BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! SHHH is this normal? Just get UP!

My life began to morph into one of a professional runner so to say. I remember four years ago reading a segment in Running Times about women who work and run on an elite level who had made it to the 2008 Olympic Trials. Specifically, I identified with the article on Heidi Westover. Probably because she is a teacher and so am I. The piece spoke about her extreme high mileage and training schedule (some say she has been known to run 200 miles a week) all while teaching children. I thought. She is lying. And while some may still scoff at her claim to high mileage, I focused on her 15mile runs she accumulated before her school day. I remember reporting to Lisa, my training buddy, is this girl for real? How can anyone get up that early, run 15 miles, and still have the energy to teach with the gusto and passion that our profession requires? The article of course rubbed this in my face even more by adding the detail that she did it again everyday after school. Forget that, all I wanted to do was to learn to discipline myself enough to set my alarm for 3:50am a few days a week in order to get my one run a day in before my family woke up and my day began. To me, there was nothing worse than giving 100% at school and then realizing I still had to go run 12 miles -at a time when I felt like zoning out in front of the TV or taking a nice, easy hike with my daughter Samantha and husband Jonathan.

And forget about night runs. Maybe that could happen if I were single. But, I was blessed with a family. Evenings for the Halls is sacred family time when I cook dinner, watch Sammy and her daddy run around and play in the back yard through the kitchen window, go for bike rides and walk, bath times and snuggles in bed for story time. The last thing I wanted was to have a run on my mind. I wanted to have it done so I could live in the moment with my family- not worry about all the miles that still had to be covered. So my decision was a simple one: you want to get better, you need to do more than 50 miles a week and you need to do hard! Oh, and you can’t do it after school or at nighttime. Oh and remember you have to be at work by 6:30 in the morning to teach a bunch of Jack Russell Terriers (I say that in a loving way). I told myself aloud: I want to get better. I will not settle for mediocrity. The decision is made: 4 am runs will have to suffice.

beepBeepBEepBEEpBEEP: WAKE UP! Oh my, how painful that alarm can be. As soon as you let your mind start rationalizing, you are in for disappointment, so don’t think, just jolt your weary body outta that bed. You’ll feel better the rest of the day knowing you can live in the moment with work and your family. That’s all it took to get me going. I stumble into the family room, grab my gear, and literally put it on while I am using the commode: I am not wasting one second of my time if I have to get up this early. I will multi task if I have to. I pull up my compression socks and slide on my beaten up mizunos – half the Katy trail is still on the darn things and I realize shoot, I’ve made a massive dirt trail mess in my house. Whatever, it’s 4 in the freakin’ morning! I realize both my sports bra and shorts are on inside out. Yeah-whatever again- as I release a massive yawn. I shove at least half a banana down my gullet and take two swigs of coffee for the caffeine that research claims is going to help my performance during this run…I need all the help I can get! The banana is hard to swallow but after a sleeping fast, I know my body needs to fill up the glycogen stores that are now half empty. I do everything right because, well, if I am sacrificing my sleep for this running thing, then I am not going to skimp on anything. I grab my pre-made bottles full of Cytomax and water out of the fridge, and I finally descend into the basement where I will commit the next hour and a half of my day to the treadmill. Well, here we go!

It’s Tuesday and I have been doing this morning run thing for about 9 months. Tuesdays are my hard days. I do a 15-minute warm up, 9xmile and finish with some fast 400s. After, I add whatever I need to get the mileage called for the day and finish off the morning run at an easy clip. I begin to squeeze every second out of the clock. I run until I literally have 5 seconds until the absolute latest time I can to get into the shower, chug my recovery drink, and start getting the family going for the day without it begin a rushed, stressful mess. I look at my log and realize – Jackie, you have been consistently covering 12-14 miles on Tuesday mornings. Remember when I thought Heidi was exaggerating. Oh my gosh, how did this happen. And so effortlessly. I am easily running 80 miles a week now instead of 50 and covering at least 10 miles at a time when I run in the mornings. All of a sudden my easy 6 became an easy 8-10. It’s funny how effort and performance improve so quietly when you aren’t trying to rush things. When you are just literally in each moment, each run, each day and all of a sudden something that seemed ridiculous insurmountable and funny is now your own reality. 9 months is not a long time for this phenomenon to occur, so understand that it can take years for your running to evolve to the place and time you want it to be. Put one foot in front of the other and have fun. Get lost in the journey and the passion of the sport. Feel the freedom that comes with moving your body, having goals, and feeling the exaltation of reaching those goals. Do what you have to do to make your training work into your lifestyle and commit to the routine. Note that I only get up three days a week before work because more than that begins to wear on me. But those three days are nonnegotiable and I don’t ever let myself rationalize or talk myself out of why it is not good for me. It works, I believe in it, and I’m happy with it. Find your routine and stick it! Trust me, you will reap the rewards and benefits. And most importantly live in the moment. Run FUN. FAST.FABULOUS. Go RUNNABABEZ!

Happy Running, Jackie 🙂

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