Learning to Find Comfort in the Discomfort

Meb Keflezighi, Ryan Hall
Five years ago a drink or two convinced Amy that running in a half marathon would be a good idea. Since then she participated in several and she’s not doing them alone. Alongside her husband and at times her kids, Amy gets it done BUT does admit that actually running isn’t her favorite thing in the world. It goes to show that perhaps some adults do these marathons and the halves for other reasons other than the actual admiration for moving one’s legs at a fast pace. So let’s learn more about why Amy has decided to make a hobby of sorts out of this widely popular adult pastime.

Kendra: Why did you decide to start doing marathons of any sort?

Amy: Honestly, there was vodka involved… I was planning on walking one with a friend. She had some medical issues and had to drop out, but someone offered to take her place if I would run instead. The vodka said that was a really good idea, so I agreed! I started training in August and the half was in November in Monterey. The reason I didn’t back out once the vodka wore off was because I was at a place in my life where I had started to do a lot of things I never thought I could physically. Running was definitely something I never thought I could do. Really fit people did that and no matter how much I exercised, i never considered myself really fit. As soon as I start thinking I can’t do something, a part of my brain decides that’s exactly what I’m going to do!

Kendra: Thanks to social media, everyone shares a bit too much but I noticed this boom of marathoners in the past few years posting about this marathon and that. You’ve been doing them a while. Was there some sort of secret meeting that made them extremely popular or are people just posting more and more that it’s noticeable?

Amy: I think the trend really expanded when race planners noticed that people may not be willing to run marathons (26.2 miles) but a lot of people felt a half (13.1 miles) was doable. Many people then went on to run marathons also. The offering of more races as they proved to be profitable helped too. Then there were a lot of theme races, most of those 5Ks,which encouraged people who didn’t run to try out an event and many people got into running and tried longer races because of that. Plus, races are really fun and a really good excuse to travel!

Kendra: Now you run half marathons. As someone who has never even been within a mile of any kind – what’s the difference there between that and a full other than length, and do you have plans to do a full one soon?

Amy: Other than the distance, there’s no real difference. I have no plans to do a full one, not because I couldn’t, but mostly because the training is super time intensive. I’m not a fast runner at all, so the long runs required for full marathon training would take hours and hours every single weekend, not even including the shorter runs during the week, which aren’t that short when training for such a long distance! I have a hard time fitting in the training for a half with work and family.

Kendra: You and your husband often go in together. Have you gotten your kids involved, or is running mom and dad’s personal time away?

Amy: Actually, we’ve run several 5Ks with the kids. We started them on the Junior Carlsbad 5000, but Marci found the distance too short (the races are tiered by age, starting at a quarter mile for very young kids and topping out at a mile for up to age 12; Marci wanted to run in the 12-year-old race when she was six and after that, she wanted to do the full adult race, which is 3.1 miles. Xander just didn’t want to get up early on Saturday for the kid’s race, and Sunday for the adult race, so he agreed to do the full 5K too!

I was the opposite of athletic when I was a kid and I’ve struggled with my weight my entire adult life. I wanted to make sure my kids were active and knew the importance of physical activity from the start so maybe they could avoid some of the health issues and other difficulties that come along with being overweight and sedentary. We never talk about weight with them, though. We talk about being strong, being healthy, being able to do the things we want to do without getting tired. They lift weights sometimes, like to use the elliptical and other gym equipment we have, but running is something we can do as a family and that’s a lot of fun for me. I love how proud they look with their race medals too!

Running with my husband is good, too, though. It’s nice to have something we can do together, although honestly we’re not the best in pushing each other! If one of us doesn’t feel like getting up for a run, the other one is less likely to encourage it and more likely to say, “Ok fine, we’ll stay in bed but it’s totally your fault this time!” When strangers or friends are expecting you to show up for a run, there’s some pressure to get there. That pressure doesn’t seem to be there between us!

Kendra: What’s the most rewarding part of the whole experience?

Amy: Honestly, I really don’t like running! It hurts the entire time, every time. I keep doing it because I can. It’s really taught me a lot about how my brain tricks me into thinking I can’t do things, and how it’s possible to tell my brain to shut up.

It’s taught me a lot about pushing myself and not giving up. Many of the things I’ve learned through running, I’ve been able to pass along to my kids (birth) and my kids (school). Every year I have a group of students who will train with me for a 5K we do for AVID. Through those training runs, I can teach them about shutting down that negative voice, pushing harder, perseverance, and being comfortable with discomfort.

That’s been one of the biggest lessons – I think many of us have gotten to used to being comfortable and it stops us from growing as people. That may mean that we can’t do without air conditioning or heating, or breathing hard is scary, or even that we won’t take risks to learn something new because being in unfamiliar territory is uncomfortable. Running is never comfortable and certain conditions, like cold or heat or fatigue, can make it downright torturous! But I’m always like, yeah, but did you die? People are so scared to experience temporary discomfort that it stops them from doing a lot of things – discovering you can be uncomfortable and get through it can be revolutionary for some people! It opens up a whole world of possibilities when a person can realize that discomfort does not equal death!

Kendra: Is there one marathon you’ve been eyeing that you want to do, but just haven’t gotten to it just quite yet?

Amy: I’d really love to travel to more races, but races themselves are expensive and then adding on travel expenses is ridiculous. One place I would LOVE to run and haven’t is Alaska. Races often allow the runners to see places in a destination that they wouldn’t otherwise and Alaska is so beautiful just everywhere, it would be amazing to run through all that beauty.

Kendra: In all your running, what has been your favorite marathon memory?

Amy: My first was definitely my favorite. It was the Big Sur Half. I had no idea what to expect and I was so nervous! The weather was great (it rained just a little bit), the course was mostly along the ocean, I had never been to Monterey so all the scenery was new and pleasantly distracting, and I ran faster than I ever had in training. I was amazed at my finish time and just so, so proud of myself. It was something I never thought I would or could do. So far outside the realm of my reality that it wasn’t even an option, until it was. I’m not really a crier, but there were some tears at the end of that race!

Kendra: Lastly, what’s the biggest high and lowest low of doing marathons?

Amy: Training is definitely the hardest part of a race. When I had a running group, I was really good about keeping to my training. Since it’s just been me and Matt, we haven’t done a really good job being consistent, and it shows in our race times. That’s disappointing to me, not because I’m slow, but because I know I’m not doing everything I could do and that’s why I’m slow.

There’s one race, the San Diego Half, that I’ve ran every year for the last four and this past March, I cut almost 10 minutes from my finish time from the year before. Still WAY longer than the first time I ran it, but I had trained much more consistently than the year before and it paid off.

For me, the highs and lows come much more in the training than in the race itself. Can I stay consistent and committed? Am I going to let myself down by slacking off? Will life get in the way and derail my training with injury or illness? The race is the icing- the reward for sticking through the discomfort, the time, the temptation to do much less painful things. The best part is crossing that finish line, though. That means it’s over!


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