Johanna Frederick's first half marathon


Lessons learned from DRC Captains

When I was asked to reflect on my first half marathon, I immediately thought “why would they choose me?” I didn’t feel like I had an inspiring story to tell or a super special experience. I wasn’t even sure how to put my thoughts on paper in a way that would make sense to those reading it. So, I decided to write this reflection just like I ran my half; as honestly as I knew how. One foot in front of the other.

I often think about what being a part of such an incredible community means to me. It’s taught me so much about myself beyond running. While writing, I thought back to all the iconic DRC Captain phrases, like Tay reminding us to be great and J Knight screaming “you’re welcome” after we’ve run a hill. I’ve never given these phrases much thought and am usually quick to brush them off. But for some reason, they all have a different meaning to me post-half marathon.  

“Do the Fitness” - Aaron

To be quite honest, I wasn’t really “doing the fitness” to get me ready for my half. I was recovering from a knee injury and once March rolled around I was still in PT twice a week, so I definitely didn’t train as much as I probably should have. On top of that, getting my Master’s while working full time is no joke (shout out to everyone who is doing it/has done it), so I basically had no time or energy to dedicate to running.

*Enter my friends not trying to hear any of my excuses*

“You have class tonight? Let’s run after.”

“Oh, so you’re super tired, haven’t eaten in three days, and have a paper due in the morning? Cool. What time we running?”

I had amazing accountability partners who made sure that I did the fitness no matter what. I owe every single one of my training runs (all five of them) to my friends. Honorable mention goes to Ally and Lori, who were incredibly patient, delicate, and understanding. They were always down to run with me, no matter the time, distance, or pace, but also careful not to push me too hard. They’re truly the real MVPs.

Let’s Be Great – Tazer Tay

Going into this, I was certain that my knee would be my setback. There is nothing more frustrating than being so mentally prepared for something, just for your body to say “lol, you played yourself.” I didn’t understand why it felt like my body was giving up on me – especially only being 24. I had finally found something that I loved and was (sorta) good at, but my body just wasn’t letting me be great. There were days when all I wanted to do was bump some Kanye (please don’t judge me – I never cancelled him) and knock out a long run, but I could barely make it three miles before my knee would completely give out on me.

I’ve since realized that my injury was actually what made me great *cues Tay* It pushed me to run further and faster than before. I definitely wouldn’t recommend that to anyone coming off an injury because it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but I was determined to prove my body wrong. With every painful run, I reminded myself that I am strong and capable – bum knee and all.

Turns out, the most difficult part of training for Brooklyn wasn’t the fact that it physically hurt. Instead, my biggest challenge was that I felt like I wasn’t being heard. Whenever I complained about my knee (which I’ll admit was pretty often) people were quick to chalk it up to the pain being “in my head.” I was constantly being reminded that running is more of a mental sport than anything. While true, I didn’t feel like what I was experiencing was mental. Although I know that these reassurances were done out of love and genuine concern, it made it harder for me to “cope” with my injury. I started second guessing myself. I felt like I had to defend my pain. I was constantly wondering if this was some sort of psychosomatic episode, even though I knew that it wasn’t. It was such an odd experience because I felt like people didn’t trust me with understanding my own body.

As a friend, I totally understand the urge to feel like you have to put a positive spin on a shitty situation. You might even feel obligated to do so. It’s also a common sports psychology to “push through, no matter what.” But, in my experience, the forced positivity made my already frustrating situation twice as frustrating. While this may not be the case for everyone, it was more important for me to feel like my concerns were being heard rather than being told that what I was feeling was somehow not real.

I’m not a profound person and have never really felt like I have anything of substance to add to the “running” conversation, especially since I’ve only been part of the community for a little over a year. But, I finally feel like I have something of value to add, so here goes: It’s important to listen to your friends. Trust them. Support their concerns, no matter how invalid they may seem to you. If you’re running buddy is in a rut, don’t be so quick to dismiss their feelings of pain or uncertainty. Instead, remind them they are entitled to those feelings and ask how you can help. Let’s be great, together.

“Run Your Own Race” – Matt

So, to be quite honest, I used to think this saying was complete BS (sorry Matt!). It kinda felt like when your parents halfheartedly remind you to eat your vegetables. I’d heard it so many times that it became pretty lackluster and I started to almost resent it. It also seemed pretty obvious to me. I was trying to figure out whose race I would be running if not my own.

It wasn’t until I was already two miles into the half that I realized what it meant. Running my own race wasn’t just about running a pace that I was comfortable with. It meant that I had to set my own intentions. It meant that I had to figure out what running (and ultimately finishing) this race meant to me.

It also meant that it was okay not to have an experience similar to everyone else’s. A great example of this is “runner’s high.” I knew that the first few miles would completely suck, just because it typically takes me at least three or four miles for me to find my groove. Afterwards, I was prepared to experience some extraordinary runner’s high that everyone talks about. My plan was to ride that energy wave all the way to the finish line. Except, it never came. After mile 6, I pretty much struggled the rest of the way. I thought that because I wasn’t feeling this runner’s high, I must be doing something wrong. Except for the bomb confetti cannon at mile 11 (shout out to cheer squad!) there were absolutely no fireworks. No feelings of intense excitement. I started to think that maybe I wasn’t running fast enough or listening to the right playlist. It was a discouraging experience because I was waiting for something that never came.

Spoiler alert: it came… two days later. Immediately after the race I was making a mental note of all the reasons why I’d never run another half again. I was like the meme of the confused guy with all the math equations floating around. It wasn’t until Monday when I got to work that I’d felt it. My coworkers were surrounding my desk asking me a bunch of questions about the race and I lowkey felt like a celebrity. I even pulled out my medal to show them because, ya know, it was #MedalMonday and all. On a scale of 1-10, I was feeling like Beyoncé at Coachella. That was my runner’s high.

You’re Welcome – J Knight

When all I wanted to do was stop, I had to find my motivation in every sign, high-five, and sideline cheer. I remembered all of the texts and DMs that I had gotten leading up to the race. Not only from close friends, but also from DRC members that I had only spoken to once or twice. It was great to know that everyone genuinely wanted me to feel supported and I didn’t want to let anyone down, especially myself.

Now, these popular DRC captain sayings have taken on new meaning. To me, doing the fitness doesn’t just mean getting as many runs in as you can before race day. It means making sure that I am strong in every aspect; mentally, physically, and spiritually. Let’s be great is about recognizing and valuing your greatness, whether it be your ability to run six minute miles or your determination to keep going. Running your own race means doing it the best way you know how. For me, that meant running in my hometown and setting personal intentions for what I wanted this experience to mean for me, beyond the medal. Last but certainty not least, you’re welcome is a reminder that there are always people in your corner rooting for you no matter what.

These phrases have become my words to run by.

Almost none of this was clear to me while I was running. It took me a few days after crossing the finish line to embrace the emotions and joys that came from my experience. I’ve learned to trust in my ability, strength, and determination. To appreciate the pain, which meant that I was working hard. And to realize that I have a strength in me that is more than muscle.