Starting something new can be intimidating, especially when it is out of your comfort zone and challenges your body in new ways. However, finding accountability partners can make the process not only doable but enjoyable along the way. We sat down with Ryan and Mandy M. from our full marathon training class to discuss their journey from the start to the finish line.
What drew you to our training groups?
Ryan: I trained on my own for my first half marathon, and at the time, was pretty used to running by myself. When Mandy decided she wanted to run the Good Life Halfsy in fall 2019, we thought it would make more sense to find a group so she could train at her own pace. We looked into the Fleet Feet training group primarily because of convenience – we live close to the store, but ultimately decided to choose the program because the group runs worked well for our schedule and the training class was a good size, so we knew there would be people Mandy could train with. Mandy enjoyed the training class, made several friends, and has been coming back for every training class ever since.
I attended some of the free group runs in 2019/2020, but didn’t sign up for a training group right away. In hindsight, I wish I had. After a few attempts at my own training and not making significant improvement, I decided to join the training group for the 2021 Good Life Halfsy. While the race got rained out, the training class was a big boost to my ability, and it was a real chance for me to find the joy of running with others.
In spring 2022, we both joined the training class again, this time to use it as a build up for our first marathons. We leveraged the training plans to set ourselves up for the race, and we each found training partners with similar abilities who were also training for the marathon. The marathon was a huge success for us, and we owe a lot of that to the training plans provided as well as the support from all the group members.
What was the most challenging part of your journey?
Ryan: For me, it was getting started. I spent the majority of my life avoiding all things exercise. I was obese, unhealthy, and on 3 medications to control my blood pressure. My doctor suggested a local weight loss company, and I hesitantly set up an appointment to check it out. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was walking in that door. Looking back, it’s the best thing I could have done. I was able to drop 150 lbs using that program. My younger brother has been a runner for years and I always admired him for it, but it wasn’t something I ever thought I’d be able to do. Even after losing the weight, I never thought I’d be a runner, let alone a marathoner. Five years of consistent work later, I was able to put that 26.2 sticker in the back window!
Mandy: In 2020, I started having foot pain. I ignored the problem until it became too painful to run. I finally went to my doctor and was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. It took a few months of rest before I felt recovered, and by that time I had completely lost my running mojo. I did other forms of exercise, but I basically gave up running for another six months. I eventually realized that I missed running and that I wanted to start back up. It took a few months to feel like a “real runner” again. I was back on square one and running workouts that used to be easy were hard again. It was frustrating, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Going forward, I learned to listen to my body and to get help from a medical professional before a small issue turns into an injury.
When did you start running?
We started running in the fall of 2017 to start to build in some exercise with my weight loss program. When we first started, we couldn’t even run the length of our block. We started following a couch-to-5k plan and built up slowly with a run/walk program. We ran the State Farm 5k (now the Spring Forward race) in March 2018 as our first real event and haven’t stopped since. We each ran our first half marathon in 2019 (Ryan – Lincoln Half Marathon, Mandy – Good Life Halfsy), and just completed our first full marathons at Grandma’s Marathon in June 2022.
What was your biggest reward from your training experience?
Ryan: For me it’s two things: 1 – I’ve been able to connect and become good friends with an awesome group of people. The Fleet Feet group is the most encouraging and supportive group I’ve ever been around, and I cherish every time we get together. 2 – thanks to the plans and the support of the training programs and coaches, I’ve been able to take my running to places I never thought I’d be able to go. I ran a freaking marathon, and I’m even thinking I’ll do it again!
Mandy: It can be difficult to make friends as an adult but running has given me a great way to connect. I get to spend time with people who share my passion for running and help build a community of positivity and mutual support. I can’t imagine I’d find another group of people willing to listen to me talk for four hours straight on a run, and still want to chat over coffee after.
What are your goals moving forward?
As a whole, we both want running to be a big part of our lives for many years to come. We both love this sport, so want to make sure we’re able to do it for as long as we can. This means doing a lot of the non-running work as well – eating healthy (most of the time) and adding in cross training and strength training to keep our muscles and joints healthy.
Ryan: As for personal goals, I’m setting my sights on breaking 4 hours in the marathon. I came close in my first try (4:05), and I learned a lot that I’ll take into my next attempt in 2023.
Mandy: I’d like to set a new PR for the half marathon this fall, so fingers crossed that the weather is cooperative this year. In 2023, I’m planning to run my second marathon and I’m hoping my legs won’t hurt as much at mile 24. Longer term, I’d like to try a 50k trail run. I’d like to push the limit on distance and see how far I can go.
What advice would you give to new runners wanting to achieve their goals?
Having a plan, and then following that plan is key. When we started as brand new runners, we struggled. Once we found a plan that fit our ability (run/walk) and progressed up from there, we quickly improved. Having a plan also helps prevent injury. Plans are built to increase the effort gradually and also build in recovery time to let the body heal.
I also recommend using the various group runs and training programs as a way to find an accountability partner. It makes it easier to get up and out the door if you know someone is waiting for you to show up and run. In some cases, this means setting the alarm for 4am to get that 20-mile run done with your group, but that’s still better than running for 4 hours alone.
Lastly, have fun!
If you're interested in running with Fleet Feet, visit their latest training class here.
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