Shamrock Half Marathon 2015

“Courage, Dear Heart.” ~C.S. Lewis

A week ago I crossed the finish line of the Newport News Marathon 8k. Over the five hilly miles, my head quickly tried to play its old tricks. By mile two I found myself thinking old thoughts of “I can’t” and “it’s too hard”. As quickly as they came, I quickly laughed them off. I spent last year battling those mental demons. There was no way I was letting them win this year. Instead I had fun with the runners around me. I chatted with the few spectators that were on the course. Even when congestion prevented me from breathing deeply and a cramp emerged in my side around mile 3, I stayed happy. The result was an 8k and a perfectly executed race

(Finish Time: 45:15, Splits: 9:11, 9:02, 9:01, 9:01, 8:56)

After this race, I knew my heart (and most importantly my head) was ready for my big race weekend: Shamrock Half Marathon.

I wasn’t supposed to be running the half this weekend. I was supposed to be in Africa. I wasn’t training for a spring half. I thought my goal race would be a 10 miler at the end of April. So when plans changed, I quickly adapted my training plan to squeeze in a few double digit runs (two to be exact).

As race day approached, I had a few goals floating around in my head. First and most importantly, I wanted to duplicate the feeling I ran with at the One City Marathon 8k. I wanted to run with a happy heart. I wanted to have fun. Based on my current fitness level, I also had a few anticipated finish times.

A Goal – Sub 2 if the day was absolutely perfect mixed with a little race day magic (the same pace as my 8k the weekend before)

B Goal – PR (sub 2:03:19)

C Goal – stay strong (9:30 pace)

As I lined up at the start of the Shamrock Half Marathon with my friends, I decided I wanted to go for. I wanted to see if I had a sub 2 hiding inside my running legs. Regardless of my inconsistent training and regardless of my unfocused running all winter, I knew my heart and my head was the strongest it has ever been going into a race

The excitement is building

The excitement is building

Mile 1 9:08

Mile 2 9:06

Mile 3 9:06

Mile 4 9:01

Mile 5 9:04

Mile 6 9:05

The first six miles head north through the North End of the oceanfront and along Shore Drive through First Landing State Park. My only thought through the first six miles was to slow down. I didn’t want to run faster than a 9 minute mile. I consciously head back and resisted the urge to run faster as the excitement of race day took over.

As we turned on to the military base, I started to fatigue a bit. I think mentally I knew what the next 3 miles had planned. Three miles through a lonely, quiet military base. My running buddy Laura dropped back at Mile 7 due to some cramping so I was all alone. I started the process of counting miles and water stops. Run to the next mile marker. Run to the next water table. Run to the light house. Get me off this stupid military base!

Mile 7 8:54

Mile 8 9:05

Mile 9 9:23


I expected to feel a surge of excitement as I left the military base, but it never showed up. I was tired. I couldn’t find the motivation to keep the wheels turning. I hadn’t been paying attention to my garmin at this point. If I had know I was so close to going sub 2, I think I could have fought a little harder. Mentally I thought I was in the perfect bubble of finishing with a new PR above 2 hours.

Mile 10 9:35

Mile 11 9:21

Mile 12 9:56

As always Christian was waiting for me as I came out of the military base. Seeing him is always a welcome sight. He stays if I want him near. He bikes ahead when I push him away. I really wanted to be done by the time I saw him. Mentally I was tired.  When I finally saw the mile mark to let me know there was 1 mile left, I finally found some energy. I didn’t run 12 miles to quit, so I tucked my head and kept going.

Mile 13 9:30

As I made my the final turn onto the boardwalk, I was smiling from ear to ear. I knew I was going to cross the finish line with a personal best. This year I really allowed myself to enjoy the energy of the crowd. I high fived everyone on the turn. I cheered along with them. I embraced ever single sign and every single word of encouragement. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Final Stretch 8:36 pace


Official Results 2:01:43, 9:17 pace

I felt like I was beaming as I made my way down the finisher shoot. Satisfied didn’t even begin to describe just how good I felt about my run on Sunday. Running a PR always feels good, but this year feels different. This year running was my last priority. This year family time always came first. This year my work has become my source of pride. This year I choose sleep when my body was weary. This year my life felt like everything fell in place perfectly. To be rewarded with a personal best is truly the cherry on top.

