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Marathon Blogger Joelle Discusses Her Training and Challenges


WRITTEN BY: Sports Medicine
Monday, February 9th, 2015

Joelle, our newest runner, shares more on her background, how she’s preparing for race day, and challenges she’s facing.

Hi! I’m Joelle Dann.  I’m a 43 year old single mother of three.  My oldest daughter, Dakota, is running the full marathon this year and also participating in this UPMC feature.  I started running after I graduated with my MBA last May.  I watched my daughter and sister finish the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh half marathon last year, and I wanted to experience what it would be like to cross the finish line as well.

Eight years ago, I weighed over 300 pounds.  Gastric bypass helped me lose the weight, but it didn’t motivate me to become active as I thought it would.  I said if I lost the weight, I wanted to run a marathon.  I guess I figured to do this; I just needed to be skinny. Obviously, I had no idea what a commitment and lifestyle change running was.  I lost over half my body size, but I couldn’t run a half mile, even if LL Cool J was in front of me daring me to catch him (Yes, I am a huge fan).   Last February, I signed up for the Cupid’s Undie Run in Pittsburgh.  I thought, running in my underwear in winter while raising money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation would inspire me to run.  My sister, who was training for the half, sent me a training to schedule to be able to run a mile in eight weeks.  Yes, a mile in eight weeks.   Guess what, I couldn’t even do that.  I walked the darn mile with a friend.  After watching my daughter and sister finish the half marathon, I promised myself no more quitting.  It was time to get serious about the marathons on my bucket list.

I started my training last May with the Active App, Couch to 5k with a childhood friend who was also running for the first time. We used to panic when we had to run 8 minutes straight, but we both did it.  Nine weeks later, we ran our first 5k in Greensburg on July 4th.  I was so excited I ran, slowly, but I didn’t walk, I ran the entire 5k.  My finish time was 55 minutes.  I am by no means fast, but I ran and I didn’t quit.  I ran several other 5ks before beginning training for a 10k in September.  I became addicted to running. I hated my rest days.  I mean I hated running, but I loved the way I felt after I completed my run. I finished the Greensburg 10k, dead last, 1 ½ hours later, but I finished.  I was so slow, they gave me a half marathon medal, as they thought I ran the half which was running simultaneously as the 10k.  I returned the medal and said I will accept it when I earn it.

Since that run, I have only attempted one other 5k, to which a hip injury forced me to walk the last mile.  I still had this dream of running a half and someday a full.  I signed up for the Pittsburgh half during a long road trip with my boyfriend.  He was driving and I was playing on my phone, bored.   After I registered, I started bawling like a baby.  Thank God my boyfriend is supportive! What did I just do?  I hated running. I love getting ready for a run and I loved the feeling I got after completing a run, but still hated the actual running. I just registered to run 13.1 miles and I couldn’t even finish my last 5k.  Clearly I have lost my mind.

I started training a few weeks ago for the half.  My dear friend Ryann, who has ran several halves before, also has registered to run and agreed to be my training partner.  We found a 16-week plan online.  It looked simple.  It started with two, 2-mile runs and then a longer 3-mile run on Saturday.  Somehow, I figured I could just run two miles easily, since I did a 10k four months prior.  Wrong!  I’m struggling.  I can’t get motivated.    I am psyching myself out each time I try to run.  Sometimes I can do a mile and sometimes I can’t even do that.  I mean, I know my body can do more, but my head is saying, OMG, you hate this, just stop and walk; so I do.  I hate that my head keeps winning.  Quitting and failure is not an option for me.  I am getting a lot of advice from fellow runners.  The problem is; I need advice on how to get my running mojo back.

My biggest hurdle is; how do I motivate myself. This half marathon is going to come whether I train or not.  I know that.  How do I get the energy to run and the motivation to train again?  I hate treadmills and I hate the cold.  Both of these are easy excuses I use during run days.  Should I force myself to run first thing, or do I run in the evening when I seem to have more free time?  I desperately am looking for any advice that helps me rekindle my run mojo! I would also like some tips on how to pick up speed.  I would like to finish the half when it’s still daylight out!

Want to see how other runners approach marathon training? View this introduction blog post to meet our virtual running group.

Are you preparing for this year’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon or one of the other weekend events? What does your marathon training plan look like? Let us know in the comments below!

Sports Medicine

UPMC Sports Medicine is the region’s largest and most experienced center dedicated to caring for athletes of all levels. For more than 25 years of world-class care, we’re proud to offer more services, have more physicians, and treat more student athletes than any other sports medicine provider in the region. Read More