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Stories from Moab Trail Marathon & How You Can Go After Your First Run Event

It definitely takes commitment and careful planning and it’s on the bucket list for many women. It can come with hard work and training, sometimes it includes an injury or setbacks. It can come with some tears, some smiles, and the opportunity to connect with a whole new group of women, sharing a common goal and the path to get there.

I am NOT a natural born runner – and it’s totally evident when you see me on the running trail. I grew up a swimmer and most times you see me in a running group, I’m in the back, if not THE last one, but I am at least out there while I can.

If you’re a woman over 40 or 50 and want to try a marathon, a half marathon, or your first 5 or 10k, I hope you’ll read on as I’m sharing my recommendations for anyone giving it a go. Why I think you should consider one of these events at ALL and when you’re ready, I’ll share stories on my experience in my marathons, including my last one at 55 in one of my favorite places.

Today I’m talking about my experience “running” the Moab Marathon and the 5 Key Steps I believe will help you if you decide to take on your first running event, so let’s dive in.

Now, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have attempted and completed a total of 3 marathons. Even when I swore I would only try it once.

Each came with their own challenges but each one also came with a ton of great stories and memories. And what I’ll share today is that it doesn’t have to be a marathon. I prefer the 5k and 10k and even the Half Marathons and honestly, it doesn’t matter what distance you choose. What matters is that you try. You don’t have to run. You can speed walk it or blend a bit of both. I ran my first marathon and today, still run the shorter events, but taking on the Moab Marathon at 55 was a bit of running, a bit of walking and a LOT of speed walking.

Now, I have to tell you that I attempted my first marathon at age 38 and I LOVED that I chose Disney. I did it in 2005 and it was my first - it’s a blast for your family and friends it’s a great way to see all the parks with 50k of your new friends all pounding the pavement to the 26.2 mile finish line. You get to take pictures with your Disney favorites and it’s a great one to do if you’re only doing 1 in your lifetime.

You get a great commemorative medal and although I had been injured and I thought I’d switch to the Half Marathon, when I arrived at the event venue and learned that I’d be earning a Donald Duck Medal instead of my coveted Mickey Mouse Medal, I decided I HAD to push through and go for the Mickey. I would walk as much as necessary, but I was going to give it my all.

Today, I cherish my Mickey Medal.

It’s typically scheduled every January and they’ve expanded it to include a full marathon, a half marathon, 10k, 5k and possibly more events. The ultimate is the Goofy Challenge in which you take on all of the events over the weekend. My hats off to those tackling the Goofy Challenge as it’s one that I don’t have plans for.

I repeatedly swore I had done 1 and was done. I had no need to do another until a close friend with a scary health diagnosis asked me to help her complete one. Oy. I had to do it.

The great news is that it was in Hawaii. An absolutely beautiful location – HOT but beautiful.

It was 2017 and not only was this breaking my vow to NOT complete another marathon, but I was a bit older…..oy. This 2nd attempt was at the age of 50. I still had to train carefully and plan my food and drink carefully for ME and now I also had to focus on helping my friend with a challenging health diagnosis that brought along with it many more challenges we had to identify, plan to address and be ready for, and then successfully manage if we were to finish. I thought it might and it totally DID feel more difficult at age 50.

It was tough, and we were both really hot and tired at mile 21. But again, we were out there, giving it our best. We stayed as much as possible in the shade along the road and literally limped our way to the finish line. We made it and it was a huge emotional release of joy. I’ll never forget that day….how it felt along the course….how we kept talking ourselves to keep moving forward….and how we accomplished our goal.

My friend is no longer with us but I’ll always have the memory of that incredible journey and finish line with me. It brings a smile to my face every time I look at the finisher’s medal. It’s a beautiful way to honor my trip to Oahu and my friend and I although I didn’t think it was possible, I cherish is a bit more than my Mickey Medal.

I was done. I did 2 marathons and was convinced that was IT for me. I continue to run with my running gals friends as it’s a total addiction and the best free therapy a few times a week. It was only when two more of my closest friends challenged me to attempt my third and join them for their first marathon. Are you kidding me? I have GOT to get me some new friends.

In addition to wanting to be a part of the fun getaway and road trip with these incredible women, I wanted to join as they selected another one of my favorite places, Moab, and then they selected the event to be on a trail instead of the concrete.

This is a huge difference for me at the age of 55 as the trail is much easier on my joints. My hips, knees, low back, everything, do much, much better on a trail run. So much so that I rarely, if ever, run on anything BUT a trail surface any more.

