EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the fifth in a series of weekly columns by Kayla Dunn, a 25-year-old Belpre resident who is training to run in the News and Sentinel Half Marathon on Aug. 16. Dunn teaches Autistic students at Fairplains Elementary School.
The last half training on Monday was our 9-mile loop to Civitan Park in Belpre and back to Parkersburg City Park. One word to describe it was HOT. It was very hot, very humid, and pretty much miserable. I was nervous about running 9 miles and I knew it was supposed to be a warm day. I was extremely unprepared. My friend and coworker, Hannah McMichael, decided to run this one with me. It was nice to have a partner running with me this time.
We headed out of City Park onto Washington Avenue. The first couple miles weren't too bad. I was just trying to take my time and keep a reasonable pace going. We got to the water stop right before we were to run on the Belpre Bridge. I cannot stress enough my appreciation to those who take the time to set up these water stops, because without them, on this particular route, I would not have made it. It really hit me after the water stop and then running on the Belpre Bridge, how hot it was! It was hard to catch my breath.
I read some articles before-hand about how to best handle running in the heat. Nothing helps like first-hand experience! After the Belpre Bridge, runners went two different routes. They either went on Blennerhassett Avenue, or they went up Washington Boulevard. I decided to go on Washington Boulevard. There's a hill right beside the soccer fields and that was it. I HAD to walk. I was a little disappointed because this was the first time I've had to walk during a training run, but it had to be done. I've actually ran on this road many times on my own, but not after already running 3 miles beforehand or in the dead heat. I was trying to not be discouraged.
Hannah and I decided after the hill we would keep running until we got to the park to take our water break. We walked up the hill and pushed each other to go ahead and start running again. We ran down to where the water was, took a few drinks, and rested a little bit. That's when it dawned on me. We were only halfway through the run!
Instead of focusing on the fact we had about 4.5 miles to go, I tried to get my brain to understand, "you already ran this distance let's do it again!" I stretched out my legs a little bit and then Hannah and I decided that we needed to go. Our goal this time was to run to the bridge and then if we needed to walk, we would walk. That's exactly what happened. I most definitely needed to walk AGAIN on the bridge. May I mention again that it was miserably hot? Anyway, we walked across the bridge where we came back to the water stop at the end of the bridge. They had popsicles at this water stop, and I gratefully took one! Again, thanks to the volunteers!
At the water stop, I stretched out my calves; they were hurting at this point. Alongside of running, both Travis and Cecil have recommended some sort of cross training. I've been trying to hit the gym at least 4 times a week and then run 3 to 4 times a week to keep my stamina. I feel like even though at this point I felt exhausted, all of this has helped during this run. Once Hannah and I were done drinking our water and eating our popsicle, we hit the road again. It didn't feel like we were in the sun as much during this part of the run so it felt a little easier to keep pushing through. When we went to the right before you cross the street onto Washington Avenue, I told Hannah to keep going. I needed to walk for just a few steps to catch my breath. I knew that the end of the run was almost done and I wanted to finish strong. I always try to do that. Even if I feel like I have had a horrible run, and I'll chalk that one up to feeling like it was a horrible run, I want that last quarter mile to feel awesome. Once I got onto Washington Ave., I started running again and just kept going. I knew once I got over the hump in that road I was pretty much home free.
I ran into the City Park where Hannah was waiting. First thing I did was stop that Nike GPS app on my phone because I was done with it! We went over and got our drinks and stretched out. I have never been so happy to end a run. Some people were piling in and asking how we felt. I think the general consensus was everyone struggled at least a little bit on that run. Some of the more experienced runners came over and said not to be discouraged because it does get better. They reminded me the day of the run won't be that hot because it's in the morning and that the heat actually helps gets us prepared for the day because it actually doesn't feel as bad. It was nice to hear the encouraging words from the other runners. One of the runners said if you could finish the 8 mile last week, you can physically do it. The rest is just mental.
So now I know for the training I will have to mentally prepare myself not for just the heat, but for also 10 miles. I have never ran 10 miles so at this point I'm just going to do what I set out to do and run the best I can! I've been hitting the gym hard and running on a regular basis. So now we will see what the next training run will bring! The next half training is at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 30. Hope to see you all there!
Here is also a shout out to Kristin Beatty. As previously stated, I personally do not know her, but we had a 5K at the Erickson and she showed up for it. It was a big encouragement to everyone to see her start the gun for the race and to also walk across that finish line. Stay strong and thanks for being an encouragement to everyone!