Post Race Celebrating

Post Race Celebrating

As I put another check in the box next to a goal accomplished, I can’t help but feel like this is my starting point. I felt this exact same way last year at the finish line of the Shamrock Half. I’m finding my stride. I’m finding what works best for my life. Running has become the perfect compliment for everything that makes me happy.

This year running embraced me back. My heart won this race!


In the Process

I had no intention of running the Shamrock half marathon this year. I was planning to be on a work trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I thought I’d be in the heart of Africa working with patients doing something my heart loves. Plans changed. When my own personal safety came into question, the heart of my family became my priority. These very deserving patients will get treatment even if I’m not there, and my boys don’t have to worry about my safety.

There’s a saying floating around in this world that joy is found in the process not in the finish line. While I won’t be traveling to the DRC, a shift changed inside of me by working on this project. The story of these patients is so closely entwined with my heart. Who I am as a person and the beat of my heart directly connects me to their story. I rediscovered a passion inside of me over the past few months. I’ve found confidence in my own voice and in my own story. I’ve been using my voice to capture my story on paper. I’ve revisited places of shame and guilt that existed within me, and I conquered those doubts. I wanted more than anything to bring strength to these patients. I wanted to bring compassion and courage. In order to bring it to them, I had to find it for myself.

This process has changed me. In some ways it’s been subtle. In other ways it’s been intrusive. Rearranging the components of your soul is messy. It’s chaotic. While some parts have emerged, others have left with a fight. There have been days I’ve felt emotionally unstable as I’ve struggled through this transition: old doubts and insecurities struggling to hold on while new-found strength and courage fought to take over.

Through all this change the one place I’ve been able to sort through all my thoughts is in my running shoes. I’ve worked through it all, celebrated it all, and finished every run feeling like a polished version of my self. Shamrock race weekend feels like the perfect place to shine. This year I’ll be running the Shamrock half marathon instead of traveling to Africa, but I’ll be carrying this entire process with me. The finish line isn’t the one I anticipated, but the process has been the same.

I’ll be running with these patients close to my heart. I’ll be running with the courage and determination I hoped to bring to them. The best way I can honor them and myself is to show up to my life with my heart exposed filled with strength and courage.

When I do board a plane this spring for a different mission site, my heart is going to have nothing to give but love that is rooted in my own strength. My foundation will be built on strength and courage.



You can’t Fake the Core

“If there’s one thing I believe more than I believe anything else, it’s that you can’t fake the core. The truth that lives there will eventually win out. It’s a god we must obey, a force that brings us all inevitably to our knees.” ~ Cheryl Strayed

All year I’ve been peeling away the layers. I’ve been seeking out breathing room in nearly every aspect of my life. After a period of my life that felt nearly suffocating, I needed to breathe again. I changed jobs. Our house is being decluttered. I simplified our family life. I took a step back in nearly every aspect of my life. This is what I need. I know it deep inside my core.

I’m meant to live a simple life. I’m meant to live a life full of love. It’s impossible to accomplish this when your life is full of clutter – both physical and emotional.

And yet my running has struggled. I’ve struggled with my relationship with running all year. Injury. Emotional baggage. Mental weakness. I just can’t get over the hump. With my fall race season approaching, I started to panic. I need a training plan. I need to get faster. I need support. My running continued to spiral downward. I don’t want to give up on running. I love running. Should I even be racing at all? I can’t function without running. I’m working on redefining my relationship with my running shoes. Isn’t that enough? Spiraling spiraling downward. And then I bounced back up.

What I need is breathing room!

I already know exactly what I need. My body has been telling me for months (years?).

I need to trust myself. I know how to run. I know how train. Creating my own plan, trusting myself to get me to the finish line, is exactly what I need. I need to empower myself. I need to put my faith back in my own ability. I don’t need a time goal. I just want to do my best.  And I need to listen to my body.

While I was so busy trying to control the outcome of every race, I was ignoring the screams that were coming from my body. I’ve run my body into the ground based on it’s current fitness level. My hips have been rebelling. I feel weaker every time I put on my running shoes.  My body was screaming at me that something needed to change. It was reminding me what I always forget: my running legs aren’t like everyone else’s running legs. They were broken at one point. My femur, my tibia, and my foot broke. They are pieced back together by titanium rods and screws. My hip and knees have been dislocated. I have scar tissue. I have to take care of them. I have to support them. I need to get stronger if I’m going to keep running.

