2013 is winding down, and it’s been an incredible year. I’ll go into it in a more detailed end-of-the-year post a little later this month after I put a little bit more work in, but I have so much to look back on and be proud of, and SO much in 2014 to look forward to and work hard for. Hell, running aside, this time next year I’m scheduled to have a Master’s degree! It’s really amazing where life takes you, especially when you set yourself up for a challenge and don’t give up on it.

This is the last week of the semester for me, and it’s a huge relief to get to that moment where even though I’m not QUITE done, I could quit now and still pass all my classes. Every class I’ve taken since high school I look forward to that moment – working hard, working hard, working hard until that moment you know you’re going to make it through and can breathe again.

I think that’s how I approach races, which is why I always end up with a positive split. I’ve been reading here and there about the benefits of aiming to negative split your race time (for my non-running savvy friends, negative split means the last half of your race is faster than your first half), and no matter how much I try to take it slow in those first few miles, the adrenaline always gets me and I can’t tame the jets.

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2013 in race bibs (minus a few early 5K’s when I didn’t know saving the bibs was a thing)

It’s also kind of how this year went. Now that I’m nearing the end, I really have to push myself to stay active and practice healthy habits now that it’s dark and cold and I hit this big milestone of my first half-marathon.

Starting next week I join the Potomac River Running Store’s Winter Distance Training Program for something like 14 weeks? The program consists of weekly Wednesday evening speedwork sessions at a local track and Sunday long runs. It’s definitely going to force me to get outside in the cold weather, and they even set us up with a sweet long sleeve dri-fit top for a base layer.

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Might have to wear this for my PR Race Series 5K on Sunday

Speaking of PR Running, on Sunday, I’m running what will probably be my last organized race of the year unless I do decide to sign up for this New Year’s Eve 10K I’ve been eyeing. (What better way to excuse pigging out all night than running 6.2 around noon?) Since I’ve been off my game and haven’t run outside since like two days after my half marathon 3 weeks ago, only on a flat treadmill, I’m not going to try to PR this one. I’m ending 2013 on a 30:27 unofficial treadmill PR, 30:55 chip-timed PR. I’m okay with that. It makes going sub-30 in 2014 a very reachable goal, especially with these speedwork sessions coming up.

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My friendly neighborhood PR store

But nonetheless, I’m excited to bib up one (maybe) last time in 2013 and end the year with a 5K, just like I started. And the best part is, my guy is running it with me. On one of our early dates he told me I’d inspired him to sign up for a 5K. He said I was so enthusiastic and happy when I talked about running, he couldn’t help but want to get into it again himself.

And that to me is the coolest thing. A couple of my friends have asked me about how I got past the hard part of getting into the running habit. A couple other friends have signed up for races of their own. My mom might even do her first 5K with me in Charleston this January. Another friend is considering training and running a half-marathon simply because she read my Richmond blog post. An old friend of mine recently told me over Thanksgiving he loves my Facebook posts about running. He said, “there’s so much bad news going on in the world – to see someone achieve something so awesome is a nice change on the newsfeed.”

It’s things like that, that even when all I want to do when I get home from work is curl up in bed with a mug of hot chocolate and watch “Breaking Bad” on a Netflix binge, I lace up. I still haven’t mastered the gear of running outside, but I’m getting used to being a treadmill girl for the winter.

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Tonight in the mailbox I got no less than the following: the medals I designed/ordered for the winners of my virtual 5K fundraiser, the new copy of Runner’s World, a free pair of race legs from Sparkle Athletic from a Black Friday deal, and a box of samples of Orgain Nutritional Shakes that I won through Earndit (and a free t-shirt!). I’ll try one of the shakes and review it on here at some point, but it really made me realize… even though the 3.1 miles I put in on the treadmill was slow tonight, even though I’ve only run 2, 3 times max per week since doing my first half, and even though I’ve yet to run a sub-30 5K, a sub 1 hour 10K, a sub 2 hour half marathon, or a full marathon whatsoever, I’m still very much a runner.

And if I can bring even just one more person into this amazing community of running? Well that – that is the coolest personal achievement.

I’ve got my list of 2014 goals coming up… kick me off with some of yours! What races are you signed up for? What PRs are you trying to break? What are you most proud of in 2013?

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