WTF?! A Marathon??

For the past 5 months, I’ve been self-conscious about working out. I know, I know, an Olympian scared to workout? Well that’s precisely the problem. When I retired, I was super excited about the freedom I had to do all those fun workout classes other women did: yoga, spin, barre, OrangeTheory…

However, the first OrangeTheory class I attended was a nightmare. I was already nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. Then some lady came up to me and said, “You’re that track star, right? Oh, you’re gonna KILL this!” I wanted to walk out. I was already nervous and uncomfortable in this new workout environment, one that was DRASTICALLY different from what I was used to, and now I had people recognizing me and expecting me to absolutely demolish it? Shit!

My body is used to speed/power workouts; sprinting hard for short distances with full recovery, explosive gym exercises with light weights. I was specialized to do my event really well, not all sports and workouts really well.

I didn’t demolish the OrangeTheory workout. In fact, it demolished me. I was doing the endurance intervals on the rower, barely able to breathe and with that white, spitty slime building at the corners of my mouth — just on the edge of functioning. After that, I had to lay on the couch for the rest of the day; my whole system was totally fried.

The biggest misconception among the general public is probably how often and far Ashton and I run. People think that we could run a 10-miler or jump in a marathon no problem. Let me put it this way, when we were training for the Olympics, we would complain about a 5-minute run, saying that “our calves got too tight,” “our feet hurt,” or “it’ll make us slow.”

So when Michael Chitwood from Team World Vision called 2.5 months ago and said, “So you ready to run a marathon with us?” I laughed out loud. We’ve been going to Africa with him for the past two years to see all the work World Vision is doing to bring clean water to people in need. I love the organization, but I could barely do a 1 hour endurance workout at OrangeTheory, how the hell would I do a marathon?! He was out of his mind. He told me to “think about it.”

Well…I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The more I thought about it, the more appealing it was to me. First, because doing it would benefit someone else, it would help me stay fit, it’d give me a workout routine and structure, and I could challenge myself in a way I’ve never done before.

So I committed. I committed to running the Chicago Marathon with Team World Vision at the beginning of October, and I’m training like a madwoman because I’m terrified. At some point during every long run I do I think, “Wtf did I get myself into?!” I can barely feel my legs at the end of those runs, but it’s super rewarding! I actually look forward to doing them now.

I’ve had people say, “you’ll qualify for Boston,” or “you’ll easily run under 4 hours.” I actually have no idea what either of those mean. I don’t know what the Boston qualifying time is and I don’t know how fast my miles would have to be to run 4 hours. I don’t care either. I don’t care what other people think or what their expectations are. I’m doing this to raise money for a great cause and to challenge myself.

So if any of you are having the same problem I was: the fear or embarrassment to work out because of what people will think of you, SCREW IT! Who cares about those people. Do it for you, do it for your health, do it for your happiness, or do it for someone else or a charity. Committing is the hardest part, but once you get passed that, it’s honestly really rewarding.

If you think I’m crazy, stupid, awesome, nuts, inspiring, off my rocker or badass for doing this, please support me in this marathon by helping me raise enough money to provide 60 people in Africa with clean water. You can do that HERE.

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30 thoughts on “WTF?! A Marathon??”

  • Great post Brianne!

    I just hope you stay healthy and don’t get injured. It sounds like you are progressing nicely.
    I have this crazy theory that most of us have a finite number of miles in our legs for running.
    At 60 and having done track and running since I was 11 I am feeling at the end of my allotment. It is hard when I see people older than myself still,running and I am walking/ running..like you I think hey I did track I should be faster than them. Nope. Never been a long distance runner and never will be!
    I realize my body has taken a lot of pounding over the years and I need to listen to it. Good for others that they can run farther or more often.
    Running with walking thrown in allows me to enjoy the scenery and notice things I missed before in my effort to get it done.

    So great that you are doing this for such a great cause!

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  • I’m so glad to read your post. Trying something new is hard, but especially when you have expectations and assumptions placed on you by others. I really appreciate you sharing the challenges of post Olympic life and I’m excited to follow your journey, wherever it takes you and whatever happens.

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    • Thanks for the message, Julia. Yeah, I would never have expected to struggle with working out expectations post retirement. It has been a real struggle though. But I’ve finally found something that I’m enjoying and I think doing it for a good cause is helping a lot.

