Race Reflections: Don’t Let Others Define Your Limits

I raced the 2014 Leesburg 20K/5K this morning.  Even with the hills, heat, and humidity, I ran a great 20K.  But that’s not what I am writing about in this post.  In this post, I am reflecting on the 2013 Leesburg 20K/5K, the first race I ran after having baby #2.

Except for family members and a few close friends, no one knew about my postpartum complications after delivery.  Long story short, I had some internal bleeding that was missed by the hospital when they discharged me to go home. The bleeding caused a [very painful] hematoma and I was rushed back to the hospital for CAT Scans  and put on bed rest. 

I was scared.  Terrified.  I’m sure the raging postpartum and breastfeeding hormones didn’t help matters.  I was heavily medicated so that helped with the pain, but I still couldn’t stand up or walk… so running was completely out of the question.

Luckily, the internal bleeding had stopped on its own by day 4 and I didn’t have to be readmitted into the hospital.  I remember asking my doctors, when can I start running?  Little did I know she had wanted me to stay in bed for another week or so before she would even want me walking around.

It was a difficult time but I healed.  At 7 weeks postpartum, I started running again – actually it’s more of a run-walk.

After a week of “running,” I decided I would challenge myself (with the approval of my doctor, of course) by signing up for a 5K.  And I did.  The Leesburg 5K.  The race was 3 weeks away. Plenty of time, I thought.  I knew that even if I had to walk it, I can finish a 5K.  I was excited.

I posted it on Facebook.  I told my friends.  Much to my surprise, instead of overwhelming support, I was getting well-meaning, but negative advice from almost everyone.  “You can’t do it,” they said.  “That’s far.” “You know, you don’t HAVE to do it.” “Are you sure you can run 3 miles?”  It seemed that my limits have been defined for me.

Part of me started to think… maybe they are right.  I guess there’s no shame in not showing up to the race.  I did just have a baby a couple of months ago.

Despite the negative self-talk, I was too excited about running my first race.  I packed up the family in the car, drove out to Potomac River Running Store in Leesburg and picked up my packet, carrying my baby in my Ergo baby carrier.  The energy from the other runners was infectious. I remembered how much I loved running.  I even ran into a couple of running friends that were signed up to run the 20K.  Wow, I thought to myself, maybe one day I can do the 20K too.

The next day, I drove to the race start.  Soaking up every minute of it.  I even enjoyed waiting in line for the porta potties!  I watched the elite runners warm up.  Got into the starting line. and I was off! 

It wasn’t my best time, but I didn’t have to walk.  I finished, averaging 10:23min/mile, well under my own expectations.  It was a feeling I can’t describe in words.  I cried at the finish line.  I’m sure people looked at me weird.  Someone even checked to see if I was OK.  “I’m great!” I responded.


Two months after the 2013 Leesburg 5K, I ran another 5K in Ashburn.  I PR’d the 5K averaging at 9:26min/mile — my first 5K under 30mins.  A few more weeks after that, I PR’d a 10K, finishing just under 60mins.  The rest of the year, I ran 2 half marathons and a full marathon.  I was able to achieve my running goals and believe in myself all because of that 5K a year ago in Leesburg.

And today, I am back running the Leesburg race.  This time at packet pickup, I didn’t have to carry my little one in a baby carrier.  In fact, both of my kids ran around like maniacs.

The baby had fun at packet pick up!

The baby had fun at packet pick up!

photo 3

So did my four-year-old

I met up with my good friend Laura and other Distance Training Program (DTP) Ladies – Erica, Catherine, and Kathleen.  We started the race together, chatting.


The course was hilly.  Gradual hills, but hilly nonetheless.  Most of the race was on the W&OD trail and that made it difficult trying to weave in and out of people and dodging bikers.  But I pushed through.  I was racing for me from a year ago – the girl who helped me get to where I am today.  My goal was to average 11:00min/mile and ended up with 10:45 min/mile average with negative splits:

Mile 1: 11:52, Mile 2: 11:17, Mile 3: 11:09, Mile 4: 11:01, Mile 5: 10:44, Mile 6: 10:43, Mile 7: 10:25, Mile 8: 10:50 (the hills got me this mile), Mile 9: 10:24, Mile 10: 10:17, Mile 11: 9:56, Mile 12: 9:52

Overall, an awesome day.

When people tell you that you can’t do something (well-intentioned or not), it is usually a reflection of their own limits.  Not yours.  The Leesburg race will always serve as a reminder of that. 





Mile 21.4

I love reading race reports by other runners, so I set out to write one for the 3/15/2014 Rock N Roll USA Marathon. As I began to write, I realized that “I started slowly, ran slowly, stopped for the porta-potty, and finished the race slow” wasn’t exactly an exciting read. Instead, I want to share a race moment – Mile 21.4.

I had signed up for this marathon as a part of my post-baby running goal of doing a full marathon before my baby boy turned one. I signed up for a distance training program with Potomac River Running (an awesome local running store) to prepare for the marathon. A few weeks out from the marathon, I completely freaked out… as one can see from my previous post. I needed a mental kick-in-the-butt but instead I got an email from RNRUSA a week before the race with the subject: “Course Time Limit.”

The course time limit, according to the email, was 5.5 hours. It was stated clearly on the registration page and it was stated again in this email but somehow I managed to miss it. My goal time was around 5.5 hours! A week before the marathon, I was just informed that I may be picked up by the sag wagon and not finish the race. The email outlined various cutoff time and locations:

Mile 12.3 (Full/Half Marathon Split) by 10:40 am
Mile 18 (S. Capitol St./Nationals Stadium) by 11:50 am
Mile 21.4 (Anacostia Roller Rink Loop) by 12:35 pm

Panic set in.

I remember having conversations, in person and on twitter with my PR Running coaches Shannon Scalan (@ShannonScalan) and Adam Lesser (@ajlesser, lesserismore.blogspot.com). Shannon helped me strategize: the course limit is 5.5 hours from the time the LAST PERSON crosses the starting line. If I get into an earlier corral, I can start earlier and “beat the roller rink loop” by 12:35pm. Adam’s post on “taper crazies” helped me get into a better mental state.

With the support of my family, friends and coaches, I got to the starting line. I focused on pacing myself and made sure I stayed off to the side and didn’t block any faster runners. I met an awesome mom runner at mile 14 and ran with her for 6 miles. I smiled at all the cameras (hoping that all of them were official race photographers). Most of the race was a blur. But there was one vivid moment, captured in the photo below: Mile 21.4.

I remember looking down and seeing 21.5 on my Garmin and thought, “I did it.  I am going to COMPLETE a marathon.”  I started to choke up  with tears but stopped myself. (Note to self: do not cry while running, it makes it very difficult to breathe. #runningtip).

It is one thing when others doubt your abilities but for me, my biggest enemy has always been myself.  And this is the moment that proved me wrong and will stay with me from now on in every race I run.  I CAN finish a marathon.  In fact, I picked up the pace.


I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone that helped me achieve this goal.  My husband, for staying with the kids every Saturday morning so I can do my long runs.  Adam and Shannon – the best running coaches EVER. And all of my friends that encouraged, supported me even when I wanted to quit.  I couldn’t have accomplished this goal without you.

What about you?  Have you ever had a memorable, defining moment in a race?