Turning Fear to Focus!

Last Sunday, I ran my second half marathon. It was awesome, it was fun, it was empowering, it was everything I’d hoped it would be and I can’t wait to do it all over again….

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If you are a regular follower of my blog you’d know my story. In a nutshell, I was diagnosed with a heart condition while pregnant with my third baby and instead of dwelling on my condition and wrapping myself up in cotton wool, almost 4 years ago I turned to running, to help me keep fit and lean, which helps keep my blood pressure down, which is a trigger in my heart deteriorating.

The year I was diagnosed, I oozed with fear. I couldn’t bare the thought of not seeing my babies grow into adults. I was scared of needing open heart surgery. So many emotions went through my head. But with the help of my amazing cardiologist and regular testing and appointments, I’ve maintained my heart condition with only a slight variation since diagnosis over 4 years ago.

Running has been my savour (of course as well as my incredible family) but it’s really kept me fit both physically and mentally! I only started slow and over time as I became more fit and confident, I slowly increased my kilometres one by one. For the first three years, my limit was 10k and I was totally satisfied with that. The thought of running any further placed fear back in me so I didn’t push it any further. Then towards the end of last year, I started being cheeky and got to 12k, within a few months I’d reached 15k and then the seed was planted…a half marathon could be achievable!

I got in contact with my cardiologist who has always been very happy with my progress and gave me the green light to enter the Gold Coast half marathon…it was finally going to happen! But of course I couldn’t wait that long so a few months ago I ran my first one by myself in the streets of my suburb and ran it in 1 hour 57…first goal achieved under 2 hours! This set a benchmark for me when it came to the event. Leading up I was very happy with my training. Everything had gone to plan and bit by bit I was chipping away at my pace. I was as ready as I’d ever be!

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We are so lucky to have wonderful friends who live on the start and finish line and gave us their apartment for the weekend. I will forever be grateful for that. It made the morning of the race so calm and easy! The kids were so excited to see me run and were more nervous for me than I was! And god bless them they said several times…”we hope you win mummy!” Lol They looked at me a little weird when I explained to them that I was racing myself no one else:/ lol

I was so excited that race day was finally here!!! A few days before, the anticipation of the race was starting to kill me! The weather was absolutely amazing, not cold at all, perfect weather actually to run a half marathon! I was again very lucky to get a good spot about 100m from the start line. This helped in getting a good start which is what I wanted. It took about 1 minute to get to the start line and then once I clicked my watch to start it was game on!

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The first kilometre was slow – 5.20 mins, I normally like a 5-5.05, but you have to expect that when you are running along side thousands of people! My Second kilometre made up for it – 5.02 and I was well on my way then. For the first 7 kilometres I was maintaining 5.10-5.15 kilometres which I was surprisingly happy with. My first goal was to reach 10km in 52 minutes – tick that was done! I was so happy to have reached 11k by 58 minutes and as I looked up, the 1 hour 50 minute pace runner was only a metre from me. 1 hour 50 is my dream time and for a moment there I thought I may have had a chance!!

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I hit a bit of a wall quite suddenly at around 13k. Between not having my tunes in my ear and grabbing cups of water from the drink station I was losing concentration. Mind you at 13k – 1 hour 8 mins, I had made my first PB. The PBs kept rolling out then for every kilometre after that until I reached the finish line! Eventually the 1 hour 50 pace runner became a speck in the crowd lol, but when I reached 17k at 1 and half hours which was my second goal, I knew my final goal was achievable. As I took my last sip of water and all my fuel was taken, I put my head down and ploughed through the last 4k as best as I could.

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Once I saw the apartment we were staying at, I knew that I had to hold on as my family would be waiting to cheer me on. I always get excited as I’m getting close to finishing, especially when I know I’m about to achieve the time I’m aiming for. As I got closer and closer to the finish line I knew the Running Mums Australia (RMA) tent was in sight and as I ran past and heard the cheers from all the wonderful ladies, it steered me on to run as fast as I could to the end. I was going fast, hundreds of people lined the roads and I’d conditioned myself that I probably wouldn’t see my family. But with a call of my name I looked up and there they were…what a moment! I was so excited to see them and high fiving my babies was a definite highlight! Seeing my family made the last 300m the easiest I’d ever run. As I looked down at my watch at 21.1km I’d reached it at 1 hour 53 my final goal of the race. I did it, I really did it…4 mins off my PB!!!!

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Crossing that finish line was a moment I’ll never forget. Who would have ever thought me, who hated long distance running when I was younger and was a sprinter and netballer, can now say I’ve run a half marathon…twice…and I’ve already got my sight set on another. I now know I do have it in me to run my dream time of 1 hour 50 and I’m not giving up until I do! I use to run with fear after I was diagnosed with a dilated aorta and if I was never diagnosed with my heart condition I probably would never have started running. It turns out, my heart condition has been a positive experience for me…I do not fear it anymore, it only keeps me focused!

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This whole experience, from the first day I decided to run a half marathon to the moment I crossed the finish line has been the best experience of my life. I’ve achieved things I thought would never be possible. My mental strength is as strong as it’ll ever be and physically…I can run a half marathon, need I say more! I encourage anyone who wants to start running or exercising of any kind to start now…you won’t regret it! Exercise is such an important part of our bodies health and well-being – you really have nothing to lose! The benefits far out way the alternative and all you have to do is believe and remember anything is possible if you put your mind to it!

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It’s a week on now and I’ve recovered so well. My legs were sore for a couple of days and my first run back was quite slow and easy lol, but I’m ready to tackle a new challenge! I’ll be having a break from any marathon training at this stage until I have my next heart scan in August and see my cardiologist. Next week, I’ll be starting a new running/exercise routine which will assist in preparing me for a 10k twilight race I’m entering in September….the kids loved every bit of the GC Airport Marathon, they want to start entering to! It makes me so happy that the kids look up to me as a good role model. If I can teach my children to set goals, work hard and those goals will be achieved, then I’m satisfied my job as a mum is being done!

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