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Grand Rapids: Selfies, swearing, goats, chili ... and promises

Do you know what happens when you forget about nerves, time goals, mile splits and intensity? You remember to have FUN. Races can be awesomely fun, but I think I somehow forgot about that in recent months. After the unnecessary self-loathing and disappointment that followed Fort4Fitness, I made it a point to change my attitude and strategy for the Grand Rapids Half Marathon. My only goal for the day was to have FUN ... So I did.

Oh yeah, I also pushed Jan to an unplanned PR. That was the cherry on top of an already amazing race :)

Anyway, here are my keys to having fun at a race:

1. Run with a buddy. As planned, I ran with my sister, Jan. She agreed we would be "those people." You know, the ones you either want to run with ... or run away from. Ha! Luckily, we passed the serious pack of racers mid-course and found a couple of like-minded women who joined in our self-entertainment from about miles 8-12. There was plenty of laughter (and maybe a little bit of swearing).

2. Pick a great course. This one started in downtown Grand Rapids, which features some amazing architecture and a small-town vibe. Then we made our way along the Grand River toward some gorgeous park areas, which showed off the beauty of fall in Pure Michigan. It was so stunning, I didn't even mind the hills (Jan and I are half goat though, so we eat hills for breakfast).

2. Keep your phone out to take selfies and other pictures as often as possible. Feeling down? You can't frown in a selfie! (OK, Jan proved me wrong by flipping me the bird in an end-of-the-race shot. But otherwise she played along. Lol.)

3. Interact with spectators as much as possible. You can give a simple thumbs up or thank you, but high fives (not pictured because I'm not coordinated enough) are much better! (Just forget about flu season and Ebola for a little bit ...) They love when you take pictures and comment on their signs. I love when they oblige my request for MORE COWBELL!

4. Celebrate! The post-race party is just as important as the race itself. In Grand Rapids, race director Don Kern shakes the hand of every finisher ... and also agrees to take selfies. Haha! They had every sort of traditional recovery food imaginable (apples, bananas, Muscle Milk, yogurt, bagels, etc.) and plenty of non-traditional delights (Culver's ice cream, Wendy's Chili, Oreos and UNLIMITED beer from New Holland Brewing). As my preschooler says, "YUMMY IN MY TUMMY!"

So here's the deal. Obviously, I loved everything about this race. Obviously, I'd recommend it to any of my friends. But I'm going to take it one step further and commit to returning next year ... for the FULL marathon.

You read that right, I'm committing to running 26.2 miles on Oct. 18, 2015. (They just announced the date!) I've known for a while now that next year would be the year of the marathon for me, but I didn't quite know when or where it would happen. After my fun experience this weekend, the deal was sealed: Grand Rapids will be the home of my first marathon.

It's a little (OK, a lot) scary to type that out and put it out there in public, but I figure there's no time like the present! If I'm going to run a marathon, I'm going to do it up right. That means getting serious about my training and committing to strength and cross training more regularly. Over the next few months, I'm going to explore some new workout routines and schedules to get started on the LONG road to race day.

BUT that doesn't mean I'm going to forget the FUN of running. I might be challenged, stressed, pushed to my limits, but I want to do it all with a smile on my face. Next year, I want to be that same woman running down the finish chute, arms in the air, fist pumping and cheering with the crowds. Maybe I'll be too tired to take selfies, but I won't be too tired to shake Don's hand or sip some beer.

I promise you this: I'm going to run a marathon. And I'm going to have fun doing it! 


  1. Grand Rapids was one of my favorite marathons AND is my current PR. It's an awesome race!!

    1. I will definitely need to pick your brain at some point to hear all about your experience. We'll have to schedule a running date with the other Kim soon.


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