Sister Bird: Race Recap

April 1, 2011

Good morning! As I mentioned earlier this week in my Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Recap, here is my sister’s guest post about her experience with training and running.

Dear readers, meet Jenna:

Hello! I was so excited and flattered that Dorry asked me to write a guest blog about our half marathon adventure…this blank page, however, is a tad intimidating! Winking smile

My running experience has not been the most conventional, a metaphor for my life, I suppose. I can say that my journey towards this half marathon probably started a very long time ago, but the most obvious beginning would be last summer.

I’m a 34-year-old wife and mother of two darling daughters, 6 and 2. I have been a happy and grateful stay-at-home momma since 2004, which has become an all-consuming and self-defining role.

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And last summer, after 6 years of tending to little ones, plus my sweet husband, David, who works from home, I needed a little something that was mine. And with all four of us (plus Cooper the cat) in our house alllll the time, leaving the house alone sounded pretty appealing! I am a person who adores, amongst other things, solitude. Any of you mothers out there know that can be a rarity!

David, who is a runner himself, and whose beloved father was one of those gods-of-running (56 mile races in his 40’s were a common occurrence) suggested I should start running outdoors. I had always run on a treadmill, too much of a wimp to try to “real” running. It was something I told myself I could NEVER do.

But I was in a rut, suffering from some hyper-exercise and disordered eating habits, and a clouded sense of self-worth. I had nothing to lose. So out the front door I went, unsure if I could even run a few miles, yet fairly desperate to avoid the sting of failure.

To my surprise, although running outside was hard, it was also something I could do! It hurt, but felt good at the same time. It was my opportunity to be completely alone, listen to whatever I chose, and focus my heart and spirit on what I wanted.

We live in a suburb of Dallas, and our neighborhood is very hilly!

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To tackle the hills and the heat of a Dallas summer, I started to get up earlier and earlier in the morning so I could run (and so David and I could take turns running/ watching the kids), maybe 3 days a week.

David was training for the White Rock Marathon (his first marathon—and Dorry’s first half) through the next several months. As he trained, and especially on race day last December, I remember thinking over and over that what he and Dorry and Billy were doing was something I could NEVER do.

But standing with Dorry that day, after she’d finished her half marathon, and then watching David cross the finish line as a marathoner, I realized, with tears in my eyes, that I wanted to know how that felt.

Through the next few days, even though I kept that desire to myself, David, on his post-marathon high, began suggesting that we run a half marathon together. At the time (early December), my longest run was 4 miles, and I kept insisting I could never keep up with him, but he said he wanted to run together, and would run at my pace.

So somehow (must have been delirious) I agreed to sign us up for the Rock ‘N’ Roll half marathon on March 27th. That seemed forever away, and was further justified by the money going to charity, and maybe, I would somehow cross that finish line.

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Mid-January, David started to talk to me about training. I did not read any book, article, site, blog, nor download any app, or really even discuss running at all with anyone (except occasional complaints to my sister Winking smile). I just increased my mileage and ran more often.

I did have one bad run, the first and only time I had to stop and walk home. I just could not breathe, and I cried the whole way home. I told myself I was too old and could NEVER do this. You cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Discouraged…

A few days later, I quietly put my running shoes back on and tried again. Listening to songs that strengthen my faith and allow me to spend time in worship, through the next weeks, I ran 5, then 7, then 7.5. I was running around 9:30 pace/mile, and the thought for the race evolved from “just finish” to “maybe I can run 10 minute miles.”

One day I left the house fully intending on 8 miles, and as I wound around the blocks in our neighborhood, it became clear to me that I could just keep going. I ran 10 miles that day and with an average 9:20 pace, and I truly could not believe it. Busting through another “I could NEVER do that” obstacle started to feel a bit surreal.

I had no real sense of pacing myself nor fueling for long runs. I truly just had prayer, praise, solitude and putting one foot in front of the other.

10 days after my first 10-mile run, with some shorter runs in between, I ran a second 10 miles. And somehow, I ran 8:24 pace for 10 mi?! In just ten days I had shaved almost a minute per mile off my time. I had no intention of doing that, nor any idea that was something I could ever do. I was certain this was some kind of isolated incident that could never be repeated. Deep, deep inside though, I started to entertain fantasies of breaking 2 hours for the race.

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The entirety of the race day was surreal, but all of a sudden we were off. David and I so rarely get to run together because of our kids, so running with him was such a treat! I knew he would pace me well and help me “respect the distance” I was about to run (he was also carrying my energy chews because he’s than kind of guy Winking smile).

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Additionally, living the experience with Dorry by my side was just simply something I never really dared to dream of. Thanks to photographer Billy, you know they both graciously insisted on stopping with me at mile 3 for a port-a-potty visit.

