Small Successes = Big Results

First, I need to just announce that exactly one month from today, I will be arriving at the Walt Disney World resort for the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend [insert sheer panic here].


Finally an orange belt!

This weekend I completed what might be, to many people, pretty small successes. On Friday I finally graduated to orange belt in Taekwondo. Because I can’t attend as many classes as I would like each week due to my work schedule (I moonlight as a private piano teacher, so I’m usually tied up until 7pm or 8pm each night), it takes me a bit longer to earn the necessary stripes to be considered for my next belt level — and it seems like I’ve been at white forever!

Although it was slightly awkward that all of my “grown-up” friends who are enrolled in the program graduated ahead of me, and I therefore was the ONLY adult participating in Friday night’s ceremony, to me earning a new belt in either of my martial arts programs is still very much a symbol of setting a goal and following through — a concept that was completely foreign to me just a few years ago.

At the end of the day, it’s basically just a colorful cotton belt and a silly little graduation ceremony, but for me it’s a reminder of what can happen when you summon the courage to try something new. While Muay Thai is physically taxing — I pretty much always end up in a puddle of my own sweat — Taekwondo’s precise, rigid movements and complicated forms requires a mental focus and physical flexibility that I really didn’t think I was ever capable of achieving. It’s hard work, but I’m doing it!

Speaking of hard work, I also managed to complete my longest long run yet this weekend: 11 miles. It was my first time breaking 10 miles on a long run, and I have to say that I completely agree with whomever first said that running is more mental than physical.

When my legs are starting to feel like lead and I just want to be DONE ALREADY, I really have to dig deep to find the motivation to finish. My mind seems to just completely take over, and I then can somehow manage to ignore an achy knee, blistering toe, grumbling tummy, or, let’s be honest, just plain old boredom.

2013-01-18 15.05.13

11 miles down!

While heading out for a quick 3-, 4-, or even 5-mile run is starting to feel pretty routine to me, those runs that are over 6 miles long are still mentally and physically exhausting. I was thrilled when I ran my first double-digit run, but to be honest it has been at least 2 weeks since my last long run…first there was the holiday craziness (read: I was too busy buying out the malls during the post-Christmas sales) and then I was too focused on my Muay Thai kickboxing test to carve out two hours for a long run.

I decided that since I try to take kickboxing on both Saturday and Sunday mornings (it’s hard for me to make the weeknight classes), that I’d move my long runs to Friday afternoons. And, since my first half marathon is but four short weeks away (!), I decided it was time to attempt breaking 10 miles…even though most training plans go up to 10, I felt that finishing 11 miles would somehow put me in the “half marathon zone.” I really just want to prove to myself that I CAN do this.

Here’s how my long runs typically work:

Miles 1-2: Warming up, finding my pace (I try to slow down to a 10-11/minute mile)

Miles 3-4: Feeling good, pumped up for the run

Miles 5-6: Starting to get a little tired, looking forward to whatever treat I have stashed in my fuel belt (side note: I’m still experimenting with fuel options because gels seem to make me nauseated, so I’m very much looking for suggestions!)

Miles 7-8: Questioning my sanity, wondering why the hell I committed myself to this

Miles 9-10: Exhausted, doubting that I’ll ever be able to make it to 13.1

Miles 11+: Glad it’s over, so incredibly PROUD that I finished

As I’ve gotten more serious about martial arts and my half-marathon training, I’m seeing more and more just how important these “small successes” really are.

Now that I’m slowly (and I do mean slowly) starting to get over my reluctance to set goals — I was always afraid I would just end up a “failure” — even the tiniest accomplishments are enough to make me over-the-moon excited. And, surprisingly enough, I’m even starting to allow myself to feel proud of my efforts instead of constantly tearing myself down.

Memorizing Taekwondo forms can be hard, and increasing your mileage in preparation for a half-marathon can seem insane, but somehow something as small as breaking a wooden board or slipping a finisher’s medal around your neck makes it all worth it!

What are some of your long run tips?


  1. Well done. Congratulations on your new orange belt.

  2. Ahhhh long runs. I kind of hated them too. I had a running partner though who is/was always better at running than me and she likes to talk. A lot. So distraction worked well for me. We would “solve the worlds problems” as we liked to call it on our long runs. We often didn’t talk to each other all week just to have lots to discuss on our long runs. Do you run the same route? Do you take breaks along the way? We always ran the same route that had a bathroom and drinking fountain along the way. We would do our route 4 times to get 10 miles. And at 5 miles, we did a quick bathroom break. Because we always did the same route, I had good visuals to prod me on. I could say “see, you’re almost to X and then you can walk for 2 minutes” And I would push myself further each time like “Last time, you stopped here, try to get to X before walking”. And what works one week wouldn’t work the next. And some long runs it just wasn’t in me. Especially once we got over 7 miles. I could easily run 9 miles one week and then the next week I could barely run 7. So annoying! I figured out a few things that really helped me on long runs: (1) always run early in the morning. I just had more energy then the afternoons or evenings (NEVER!) (2) never drink alcohol the night before long runs. Always made it harder to run the next day. (3) get enough sleep the night before long runs (4) eat/drink fuel every 5 miles no matter what. I started using Nuun Electrolyte tablets in my water. REALLY helped. And it’s sugar free. I bought mine at a local running store. I was using Gu but then OD’d on it and never ever use it now. Try different things – the gummies, bars, etc. – see what works for you. Again, any running store will have sample sizes of all kinds of fuel things to try.

    Keep reminding yourself that YOU CAN DO THIS. Because you can! Even if your head is telling you, you cannot. You know you can! :)

  3. Hey, Kelly! Thanks so much for the advice and vote of confidence, as always!

    It’s awesome that you had a long run buddy — by mile 7 or 8, I’d do pretty much anything to have a way to help pass the time! Listening to my rockin’ tunes only gets my so far, haha.

    I do tend to run the same route: to a local park, around twice, and then through the next town and back home, so that I have access to bathrooms/water fountains during the middle miles. That’s a great strategy about pushing myself based on landmarks and knowing how I performed during my last long run — totally stealing that! ;-D

    It’s also good to know that I’m not the only one who practically feels like an Olympian one week and then struggles through 8 miles the next. Ugh, so frustrating! I am noticing that I perform better in the morning, too…and I’m very much trying to stick to the rules when it comes to sleep and alcohol, promise! Now that I have the half looming over me in just a month, I swear, I am living the healthiest lifestyle ever!

    I’ve definitely seen the Nuun tablets, and will definitely try that out! I’ve been experimenting with the beans, gummies, bars, blocks, waffles, etc…still trying to find the fuel that works just right. They all have their pros and cons.

    Thanks again! I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. Eventually, I’ll have to believe it, right?!


  4. Good job! Really good insporation!;) how long have you been training for the half marathon?

    • Thanks so much for reading, and for your support! :)

      I registered for the Disney Princess Half Marathon back in August of last year, so I’ve been slowly working on increasing my weekly mileage since then (I was running maybe 2-3 miles every couple of days back then…MAYBE).

      I’ve been following a half marathon training plan for at least 4 months — I wanted to give myself as much time as possible to prepare since I pretty much had no idea what I was doing! :-D

  5. Congrats and I hope to see you at princess, I just booked a room to stay! Tips? Plan a route with bathroom stops and water stops!

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