Becky Paige: Racing to FINISH and SMILE!

Becky Paige just completed the Amica Marathon in lovely Newport, Rhode Island. Her race, as she describes on her own blog, Beck on the Run, was a 26.2 mile celebration of living life and fulfilling dreams. Read more about this 24-year old girl who is sure to inspire others – to run a marathon with a smile.

It sounds like you some health issues which spawned a healthier lifestyle. Can you share this with us?

Yes, I was a 24-year old woman facing some concerning health issues, including high blood pressure. The threat of daily medication was enough for me to work very hard to combat the problem. So on January 1, 2009, I made a New Year’s Resolution, as so many of us do. I decided to join a gym, start going and get healthier.  I promised my doctor, and myself, that I would take responsibility for my health. When I started going to the gym, my only goal was to attend classes regularly.  I didn’t have big ideas about weight loss or getting “skinny.”  I needed my blood pressure to be normal when I went to my next doctor’s appointment. For months, this was my sole motivation. Nearly one year later, I was fifty pounds lighter and on top of the world. I went for a physical and they smiled. She weighed me. She took my blood pressure. She did blood work. NORMAL. All the results came back normal. I reached the “healthy” I’d been striving for. I am proud to say that my lifestyle is enough to keep my blood pressure in a healthy range without any other medical intervention.

How did your original goal lead to new ones? And running?
Once I met my goal of getting healthier, I started to want more. Group fitness classes got boring.  I knew I was capable of doing anything I set my mind to do. Right around that time, my aunt and uncle convinced me to run a 5K – three weeks later!  I decided to go for it. On October 4, 2009, I ran my first race and I was hooked.  I loved the adrenaline rush of the race, but I also loved the peaceful rhythmic feeling of my breath and my feet as the moved along.  I started to blog, met new friends, and found new motivation at every turn. Running is something that I hope to have in my life forever.  Whether it’s a quick jog with my mom or a marathon, it’s truly my passion.

Tell us about your experience in watching the Boston Marathon.
Last April, I went to Boston to cheer at the Boston Marathon. I’ve lived in Rhode Island my entire life, but it was my first experience along the sidelines of this elite race. I clapped my hands off and screamed my lungs out for every single runner that raced paced. I realized that so many of the athletes were regular people like me, living out their dreams. There were runners of all shapes and sizes, fast and slow. They inspired me. On that day, I told my family I would run a marathon. When I got home that evening, I started researching and I found my race – the Amica Marathon in Newport, RI. I selected this race for a few reasons.  First, it was far enough off that I would have the time to train properly.  Most importantly, though, it was local. I wanted my first marathon to be one that all of my friends and family could be a part of. I wanted my loved ones standing on the sidelines and that was possible in Newport.

What training schedule did you select?
When I decided to run a marathon, I selected the Novice plan by Hal Higdon. At the time, I was using his Novice training plan for a half-marathon and I felt very comfortable with it. I knew that I couldn’t run more than four days/week. I also knew that I wanted to run at least one 20 mile training run.  Hal’s plan was a good fit for me. Do you cross train at all? Well, that was probably my biggest training flaw. Although Hal’s plan calls for cross training days, my cross training activities were limited to mostly yoga and walking. I tried to strength train, but lost all motivation and I definitely saw the effects of that after the race. When I begin another training cycle, I hope to incorporate more cross training in the form of spinning and strength training. I would ease up during peak mileage weeks, but otherwise, I feel like a more well-rounded fitness routine would only benefit my running.

What was your marathon goal prior to race day?

I kept my marathon goals very simple:  FINISH and SMILE. I wanted to soak in the experience, live in the moment, feel my body, and celebrate eighteen strenuous weeks of training.

What was the race experience like?

My marathon experience was everything I hoped it would be and more! On race day, I ditched my watch and ran by feel. I listened to my breath, took in the gorgeous coastal views and interacted with the other runners.  From the start, I felt great and knew I would finish the race. I ran my race slower than I expected, but I have never felt so proud in my life.

Tell us about your “stay positive” race day plan.

I decided to dedicate each mile to someone important.  For the duration of the mile, I thought about that person.  I thought about our relationship, how they supported me, and the love I felt.  I didn’t want anyone to get cheated, so I gave each mile everything I had.  Each person deserved that from me.  It kept me going.

How did it feel when you crossed the finish line? The feeling that washed over me at the finish line was indescribable. Tears streamed down my face as I hugged my family. Running that race was more challenging than any other experience in my life. It all came down to that morning.  I had no idea what to expect, but I certainly smiled at the end! It was worth every tired footstep.

What did you learn about yourself through this experience?

Training and running a marathon taught me so much about myself. It taught me that I am capable of more than I thought possible and more than I gave myself credit for. It also taught me that positive thinking goes a long way in difficult times! Aside from pushing through the challenge of the race, the marathon made me realize that I am not an overly competitive. I truly do run because I love it. When I was out there, I didn’t care about the clock or any other runners on the course. I ran for me. My most memorable training runs were similar. Without a watch, without pressure, I love running most. I love running with other people, chit-chatting away and enjoying my surroundings. Racing is one of my favorite things to do, but not because I want to win. I race to stand at the starting line and feel the energy of the runners around me. I race to cross the finish line and succeed on a personal level. Running is a very personal thing for me.

Will you run another?

I will run another! In fact, I already registered for my next race. I plan to begin training in December to run the National Marathon in Washington, DC on March 26th. The challenge of training through the winter will put a new spin on this race, but I am excited. This time, I will train with friends, so I’m really looking forward to sharing the experience with them.

What advice would you give another first time marathoner?

If you are setting out to run your first marathon, make it fun! You have so many runs ahead of you. Don’t worry about your time everyday.  Instead, explore new routes and run with friends and keep things interesting. There will be good and bad runs along the way. Usually, there is a reason for this – consider your sleep habits and fueling habits as you train. I could often attribute my training successes and failures to these things. When I was training, I focused on my long runs. I felt they were important and wanted to run strong each weekend. Sometimes this required an extra rest day or cutting a run short, but it worked in the end. Have fun!

Melinda Hinson