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I was flying higher than high through mile 10. And up to this point, David had to keep telling me to slow down. I was excited when we passed the 10-mile marker, knowing that moment was the furthest I had ever run. But by 11, when I saw Dad and Billy for the last time, I was starting to feel annoyed that I was still running, and by 11.5, my feet hurt, and by 12, I was starting to be aware that it was hard to focus my mind.

David was, of course, just as dandy as can be. I remember him telling me we had half a mile left, but half a mile felt unattainable in those moments. I was able to focus enough to realize that I needed to take in these precious last moments.

I started to high five the sweet kids lining the last 200 yards or so, and as we (FINALLY!) saw the finish line, David said, “If you have anything left, let’s go!!” And so we did! He grabbed my hand and we held hands as I gave it all I had and crossed the finish line.

Our time: 1:48:04 for 13.21 miles.

I wish I had some interesting “running-minded” thoughts as to why I was able to run that pace when I had really never accomplished it before… certainly training on hills, the cool weather, and being injury-free all contributed. But the “bigness” of running with so many other people (14,040 started the race—biggest half marathon in Texas), an ironic contradiction to why I started running in the first place (solitude) carried me farther than I could have anticipated.

And being supported by my family along the way was the most deliciously sweet treat (thank you Mom, Barry, Dad, Billy and precious Lyla and Meli).

But most of all, running side by side with my sister and my husband was a gracious gift. And the truth is I could never ever have done it, nor would even have tried without my sister’s and my husband’s support, encouragement, and examples.

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They both outshine me in a million ways, including running, and honestly I count their presence in my life nothing short of miraculous. God is so so so good to this Sister Bird. This race experience is a spot-on metaphor for the abounding grace He has showered me with over and over and over again. Grateful.

Other than delivering my babies and marrying my husband, few days could compare to this day for me. Thank you, family, for sharing it, and Dorry, for letting me share my memories here! Will I ever do it again? Unlike my race partners, who are sure things to race again, I am not sure.. There are other things I would like to do that would prohibit racing…at least for a while. But I am interested in training for speedy 5K, or a 10K… stay tuned!

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Thank you, Jenna!

I’m honored that the memory of this experience can have a permanent home on Living with Healthy Hunger. I’m so proud of my sister for a million reasons, including her determination to overcome the self-doubt about her ability to run. And she beat my time by 3.5 minutes, so I’m recruiting her to be my new running coach.

Do you have siblings?

If so, are y’all competitive with each other?

I’m thankful that my sisters and I have truly never been competitive with each other. We focus on supporting, loving, laughing and singing made up songs.

Please give Jenna some comment love below!

And have a fantastic Friday!!

~Bird

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Felicia (a taste of health with balance) April 1, 2011 at 9:12 am

what an inspiring post! love it and congratulations to the two of you! i’m running my first half tomorrow and mentally preparing myself all day :)
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Brooke April 1, 2011 at 9:13 am

I loved reading this. I think it would be amazing to run a race with my sister. Or my (future) husband. :) Congratulations!

Emily April 1, 2011 at 9:15 am

Wow! Congratulations on this accomplishment! I’m not sure if I could ever run that far, but it inspires me to read that you didn’t know you could do it either. Have a great weekend – thanks for a great post!

Jess April 1, 2011 at 9:45 am

Oh man, that post brought tears to my eyes! Your sister – and your relationship with your sister – is amazing. Rock solid. I am so, so, so impressed with that finish too – it truly goes to show that you can accomplish ANYTHING if you put your mind to it, and if you have the support of loved ones surrounding you? Then you can definitely conquer the world. Awesome post! I am so close to both of my sisters (we are triplets so the bond is even truer) and LOVE sharing things like this together. It’s the best.
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Holly @ The Runny Egg April 1, 2011 at 9:48 am

Jenna I loved reading this! I remember my first race — I cried so many times it was ridiculous! It is so much of a mental game. I know my body could run 13 miles right now if I wanted to — but thats just it, I have to WANT to. for me it is almost entirely mental. Good luck with your running!

I have 3 sisters and we actually aren’t too competitive — my sisters are so supportive of me and I am so thankful to have them in my life!
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Lisa Stabler April 1, 2011 at 9:57 am

This was the sweetest post ever… I even got misty eyed! Jenna, I too am terified to run. I jog periodically with my dog, but have never tackled trying a race although secretly I would love to finish one, I am so afraid of the training. Additionally, I would love for it to be something that I could do with my brother as he is an incredible athlete! I am so inspired by you and Dorry’s story that I might just muster up the courage to finally go for it!
Thanks for the inspiration, let’s just hope that I can now finally commit to accomplishign this goal that I have had for a really long time…
Cheers –
Lisa

cathyk April 1, 2011 at 10:19 am

Jenna, thanks for sharing your story, your training and your race day. So special that you could experience this race with dorry and with your husband. I am glad running gives you time to yourself. You did so well on race day!!
My favourite races are the ones I run with my dad and brother. Well, we don’t run together, but do our own race each of us and enjoy the festivities after! We don’t compete with each other, but we each like to try to best our age group competitors…we’re a competitive family that way!
I hope you will share again on dorry’s blog-you are both wonderfully sweet and genuine.

