossed the finish line.
Coming down the finish line my husband, young son and running group friends were all cheering me on. It was awesome. I crossed the finish line with both arms raised in excitement, soaked head to toe, and didn’t look at the time on my watch. I just wanted to find my family.
I asked my husband for my overall time and with shaking hands – the cold was setting in – I immediately texted it to the person who made my first marathon possible … Henry. 3:38:27.
I put my phone away and found my running club to share the results with them. They said I was a Boston Qualifier. No way was my time good enough! was my immediate reaction. I told everyone to let me see what response I had from my coach. Sure enough, Henry told me not only was I a marathoner, I was a Boston Qualifier! I will always keep that text.
I never expected to race a BQ on my first marathon, but Henry’s coaching and support set me up for it. When I tell people about my race their response is that they don’t have the confidence to run a marathon. That was me when I looked at 26.2 stickers on cars. Not anymore.
Confidence, pride and empowerment to chase more marathon goals is what Henry has given me as my coach.