EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest 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.
This past Sunday, we ran the half marathon course. I was very nervous, but yet excited to run this route. I knew this training run would set the precedent for I would feel about the half marathon coming up in August. When we earlier ran 12 miles, I had a really rough time, so I wasn't confident about the run.
We met at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Parkersburg. The temperature was perfect for running! I was feeling pretty good that morning. I made sure I carb loaded my dinner the night before and got plenty of rest. I iced the knee that has been giving me trouble and then used a foam roller on both of my knees. I'm surprised how much that has helped! I'm still not convinced I want to get in an ice bath yet, but I have heard that works wonders!
Everyone was gathering in the parking lot and they were letting us know the route and where the water stops were. They are explaining where all we are running to and I'm thinking in my head, that's a long way! Then it was time to start. We started running downtown towards the Marrtown exit that goes onto the highway. I would recommend to someone, don't look up! It was just a continuous hill and I would see all the runners going up the hill. Once I got to the top of that, I have to admit I took a couple breathers! However, it felt awesome to do that hill and not stop, so I took a couple breaths and kept going.
We got to the first water stop and I was feeling good. I was actually surprised at how good I was feeling. Now, not by any means am I going fast, but I felt good. I had a goal in mind, but I'm just happy to be doing what I'm doing. We went down Route 95 to Gihon Road and I just kept cruising along. All of these training runs have definitely helped put me in better physical condition to be able to keep pushing through.
After Gihon Road, we headed to Rayon. About halfway through the route we had another water stop. I took a few drinks and stretched my legs out a little bit. By this point in the 12 mile-route, I was already walking and discouraged and wondered why I even started this in the first place. However, this felt great. I was feeling good. I didn't feel tired or worn out, my knees weren't hurting. I was very happy about all of this. It was a good confidence booster!
After Rayon Drive, we went to Camden Ave back to Route 95 to the Fifth Street Bridge. Camden Avenue is very boring and from what I'm told, during the race, there aren't a lot of spectators there. So, if you want a spot to mentally hype up the runners and walkers, that would be a good spot! The Fifth Street bridge on the last couple training runs on southside for some reason has been a mentally challenge for me. However, I thought if I could run the big hill at the beginning of the route, certainly I will have no problem doing this. I kept pushing through even though I started slowing down a little bit. My main goal today was to not walk, even if I had to run very slowly, I didn't want to walk. I didn't even know if that was achievable for me, based on my 12-mile run, but that's the goal I had set in my head.
We went from the Fifth Street Bridge and ran to Avery Street. This is where we had our next water stop. This is also the part of the course everyone and I mean everyone warned me about. The 13th Street hill was the next part of the course. I got some drinks of water and ate a couple Starbursts, which tasted very good at this point! I stretched out my calves and it was time to roll. About 4 of us were going up the hill at the same time. It was very tough! About 3/4ths of the way up the hill, I started getting winded but I kept going. Once I reached the top of that hill though, it felt pretty amazing. I was tired, but it felt amazing.
After 13th Street we made our way to Lynn Street. I knew at this point we didn't have too much longer and there was no way I was going to stop to walk. I ran this far and I would keep running the rest of the way. We ran from Lynn Street to 18th Street and everyone kept saying we were in the home stretch. We went from 18th Street to Market Street. Once I got on Market Street and knowing this finish line was on this street. It was an amazing feeling. That stretch, probably because the finish line was near, felt the longest! I saw where the finish line was and I was ready. We kept running and finally we made it. I crossed that finish line! I was happy and relieved. I was happy that my unreachable goal I thought I set for myself I accomplished!
This felt huge for me and completely built up my confidence that I lost a few weeks back. Now again, by any means, I'm not a fast runner. I know my time isn't elite, but I accomplished the goal I set out for and that's what matters the most to me. If I wasn't excited for the half marathon day before, I truly am now! I want to thank all the volunteers who do these water stops during all these training runs. They would be impossible without you! I also want to thank some of my running supporters, Hannah McMichael, Cecil Chapman, Travis Daugherty, and Phillip Ludwig. I know I can go to any one of those people for advice or encouragement or anything!
The next training run is Monday, July 28, at the Parkersburg City Park. It is a 10-mile run, we start working our way back down until the half marathon day. Hope to see you all there!