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In less than 4 weeks, I will be standing in Staten Island waiting for the start of the 2012 ING NYC Marathon with great anticipation. This is what I have been working so hard for over the last 5 months. It started with giving up a pack of Marlboro Lights a day and my commitment to fight for my health. Even though 5 months seems like a very long time, it’s almost a blink of an eye compared to the events over the last 2 weeks since my last post, “The Final Countdown.”

On September 29th, I ran with my team at Prospect Park with a brand new pair of running shoes, shoes that I call my “ruby-red-running-slippers.” I had special ordered these shoes in this special red color to match my American Cancer Society DetermiNation blue and red jersey. And special they are! Wearing them for the first time, I did 13.9 miles in them! So, I like to believe they are magical. It was as though I clicked my heels three times and the run was done! (Okay, so maybe not that magical!)

I used these very same running slippers on October 7th for the Staten Island Half-Marathon. It was an extraordinary experience for me. I was overjoyed while I ran. I kept a positive attitude and a steady pace. I was joyful and smiling at the finish! It brought me back to the day I felt as though I was forcing myself to try and fall in love with running. The idea seemed like a fairytale—just as clicking my ruby-red-running-slippers to magically complete a race might sound to you.

The puppy-love I was feeling with running didn’t stop there. I recall how I was emotionally happy but physically beat up after my first 10K race in July. Practice on the following Tuesday was so painful, that I felt like quitting. I fully expected and prepared myself for a tough practice this past Tuesday after doing the Half-Marathon on Sunday. Guess what—that was absolutely not the case. I ran my fastest 5.1 miles ever at 1 hour, 9 minutes and 21 seconds. My first race ever, the “Take Your Base 5-Miler” on June 30th, I clocked at 1 hour, 17 minutes and 48 seconds. Even though it’s exciting, having a personal-record is not everything. To me, it’s more about how I’ve been feeling after my runs. I feel giddy and excited. After Tuesday’s practice, I remember thinking, “That was a GOOD workout!” I never imagined in a million years that I would be excited about how “good” a workout felt.

So, indeed so much has happened in the last 2 weeks. I’ve had somewhat of a personal transformation. I am not getting over-confident though. Next weekend is my last opportunity for a long run before the big day. After this weekend, I begin to taper down on my mileage—while still practicing with shorter runs. I must must MUST hit 16-20 miles this weekend. I missed my target last weekend by 3 miles. But I am a “DetermiNator” and I am up for this challenge no matter how much time I have left to practice!

And while “time” is in the spotlight, I must remind myself—TIME is after all why I am doing this. Whether you are an individual who is fighting cancer, surviving cancer, helping a loved one fight cancer, or remembering a loved one who lost the battle to cancer—we all want time and lasting memories together. The American Cancer Society gives people the greatest gift and their most precious commodity; time.

For more information on my journey to the ING NYC Marathon & fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society, please visit http://bit.ly/xahndra.

Alexandra Hertel is an Ohioan living in Brooklyn, New York. She attends CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and works full-time in the events industry.

Does anyone remember what the feeling is like when you are on your way to school and you realized that you forgot your homework assignment at home? I had that heavy pit in my stomach last night at practice. A fellow American Cancer Society DetermiNator reminded me that we have just 4 weeks left of training before the big day in just 39 days. Race day will be here before I know it. Am I prepared? Can I do this? I’ll just say it, I am scared!

I hurried to practice yesterday evening straight from work, meeting up with my daughter and my puppy along the way. Pix11 was waiting there to interview me, hear my story, and meet my daughter and dog. As the official media partner for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation athletes for the ING NYC Marathon, they wanted to learn more about me. Who is this Alexandra person? She quit smoking, never worked out before—and now she is running a marathon? (Read: Is she crazy?)

Speaking with Magee Hickey was exciting and motivating. Hearing more about her story made me want to keep pushing and working on my story. I didn’t have a pit in my stomach during the interview—I was overwhelmed with excitement. In the end of the interview, she asked me what my final message would be to anyone hearing my story. I said, “If I can do this, anyone can do this!” I really meant that.

 After my interview with Pix11, practice was already starting and I ran to join my team. It was test night—meaning, we needed to run 3 miles (with a short recovery time between each mile) as fast as we could. During the warm-up, I did a quick mental check.

1 – Hydrated / Fueled? Yes, Check!

2 – Positive attitude? Yes, Check!

3 – Ready to do this? YES! CHECK!!!!

The first mile, I pushed hard—like I was supposed to. During the recovery period, I had pains in my ankles and on the top of my feet. As a result, I had to take it very easy and slow the rest of my run. I recalled my statement to Magee Hickey… “If I can do this, anyone can!”  IF I can do this, anyone can. Ah, and there is that heavy pit in my stomach. I carried that heavy pit in my stomach the rest of my run. Can I do this marathon? I. AM. SCARED.

Fortunately, my dedicated (volunteer) coaches from the American Cancer Society did not leave me stranded with my self-defeating thoughts. Through investigation, discussion and observation, I learned the cause of my discomfort. I learned that I’ve already worn out my first pair of running shoes (seriously?) and that I am not stretching correctly after my runs. What a relief! I can fix that!

I honestly don’t mean to whine about my training. Perhaps I whine or get emotional because I am scared of the unknown. There is always silver lining to every issue, if you are willing to look hard enough. I didn’t have to look that hard for it this time, because I hit a personal record for my fastest mile ever at 11 minutes and 30 seconds. I’ve made vast improvements since my first run. I am stronger. I am training for a marathon. I will finish the marathon! I am doing this for the American Cancer Society so I can help others celebrate more cancer free birthdays… and at the same time, I am fighting for my health.

For more information about my race, please visit my fundraising page at http://bit.ly/xahndra. You can also sign up to be an official cheer station volunteer on race day here: http://bit.ly/CowBellCheer.

Alexandra Hertel is an Ohioan living in Brooklyn, New York. She attends CUNY’s School of Professional Studies and works full-time in the events industry.