Who wouldn’t want their 1st half marathon to be in January in Chicago?

I did it! I ran my first half marathon in the middle of a Chicago winter.

Almost one year ago, I was getting the diagnosis any runner dreads: a stress fracture would keep me from all the races I had signed up for. Including the Chicago Marathon on 10/10/10. (And as you know by now, the injuries in 2010 didn’t stop there.)

[Nov. 27, 2011 update: I’m a race ambassador for the 2012 F^3 Half Marathon. Learn more & sign up!]

Well, 2011 is the year of no injuries. The year of listen to my body. And it’s served me well — even just four weeks into the year. Having given up the hopes of conquering the marathon distance — 26.2 is a curse for me — I have my sights on the Ironman 70.3 in Racine, Wis., on July 17. That means that half marathons are the distance I need to get comfortable with.

I signed up with my good college friend Kristel for the Austin Half Marathon in early fall. The race takes place Feb. 20. And I had plenty of time to prepare.

In fact, I was feeling pretty confident in my end of 2010 comeback from injury when a bunch of my #runnerds pals on Twitter started gabbing away about this crazy half marathon — called the F*cking Freezing Frozen Lake Half Marathon — in January that only about 100 people were allowed to register to do.

It was a “fun run” of sorts that was unsupported and non-USAT-sanctioned. In fact, the City of Chicago got wind of it and wanted their cut from permits and the like — so the run had to go underground, so to speak. We got the details for the run via email a mere 24 hours before the run.

Naturally the appeal of being one of a select group of people to accomplish something appealed to me. As did the idea that I would be forced to train through the winter for Austin if I signed up for this insane run in January.

And the Twitter peer pressure was something of kick in the pants, too. Last year there were so many runs and meet-ups that I couldn’t do thanks to all the injuries. I wanted to show these folks, and myself really, that I could be tough, hard-core and was worthy of being in the #runnerds group.

I was in good company. The fine #runnerds folks who showed up included (follow them on Twitter!): Cate Conroy (@caconroy1), Jenn Sutherland (@jennsutherland), Crysta Anderson (@elginista), Jeff Heath (@jheath), Alek Babel (@alekbabel), David Pittman (@DP_Turtle), Pedro F. (@ElGuapoEsq) and Sue Gelber (@suegelber). It was great to chat and to run a few paces with ’em! Special shout out to my good friend Mary Hoffman (@mary_c_hoffman) for coming out and running the first few miles with us, just for fun!

Note: I feel it’s important to talk about my training here. By the start of January, I was training pretty hard and running five days a week. There were several days when I felt a tightness in my calf and a soreness in my foot. I stopped running those days and hopped in the pool or took a spin class. I also got a pretty intense sports massage. I probably took about a week off from running all told. Listening to your body works. I lost NO fitness and was able to step right back into my training when the tightness subsided. Please learn from my past mistakes. And now back to your regularly-schedule blog post…

Ironically, one of the first few people who starting chatting about the race on Twitter ended up being my race day buddy. Not only did she get me to start the race, she also got me to finish the damn thing.

Sue Gelber, known on Twitter as @suegelber, and I just kind of started running together randomly on Saturday morning. We talked about races, paces, injuries, families, kids, wedding plans, moving to Chicago, and all the things you’d expect to talk about with a good friend. I had met her briefly once before. And here we were, slogging along the freezing lakefront path in the dead of winter, running 13.1 miles and talking like we’d known each other for months. Turns out, she’s doing the Austin Half Marathon too.

Just before the halfway point, Sue (right) and I are running strong.

We ran at about a 10:00/mile pace. And we steadily gabbed … until about Mile 8. That chatting became less at that point. Then, with two miles to go, we were both hurting. The talking ceased, and the iPod I had been wearing the entire run — without turning on — made it’s first appearance. I needed all the help I could get to cross the finish line, which since this particular race was more of a rogue fun run, was at the point when my Garmin read 13.1… and not a .01 of a mile longer.

Once we hit that end mark, we discovered that the only reason the other one didn’t stop was peer pressure, essentially. I kept going, because she kept going and vice verse.

Peer pressure is a powerful thing. It got me to sign up for a crazy run. And it got me to finish it. So thank you, on both counts Sue.

I can’t believe a year ago I was 40 pounds heavier and injured. Wow.


I recommend reading these F^3 race accounts as well:

Sue Gelber’s: You Might be a Crazy Runner, Part 2

Crysta Anderson’s: My F^ing First Half Marathon

David Pittman’s: The Key to the Most Interesting Race Ever



Filed under F*cking Freezing Frozen Lake Half Marathon, Races, running

11 responses to “Who wouldn’t want their 1st half marathon to be in January in Chicago?

  1. It’s so great to hear you are back at it! Can’t wait to hear how Austin and the rest of your endurance endeavors turn out.

  2. What a great write-up, and what a great run! I totally would have stopped (and would have run slower) without you. So thank you!

  3. Wow, what a fun run! Congrats on getting it done.

  4. Great wrap-up! And what a fantastic shot of you and Sue on the Lakefront! It was a great day – so glad I did it with all the crazy #runnerds!

  5. Great recap, Kirsten! So glad your first half went well, and I know Austin will go even better. The weather will certainly be warmer, with fewer slick patches to navigate.

    Thanks for the link to my post, too.

    Here’s to a fantastic year of running!

    • Thanks Crysta! I wish your first half had gone better for you. But I’m happy you were able to finish. I hope your calf and leg are better today…!
      You’re welcome for the link — great post.
      Here here on the fantastic year of running! I will look forward to seeing you out there again!

  6. Tal

    Congrats on finishing!!! Peer pressure is a powerful help: it’s why I miss being on a college team so much in the winter. That is also why Bryan and I are gym buddies.
    Fitness is better with buddies.
    Keep on rocking.