Kris @ spabettie April 1, 2011 at 11:01 am

okay, Dorry, your beautiful sister is making me cry this morning!! :)

Jenna, what an incredibly moving recap, such a great story of going for what you want, proving doubt wrong and surpassing your goal… gave me chills. I know it meant the world to Dorry to share this experience with you – you are all so inspiring I want to HUG you!
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Stephanie@MyThornshaveRoses April 1, 2011 at 11:36 am

This is simply amazing. I have been waiting for this sister re-cap and it’s even more inspiring than I thought it could be. You and your husband BOTH sound like amazing people. The finish line holding hands….words cannot express my love for this.
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lindsay April 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Gosh you gals are just gorgeous! I love sister bird! thanks Jenna. I’ve heard so many great things about you and its amazing to “read” your voice. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story!
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Nichole April 1, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Such a heart warming post. This is inspiring on so many levels! You ROCK!!!

And ps – Dorry I have those shorts, lol.
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Sarah L. April 1, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Jenna, you are a rockstar!!! It’s so inspiring to read this post and how you persevered in training! My sister & I are both runners and I love that this is something that we have in common. So awesome that you & Dorry are able to share running and this accomplishment together! Thanks for sharing your training & race experience. :)

Susan (Oliepants) April 1, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Hi Jenna! This is so nice to read especially for those intimidated by running! Thank you for this post and I love that you and your sis run together! :)
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Emma (Sweet Tooth Runner) April 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Jenna you are AMAZING and I LOVE this post!! You and your sister are both TOTALLY gorgeous and SUCH awesome runners!! Love this post, and love the relationship between you two! This story made my day :)

Good luck with those future speedy races Jenna!! You will totally ROCK them! :D
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Jenna April 1, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Hi all,
Thank you so much for your extremely kind (if not charitable ;) ) comments about my race post..
It was a triumph! But not one I really earned nor deserved..

So thankful for all of you out there reading my extremely talented baby sister’s blog! As you might imagine, we’re awfully PROUD of her..

I DO have two younger sisters and could not imagine closer, better best friends. I love that we will go cradle-to-grave through this life together and that I can trust them and count on them no matter what. Their existence, certainly amongst the biggest gifts I’ve received from my parents.. Thanks mom and dad :)

I have never really considered any jealousy or competitiveness to be present between either of them and me, but I am the oldest. From my perspective, the fact that Barry is over 3 years younger than me, and Dorry is over 5 years younger helps. We just simply have never really been doing the same things at the same time. We really just want for each sister all that God has for them in life. But no doubt about it, they are my best friends.. and they know it all (good, bad, crazy, etc..) about me ;)

Love you, sisters.

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic April 1, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Great post! I love reading other people’s thoughts on running and racing. I have two sisters, and we’re not competitive. We all have different interests and support each other all the way!

Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine April 1, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Awww I love that you and your sister both love to run- and that she guest posted! Such a fun idea. Thank you Jenna for sharing your story!

I have an older brother, but we’re not really competitive. We’ve always excelled at completely opposite things!
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sarah (sarah learns) April 1, 2011 at 9:06 pm

this was an awesome post! :) congratulations to your sister! i have a younger sister and she is my best friend in the world! we’re really not very competitive. we both have very different talents, so we can appreciate and support that the other is better at some things.
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Missy April 1, 2011 at 9:30 pm

That is just amazing. You BOTH are inspirations. I love how you both are finding balance and support with one another.
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janae@hungryrunnergirl.com April 1, 2011 at 9:32 pm

AHHHHHH SO SO MUCH FUN TO READ!!! CONGRATS JENNA….you have a BEAUTIFUL family!!! I think you and your sis and me and my sis would be the best of real life friends:) Dorry, I hope you are having an amazing weekend and I am wearing my purple socks, THANK YOU!!!
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Barry (the other Sister Bird!) April 2, 2011 at 11:23 am

I am sooooo PROUD of my sisters!!!!! Jen, this made me weep. Watching you all run was amazing and watching you kick that races butt was just magical!! You are a warrior and both of my sissies are HEROES to me!!!!! Love, love, love you both!!!

Christin@purplebirdblog April 5, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Your sister is gorgeous, and such a beautiful family too! Not that I expected anything less, what with her being related to you and all! xoxo
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