The Women’s Run Series Long Beach Half

I’ve run more than 30 half-marathons, so why did this one feel like my first?

The last time I ran a half, my mom was alive. That was only two years ago, but it feels like lifetimes ago. I’ve been through so much since then, and man, does your body hold on to emotions. (If you’ve ever cried in savasana, you know what I mean.)

Running has not come easy to me in some time. I’ve been trying to pick apart why to solve it: weight gain? age? medication side effects? The answer probably lies in a combination of all of these.

But my therapist constantly reminds me that it’s great just that I’m getting out there, which is honestly hard to hear to someone who’s used to doing more than just “getting out there.” Someone who’s used to running farther, faster, etc. etc. I’m not that person any more, though.

And yet I still wanted to run a half marathon. To prove to myself I still could—that there was still this vestige of my old life, of glimmers of joy. I ran the Women’s Run Series Half Marathon in Long Beach earlier this month.

The race started at Shoreline Aquatic Park, and parking was easy in a nearby garage (since this is a thing I have to worry about now?). The race was pretty small, so the port-a-potty lines were delightfully short.

It started at 8:20, which was nice for sleeping in purposes, but not so nice for not-running-in-the-sun purposes. The sun was already blazing by the time we started.

I’ve been running long runs roughly around a 10:45-11:00 pace, so I lined up with the 2:30 pacer, which was an 11:26 pace…thinking that it was too slow for me, but the 2:15 was sure as hell too fast for me right now.

The race ran south along the beach for about six miles before turning around. I love that 95 percent of my runs are along the beach these days. It still seems too good to be true some days.

I started with the 2:30 pace group, and I hung with them for the first eight miles, chatting with the pacer Caroline the entire time. But most of my runs lately have been a mix of walk-run, so after eight miles or so of no walking other than water stations, I needed a walk.

And this is when the wheels slid off. When I started to run again, my legs felt like lead, and I was struggling to breathe. (I’ve had some tightness in my chest lately…) I did a little more walk/run until I got to nine and started texting friends that I was at mile 9 and really wanted to quit—but wouldn’t. “I’ll walk it in before I quit,” I told them. And I did walk most of that ninth mile. FUCK THAT, I thought…while simultaneously being really disappointed in myself I had to walk so much.

“Just keep shuffling,” one of my friends wrote back. I don’t think I’ve ever pulled out my phone to text during a race, but I don’t think a race ever felt so hard to me before. My friends’ words felt motivating, and it filled my heart to know there were people cheering me on.

At mile 11, there was a mile out-and-back to get in two extra miles, and I just. wanted. to. be. done. At one point, I saw the pacer opposite me and felt disappointed I hadn’t been able to keep up with her.

My ego totally ran the show on this race. I had a really hard time almost the entire time not comparing myself to past me, whose PR was 1:48. Who, untrained, could run a ~2:05.

I waited to write this recap to see if I’d see any of this in a different light. I’m proud of myself for finishing this half—especially when I so badly wanted to quit—but it’s just so hard for me to not wonder if, even with more training, if I’ll ever get any of that speed back or if it’s time to kiss my old PRs goodbye.

Me, after the race.

And also me after the race.

I finished in 2:39:13, which is a personal worst, but I fought for every goddamn second of that, and I have a newfound respect for back-of-the-packers.

Santa Monica Summer Dash 15K Recap

The thing about a comeback is that it makes all those accomplishments you once took for granted that much sweeter.

I ran 10 miles this morning, which used to be a pretty regular Saturday or Sunday morning for me in the past. I ran 10 miles a few weeks ago—and that felt just as sweet!—but other than that, I haven’t run double digits since I finished the New York City Marathon in 2017.

I’ve been lucky to run most of my long runs with a friend these past few weeks, so I wasn’t so much looking forward to running 10 solo. (And would like to keep running with people, so if you’re in LA and a runner…) I wondered if there were any races I could use for part of my long run, and I found that A Better World Running, a local race series was hosting a 5K/10K/15K/half-marathon this morning. PERFECT! I signed up for the 15K last night, figuring if I couldn’t run with a friend, at least there’d be others out there for motivation. When I woke up, I was feeling a little nervous (I am just so in my head about running, but I’m working hard on it), so I watched my trusty Alec Baldwin NYC marathon video to pump myself up/cry before running.

It ran along the beach path (so, yes, I paid to run on the path I run on for free every day  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), so I ran a mile to warm up and make sure I got to 10 for the day. The race is so tiny and cute, and there couldn’t have been more than 100 people there. I saw a few people in NYRR race t-shirts, and I wanted to go up to them and say HI DID YOU JUST MOVE HERE TOO CAN WE BE FRIENDS but decided it was too early to be creepy. (I did tell myself if I spotted them later on I’d ask though.)

The course was three loops of 3.1, and the 3.1 was an out-and-back. (All these loops—such mental training.) For LA peeps: it started just by Shutters on the Beach and turned around at Idaho (no you da ho) Ave. My loose plan going into this was to walk at all the turnarounds, since I take loooots of walk breaks these days. I ended up walking a little more frequently than that. I don’t really do any kind of run-walk method? I just pick a point up ahead of me to start running again.

I had my AirPods in my running belt, and I told myself I could pull them out if I needed them, but to start without them and save them for motivation. (I’ve been telling run coaching clients similar lately—save the music for a pump up!) Well, I never needed them! This is also a small victory—99% of my runs these days are with them in. I otherwise occupied time by trying to figure out what race everyone was running (my bib started with a 7, and I think 5K bibs started with 5, 10K with 6 and half with 9?) and what loop they were on.

Finishing the second loop, heading towards the 10K, I started telling myself I could just call it at the 10K and then do three more on my own. I caught myself and literally said SHH out loud (quietly?) to myself and my self-defeating thoughts. My anxiety has been high lately, and even though this was the most low-key race ever, being in a race situation made me feel like I should be running faster. Nah, Theodora, you do you, and if you means stopping and taking longer walk breaks, that’s cool.

I’d seen my friend Carolyn on one of the previous loops, and I ran into her as I was beginning the third lap. “Run with me???” I asked/begged. “Sure!” she said, “but just until the pier.” Well, my friends, we passed the pier, and she was still running with me. YESSSSS. She ended up running the whole third lap with me, and I was endlessly grateful.

My mileage is still low because I was too anxious to run earlier in the month and missed out on some runs, but I’m chipping away at it all, one run at a time. When I moved here less than four months ago, I ran a 5K this same series hosted and felt winded after—today I ran three times that and felt AWESOME. I’m proud of myself for the progress I’ve made this summer in my running.

I finished in 1:39:11, a 10:38 pace. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to look up my 15K PR to compare it to this, but I know that won’t help me. I am where I am today; so much has changed since then.