My road running transition, 1992 to 1999, the beginning years

Posted By MissyFoy

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

I started running in 1992.  I was 28 years old.  My husband had gotten back from the Middle East where his Army Reserve unit served six months of active duty.  I started working in medical research.  I started running after having an emergency appendectomy that turned out to be gastroenteritis and, little did I know at the time, the beginning of my auto-immune syndrome.  My husband was running two miles several days each week because of his Army stuff.  I had been pretty active as a kid growing up with all brothers, so I thought, yeah I could do the running thing with him, easy-peezy.  My first day out there with him, I think I got in one mile total and I hurt so bad it was ridiculous – even my ears burned.  I remember asking my husband, “are your ears supposed to burn like this?”  I had never run in any kind of formal way and the track we were on was at the Duke Preventive Approach to Cardiac Health Center, DUPAC for short, and it was not a specified distance, just whatever would fit in the spot they had for it.  I say this to explain why I was so confused the first time I did a real track workout with a coach and had no idea what the lines on the track meant or how far different distances were.  He just had to tell me to start running and that he would yell faster or slower when I got to the far side.

I met my friend Wade Clark at DUPAC.  He was going there because he had a heart attack a year or so before that, had technically died, been zapped with the paddles, the whole deal.  Wade would run past me, lapping me, patting me on the back, and saying “good job.”  He meant well, but he has no idea how close he came to getting tripped each time … yeah, a dead guy was lapping me on a track for which I had no idea of the distance.  One evening, though, Wade walked up to me and had a piece of paper in his hand; it was a flyer for a road race, a 10K road race.  We asked someone how far 10K was and she replied, “about 6 miles.”  Wow.  We thought about whether we could do that.  We knew we had gotten to the point that we were probably jogging about 3 miles a few times each week.  “Oh,” she said with some sense of authority, “you really only need to be able to run half the distance regularly to be able to finish the race distance, so you guys should be fine.”  Okay, then, we would do it.

That race was in March 1992.  I do not know what my finish time was.  I did not know to time myself and it was before the results were kept in an online format and the race folded after that.  But, I ran another 10K in April and finished in 54:09.  Two weeks later, I ran another 10K and finished in 50:41.  I just continued with this unstructured running/jogging and trying out theses different races.  I had no idea how to race, no idea what a workout was … I just ran because it was pretty cool to be able to get outside and feel strong.  I met some people and really felt like it was an incredible sense of accomplishment every time I went out and learned of different places to run.  Mostly, I began to run on the trails in Duke Forest.  I got faster, but still had no idea if I was a good runner, a bad runner, a mediocre runner, or what.  I rarely wore a watch because I didn’t have a runner’s watch; my watch still had an hour and minute hand, so it was hard to know what I was running.

Finally, after two and a half years of running when I had time after work and going to races with Wade or a few other friends, the coach at Duke saw me trying to run around the track one evening in the Fall of 1995.  I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I had a real runner’s watch and I had picked a couple lines and would try to run faster from one to the other, or I would try to go all the way around the track to see how fast I could run a loop.  Coach Norm asked me a few questions about what I was doing and I admitted that I had no idea actually.  He asked me if I wanted to try doing some workouts and actually learning how to race.  Okay.  That’s where it started.  The first day I showed up, Norm told me I was going to run “a basic workout of 8 x 400.”  I just looked at him with a blank stare, “what’s that?”  He asked me if I had ever been on a track before.  “Well, yeah, I’ve stepped on a few and ran around them, but if you mean racing on one or something like that … no, never.”  He asked me if I knew how many miles per week I was running and I told him that I was pretty sure it was somewhere around 35 to 40 miles but I never timed it so I had no idea if I was running fast or slow or medium or ….

I did the track workouts with Norm for a couple months and then he told me it was time to try a race.  I had run a few 5K races, but wasn’t certain what my times were, only whether certain women I had seen beat me or not.  I knew I was running 20 minutes something, though.  My first race after working with Norm, I ran 18:57 and won the race.  I was ecstatic!!!  A few weeks later, he had me run a one mile time trial on the track and I ran 5:38.  By the time the Spring semester started, Norm’s track duties had expanded and he didn’t have time to continue working with me.  I remember being devastated.  So, for pretty much all of 1996, I just went back to the same old running when I had time, going to road races on weekends when I could or when I knew about one.  That summer, I joined the local running club and ran in their summer fun run track meets.  I got my 1500 meter run under 5 minutes and I ran a 5K in 18:31.  I also ran an 8K in 29:51 that summer.

It was then that one of my best running friends, Jim Husk, said he would coach me if I wanted.  I decided to go ahead and give it a try.  Why not?  My 5Ks stayed in the mid 18s; I ran a 58:06 15K; and in December of 1997 I ran a half marathon in 1:23:04 and won.  In February of 1998, my coach got me an invite to my first National Championship race, the Women’s 8K in Columbia, SC.  I ran 29:30 and finished 30th.  I had wanted to run faster and finish better, but I ran in a National Championship … and I wasn’t last!

As my race times improved over 1997, I decided that I wanted to keep training and in 1998 try a marathon at the end of the year.  I ran Kiawah Marathon in December and was hoping for sub 2:50 (which would have qualified me for Olympic Marathon Trials).  It was a long shot, but I wanted to try.

In August, the world got yanked out from under me.  I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  Everyone told me that my running was over.  I tried to find a runner with diabetes who was running at the level I was approaching, the level I was sort of straddling.  There was nobody.  I mean, there was nobody.  I found the name of a physician who was listed in an American Diabetes Association index as someone who specialized in diabetes and exercise.  I thought, okay great, I’ll get in touch with him and find out what I need to do.  I sent an email and told him I was training to qualify for Olympic Marathon Trials and had just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.  He sent me a short note back the next day.  Cutting right to the chase, he told me that “if a diabetic could qualify for Olympic Marathon Trials, it would have already been done.”  Okay, I thought, game on.

I ran my first marathon that December in Kiawah, SC and finished 2nd in 3:00:45.  I puked at the finish line.  I puked some more later.  It had taken everything I had to finish.  I was fine until about 16 or 17 miles and then the wheels fell off.  It was terrible.  My coach gave me a couple days and then told me all of the things I had done wrong, what we needed to do to fix those things, and told me I was registered for another marathon in March.  WHAT?!  Oh no, I wasn’t trying that again!  Yes, he insisted that I needed to get right back on it or I would always be afraid of it.  So, from December 1998 to March 1999, I thought about nothing but getting ready for that marathon.

I ran the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach in March 1999.  I ran 2:49:47 and became the first diabetic runner ever to qualify for Olympic Marathon Trials.  That race felt like the easiest race I had ever run.  I went in with no expectations.  I told nobody that I was going to run it.  We had already set up a bail-out plan in case things didn’t go well.  That was the beginning of my professional running career.  It was my first race after being contingently signed onto the Moving Comfort Racing Team a few months earlier.  It was a dream come true.

The rest of 1999 continued to go well and my race times continued to drop.  My weekly mileage increased into the 80s.  My workouts got harder.  My 5K came down under 17:30.  My 10K came down pretty far under 36:30.  I ran a sub 60 ten miler.

Okay, next post, I’ll give some details on how I started doing workouts and how they changed along the way.  Then, I’ll move on to my road running career and my transition to ultra running.

But, for now, Happy Trails!!


Mar 1st, 2016

2 Comments to 'My road running transition, 1992 to 1999, the beginning years'

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  1. Michele said,

    Have you been able to complete any marathons since being diagnosed?

  2. MissyFoy said,

    All of the marathons I’ve run were after being diagnosed with diabetes.

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