Some of my friends and readers who have taken the 2012 challenge to run their first (or first in a long time) half or full marathon have begun to complete their races. I really want to interview as many as are willing to share more about their experiences. Here’s the first one. Meet my friend, Sharon Young. She’s a fabulous therapist, a young adult author (still lookin’ for a publisher), a very loyal pal, and NOW she’s a half marathoner, too.

2012 Training Partners Post-race Interview with Sharon Young:

Sharon, thanks for agreeing to share your journey with us! First of all, can you tell us what made you decide you wanted to do a half marathon?

Last year one of my new year’s goals was to run a 5K. Shortly after I finished the Big Backyard 5K in May, I saw Cami’s post about the Tinker Bell Half Marathon. Nothing draws me in so swiftly as the possibility of a trip to Disneyland and the promise of bling—in this case the bling came in the shape of shiny golden wings surrounding one adorable pixie—Tinker Bell!

How did you pick the one you did?

Did I mention the medal?

Talk about your training: How did you train? What worked? What would you do differently next time?

In order to meet my 5K goal, I had already started training. This put me at three miles as my starting base distance. I looked up some training plans online, but essentially I ran shorter runs during the week and each week of training tried to add one mile to my long runs. This worked well, but I must say it was very helpful to have a training partner. I asked (read: whined a little, cajoled, enticed with promises of Disneyland fun and Tinker Bell bling) my sister if she wanted to run it with me. She agreed, and we trained together. We kept each other accountable and ran together each weekend. Also helpful—having more seasoned runners as friends. I talked strategy and training with them, and asked questions about nutrition, hydration, race expectations, etc. One thing I would change—I didn’t have the opportunity to train in warmer weather, which impacted my race a bit. I decided not to wear my water belt, and I wish I would have. I think it would have been helpful to know ahead how the warmer weather would affect me, but it’s all part of being new at something—experience teaches you.

Did you feel ready? What were your biggest fears going in?

I definitely felt ready. My biggest fear was being swept from the course. I am a slow runner, and happily run at my slower pace. The pace issue only became an issue when I saw there was a time limit on the course. Further on in my training I did some speed work to increase my pace, and was pretty pleased with the progress. But still, I did worry about the sweepers pulling me—kicking and screaming—off the course, which of course would mean no bling. Second biggest fear—no bling!

Tell us about the race: What did you love? What was hard? What surprised you?

The race was wonderful. Okay, it was work, but secondarily it was wonderful! The Tinker Bell Half Marathon was a perfect selection for my first half marathon. The course was flat and dotted with Disneyland landscape and characters, music, cheer squads, and fellow runners decked out in tutus and wings. It was very exciting to be part of the energy and atmosphere. Also, it came with an unexpected bonus. I am a big LOTR fan (duh-Lord of the Rings), and it turned out Sean Astin (aka Samwise Gamgee) ran with us. Way, waaayyyy ahead of me, but still… sort of cool.

One thing that was both difficult and fabulous was the weather. Training in Seattle it was cold and clear, wet and dreary, and even snowy. One thing it was not—sunny and warm. My weather research told me to expect highs in the upper 60’s and lows in the upper 40’s—not bad for transitioning from the Seattle damp. What we actually got was a few perfect days in the high 70’s. I swear it might have even reached 80 degrees! I was in Disneyland much of the day before the race, and although I drank tons of water I just did not drink enough or—as Cami told me later—have enough salt. I went into the race slightly dehydrated, and I spent much of the race trying to catch up on the hydration. Several miles into the race I asked myself—Do you want to keep your current pace and try for a good finish time (dropping on the course and leaving without your medal) or do you want to slow down and finish? There was no contest. I wanted my medal and I wanted to finish. So, I slowed my pace, and finished a little outside of my projected time AND happy I did what I needed to take care of myself.

At the end, and in the days that followed, I had only mild soreness in my shins and quads. I was very pleased with how my body preformed, and proudly wore my medal throughout Disneyland. The Disneyland crew were awesome—congratulating us when they saw the medal. It was a great experience.

Do you think you’ll ever do another one?

Yes, it’s already in the planning stages.

If so, what are your hopes for future races?

I hope to continue to develop my fitness level and running pace. And I hope to find fun races to run on interesting courses. I’d love to convince some of my family and friends to runlikeadiva with me!

What did you learn about yourself on this journey?

I learned how strong and determined I can be. I already knew this about myself, but discovered it in a new way. I realized that, although I sometimes waver about making them, once I make a decision about something I move forward and make it happen. I learned that I love the feeling of—I did that! Wow am I tough!

A huge thanks to Sharon for agreeing to be interviewed and also for sharing her first half marathon with me. Sharon’s sister, Julie, also ran her first half marathon with us and later this week, I’ll post my interview with her. To all of you out there who are in training and looking forward to your respective events, keep up the good work! Whatever our pace, we’re in this together.