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      • In some ways the expectations people have for you is a tribute and compliment of the intense focus and dedication you have displayed as an Olympian. They saw how hard you worked to get to the podium time and again. Your willingness to continue learning in an industry you’ve spent countless hours working and competing in shows a lot of courage in doing something you’ve never done before and when the outcome is relatively unknown. And in the process, you’ll have a life changing impact with getting people clean water. So that’s an amazing bonus 🙂

        I just did my first 5K race this week and am looking to continue adding miles to my runs. If you have any recommendations on how to keep longer runs interesting, I’d love to hear any suggestion you have!

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        • Thanks Julia!

          I’m still a newbie at this too, so I’m trying to find things to distract me during runs. So far I’ve found that running with someone or having someone bike beside you and talk a lot is super helpful. If I can’t find anyone to come with me, I listen to the podcast “Up and Vanished”. It’s a murder mystery and super interesting.

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  • Thank you! I turned 40 last year and instead of taking some wild trip, I decided to see if I could run a marathon. I ran Chicago! I have to believe it is the best first marathon course around. Keep doing what you’re doing and screw what others expect out of you! One mile at a time–you’ve got this!

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    • Thanks so much, Cristin! A lot of people have been telling me that Chicago is amazing. I’m really looking forward to it. Good luck with your training if you’re still running!

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  • Enjoy the race. It’s hard but crowd support is great, from the elvis impersonator to the cheerleaders in Boys Town to incredible crowds in China town, and mostly the inspiring kind people in pilsen who refilled water bottles with their garden hoses the year it was 90+ degrees. It’s a great way to see the city and especially for a good cause.

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    • Thanks Chuck. I’m really looking forward to it, although I have that odd off day where my run feels HORRIBLE and I think “I don’t think I’ll be able to do this without walking.” Excited to experience Chicago though.

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  • good for you for trying something new and taking on a challenge! i ran a bit of track when i was younger and played hockey competitively and had never really got into long distance running too much until the last couple years. i ran my first half marathon last year (the manitoba marathon) and ran another one a couple months later in Toronto. the whole race day experience was amazing and the training leading up to it was all worth it. i followed you in the olympics as i was born in humboldt! i moved back to Ontario when i was 3 but my parents lived in Humboldt for quite a few years as my dad coached hockey out there. i actually drove out west a couple weeks ago to visit friends in calgary and i specifially drove the Saskatoon route so i could go through Humboldt! love your blog/website, keep inspiring people! you go girl

    ps. favourite running quote to live by when you are feeling terrible during some of those long runs “i didn’t come this far just to come this far”

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    • Hi Michelle –

      So cool that you got into running. I never identified as a “runner” when I was an elite athlete, I was always “a sprinter”, but I’m REALLY enjoying being a runner. Good call on the Manitoba marathon, I think every runner looks for a flat course for their first marathon. I’m super Sask & Man are about as flat as they get.

      Glad you’re enjoying the website. Thanks for the quote 🙂

      Brianne

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  • Brianne!
    This is one of the most refreshing and encouraging articles I have read on the topic of being fit and a runner! When I got to college for XC and track I was so self-conscious of all of the girls who could crush abb workouts and all sorts of core movements and “fitness” things that I could not do. I found myself spreading myself thin, trying to add in extra yoga, Pilates, core, HIIT workouts, etc…instead of focusing on my sport and how to become most efficient at it.
    Thank you and good luck! You will not regret pushing yourself in this new way for an amazing cause.
    Blessings on blessings!<3

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    • Hi Anna –

      So glad you felt like you got something from this post. While I do enjoy sharing what’s going on in my life now, the more important part is that someone learns or takes something from it. I’m so glad that you found it refreshing.

      Good luck with your running and always do what you feel is best for YOU.

      Brianne

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  • Go you! Embrace the challenge. Keep posting , it will encourage me as I get back to running.

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  • Bri, oh how that brought up memories. I am a middle distance runner. Always have been, always will be. 800m-5,000m. Yet folks assume I can do other things Orange, Crossfit… how many times have I been asked, “how many marathons have you run”… I run, forward (not backward, not side to side, not squats. I’ll argue that you and that “Eaton Guy” are true athletes, guys like me are simply “runners”.

    So the one piece of pseudo-wisdom I’ll offer… enjoy the journey. Likely unlike your shorter-explosive training you did to be a world class Hep, distance running on 10-15 mile runs gives you a chance to think, notice things, almost a zen experience at times. Enjoy it.