Now if you haven’t visited Moab yet, you have to. It is incredible and so unique. I’ll take any opportunity to visit and this time, it’d take a bit more work.

But the Moab Marathon did not disappoint. It was AMAZING. I again planned to tackle the Half Marathon but switched a few weeks ahead to the full and I am so glad I did. The trail for the full marathon meandered through areas of Moab you cannot reach by car. Only by hiking or mountain biking, so the participants are treated to some of the most spectacular scenery to help keep your mind in a positive place.

Me and my friends were on the more mature age of the group, with many more youngens in the starting area. I was able to keep with some for a bit, but as most of my uphill treks were speed walking instead of running, the youngens moved on up the trail way faster and I didn’t have to worry about them any more.

This trail event is absolutely a bucket lister, no matter if you tackle the 10k, half or full marathon, but it does have some rocky parts of the trail so stay tuned as I’ll share in just a bit my recommendations for how you can successfully go after your first such event after 50.

The Moab event is typically in November, which is an awesome time to visit this area, and the slots fill up early, so if you decide this is yours to tackle, sign up for alerts on when registration opens. The same goes for lodging, as you’ll have to reserve a hotel or lodging early. It can be warm then and you’ll need sunscreen, a great hat and a way to carry your water and fuel, but to me, it’s totally worth what I was able to experience – both on the trail and as part of a wonderful family and friends weekend getaway.

Now, if you happen to decide YOUR first marathon – or half – is after you’ve celebrated your 40th and more importantly your 50th or 60th birthday, I am sharing what I believe are the 5 Key Steps for YOU to successfully take on your first run event.

Quick disclaimer before we get started that NONE of this is to be attempted without proper planning and training.

#1 – Choose Your Event Carefully

I recommend a few components of your first event that will help – the surface, the terrain, the route and cut off times. To. For anyone trying ANY of these events, running can take a toll on your knees, hips and sometimes your lower back and feet, and I recommend avoiding concrete if at all possible. Not only for the event, but also for your training. Trail and dirt are great surfaces and if you don’t have a lot of this near your home, look at parks and apps like AllTrails to see options in your community. Hiking trails can work well.

What about the terrain and the route? Is it rocky? Is it flat or hilly? Is it normally hot and humid or cold and rainy? Do they have a cut off time in which they’ll pull you at a certain place along the route if you’re running behind. This also helps decide what shoes are the best to have for the event. Will you need a backpack with a water holder or a belt with your favorite bars or gels?

#2 – Plan Carefully & Execute It

Have a training plan – you can find a TON online – or check in with your local running store. There’s typically a regular group run you can join. Your training plan has to include the run training, but also includes what your stomach can tolerate food and drink wise, what clothing and shoes work best for you, and more. You have to set up and then the bigger commitment is to execute it. Know ahead of time that you will have days you don’t want to do the training, but that’s where a group or running buddies comes in handy. If they expect you to show up on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6am, especially on mornings when it’s colder outside and your bed is warm, toasty and comfy, having a group expecting you makes it much easier to stick to it.

#3 – Know Your Pace & What You Can Comfortably Do for the Length of the Event

Only YOU can learn and identify YOUR pace. Don’t try to keep up with the others but for just a bit. Instead try to run or speed walk at a pace that gets your heart rate up but also allows your to still talk most of the time through it. This is where the side benefit of having a group of gals to run with comes in as it’s such a fabulous and free therapy session, so you may get more mental benefits than going solo. I am in a group and we are nowhere near fast. Don’t let your fear hold you back from trying a group. You may start out with them and eventually drop off but you’ll get better each time until you find the right gal or gals running at your pace. Slow does NOT matter. What matters is that you are out there.

#4 – Include Rest and Recovery as a Critical Piece of Your Prep

At this age, our fueling and prep is very important, but so is getting to know your body and making sure you are resting and recovering well. Sleep is very important and there are other tools you can use to make your recovery better – Epsom salt baths, recovery drinks, and much, much more. Research online or ask at the running store for the best advice versus having to go thru trial and error and not feeling optimal throughout the training and prep phase.

#5 – Enjoy the Experience

Finally, really immerse yourself in the prep and the actual event weekend. Enjoy literally every step and memories along the way. I have wonderful and fun stories from spending time with the gals each week, with a great coffee stop after our runs. We have fun road trips and weekends in shared housing and shared meals and cheering each other on. Make it a vacation. Take a ton of photos and a few videos so you remember what it feels like and cherish every bit of it.

I hope you’ll consider going after your first 5k, 10k, half or full marathon, especially if it’s on your bucket list. I hope my stories help inspire you and I hope these tips help you get started.


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