    Finally, it is great you are using your influence to raise awareness and money for those in need. Mb.

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    • Hi Michael. Thanks for the words of wisdom, and I’m glad you can relate to the feeling of not being able to do everything (even if people expect you to be able to). I have noticed that when I first started running, I would get bored really quick and try to run faster to get the run over with, and now I am enjoying it a bit more. Although the last couple miles of my long runs are painful and I can’t think about anything but finishing, lol! Have a great summer!

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  • I’m no professional but judging by how easily you breezed passed my daughter and I on the bike path yesterday I think you are going to do great!!

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  • How exciting! I just finished up my last year of collegiate eligibility for throwing. The past many years of my life have been dedicated to throwing and getting stronger and bigger, but now that it’s over, I’m not quite sure what to do! I’ve been working on long distance running, but I hate running. I’ve set a time goal for a 5k because I’m so used to training for a specific event, the latest being nationals. I think I’ll try kickboxing after this. I totally understand the confusing feeling of not knowing what type of workouts to do, and I’d love to hear what you figure out!

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    • Hi Michaela! Oh man! It’s so tough, especially because you have these really specific goals that you’re working towards that when they’re gone, you feel kind of lost. My advice would be find something that you enjoy doing, set a goal for yourself (doesn’t have to be anything amazing) and then work towards it.

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    • You know what, I’ve definitely been more into podcasts lately while I’m running. I’ve been listening to Up and Vanished. It’s really good.

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  • Hi Brianne,
    I’m 51 years old and I’m from Brussels (Belgium) and have always been a big fan of you and Ashton (and more recently …. Nafi Thiam of course 😉 )
    I have to say that I’m very impressed by everything you do and you are truly a role model for me. I have been quite lazy these last yearssss but I have decided to take a much better care of my health since last October thanks to you, starting by walking more and more, playing tennis again and eventually, I have bought a new pair of running shoes and have managed to run 5 kms .
    People like you and Ashton are very inspiring and despite thousands of kilometers away and an ocean between us, I can assure you do have a very positive influence.
    Please, keep on going!
    All the best for your marathon!!
    Isabelle
    PS: my favourites quotes those days: “don’t stop when it hurts, stop when you’re done” and “ever tried, ever failed, no matter, try again, fail again, fail better” (quote which is tattooed on the forearm of the Swiss tennis player Stan Wawrinka 🙂

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    • Hi Isabelle.
      Thank you for this message. I’m so glad that Ashton and I could add a bit of inspiration to your life. It’s things like this that make us the most proud of what we do 🙂
      Best of luck in all of your running and exercise endeavors. You will no doubt be successful as long as you are trying your best. I will also be cheering for Nafi at the World Championships. Such a great competitor and a great person as well.
      Brianne

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  • Hey! This is so fun that you’re training for a marathon. I was just curious about the plan you’re training with, or if you have one to share I’d love to get some inspiration !!

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    • Hi Abbey,

      I got a pretty basic, “first time marathon runners” plan from the charity I’m running with. I’m kind of following it, but definitely listen to my body and adapt workouts as I need. I end up cross training on the bike at least 1 of the training runs a week. Are you training for a marathon also?

      – Bri

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  • Brianne, it was so fun to find this site today!:) My wife and I have crossed path’s with you and Ashton here in Eugene a few times as we work for a Fitness Equipment supplier who has some history with Ashton. We have followed both of your careers and I was very interested to see what you two would put your incredible determination and enormous talent towards:) This site is awesome, and we are rooting for you both. Looking forward to trying some of your recipes, they look awesome!

    Just make sure Ashton doesn’t turn into a total couch potato… I think he always admitted that was his inclination if you didn’t kick his butt out to working out:)

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    • Hi Trever!

      I’m so glad you came across the site and like it. It’s my little passion project and I’m having a lot of fun with it. Let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to see!

      Bri

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      • I’d say just keep the recipes coming if you can:) A week in the life meal plan and a shopping trip/grocery list could be a fun share idea?
        We are totally sold on the approach… I absolutely hate all of the extreme dieting out there that catches on and the yo-yo that creates for people. I love the balanced approach and lifestyle change philosophy and the fact that it has been lived out by world class athletes adds credence to it’s value. Thank you for providing access to what has helped you both to succeed.

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