So my training plan is blank minus the few races I’m running this fall. I’ve left space each week for two easy runs, one speed work out, and a long run. I’ve left space for strength workouts. I’ve left space for yoga. How I fill in the space each week will be based on my life – family and work. The blank spaces make me feel alive. The blank space feels like a vote of confidence in myself. I’m smart enough to know how to build mileage. I have run enough speed workouts to select ones that challenge me. I am now smart enough to recognize that my focus has to be on strength and yoga. The running will fall into place.

I’m excited about this new plan. I’m excited to find a balance that works for me. I’m excited to listen to my body in a truly authentic way. It feels amazing to let go of trying to control the outcome. Instead I’m focusing on today, right now, and exactly what my body needs. I have a feeling I’m building the foundation for a very happy running relationship.

I hear you body! I am finally listening!

I finally feel like I am breathing!



Running and life: always a reflection of each other


I set out to run my easy twenty minute recovery run this afternoon. I picked my favorite two+ mile route at the oceanfront: rudee inlet to the pier taking the alternative route back. I put on my garmin just to keep my running log up to date.


Slow and easy was my plan. I wanted to tune into my body to see if I felt any imbalances from the race on Sunday. I ran comfortable. I ran happy. My watch beeped just past the pier to let me know mile one was done. I looked down for the first time, and I thought my watch was broken.


I put on the breaks and slowed down. This was supposed to be an easy run. Every time I slowed down, my legs pulled me forward. I took inventory. Nothing hurt. I wasn’t breathing heavy. My legs felt great. I needed to trust my body.


I was still feeling great after mile two so I let my legs lead the way for the rest of the run. I finished the run at a 7:48 pace. I finished feeling like I could keep going. I finished, and my legs felt better than when I started.


I was very hesitant about my running before Sunday’s race. I was nervous about my injury. I was nervous about my lack of miles. I was worried I had lost what little speed I had left.

I’m not nervous anymore. I’m ready. I’m excited. I’m ready to tackle hard runs and longer miles. I’m ready to see what I’m capable of achieving this spring in my next two races, the Cherry Blossom 10-miler and the Flying Pirate half marathon.

It’s time to be brave. I’m ready to push out of my comfort zone. It just took a solid half marathon and a surprise speedy run to help me change gears!

Hello spring training!


Staying Afloat

In less than two weeks, I’ll be lining up to run the Shamrock Half-Marathon. I wasn’t sure if this race was even a reality a few weeks ago. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a quality long run. In fact, my last double-digit run was at the Surfin Santa 10-miler the first weekend in December. The weeks after that race lead me to drop down to the half marathon from the full marathon. They also lead me to an ankle injury.


I’m really good at sinking the ship. My husband has told me this more times than I can count. In arguments, when our ship is starting to take on water, I don’t bail water. I add water to the boat. The ship is going down, and I speed up the process. This bad habit has followed me my whole life.



When I ran the Richmond marathon in November, my ship started to take on water at mile 10. I threw up. For the first time (maybe ever), I didn’t sink the ship. I collected myself, I started running again, and I moved on to Plan B. And then plan C, D and E. After I got sick each time, I just kept moving forward. I bailed water!

The same thing happened at the Surfin Santa 10-miler. The miles on the boardwalk in the wind left me flat. When I got off the boardwalk with two more miles to run, I collected myself and kept going. I bailed water again.

When I reflected on both of these races, this lesson missed me. I never saw either race from this perception until I had a conversation with Jerry from J&A Racing. He casually pointed out that I stayed mentally engaged when I could have given up.

I came home that night happy to tell my husband that I was learning to bail water.


In January I started running with Coach Ryan Carroll. When my ankle injury happened, he constantly reminded me to keep moving. Injuries, while annoying and a blow to my cardiovascular endurance, can be a great opportunity to find strength in other aspects of life. Ryan got me back on my bike, something that hasn’t happened in three years. In every conversation we’ve had, he’s reminded me to keep moving. He’s reminded me to bail water.

After easing back into training, this Saturday was my first long run where I planned on testing my legs. The outcome was far better than I expected: 10 miles at a 9:23 pace. All that’s left now is to show up on race day and run what my coach tells me to run. This race isn’t a goal race. It’s a starting point for 2014. While I have some time goals in mind, my mission on race day is to keep my ship afloat.



I would never wish for an injury, but this injury delivered so many gifts. I took away all my excuses to not bike. It has given me permission to run shamrock free of self-imposed expectations. It’s showed me that maybe, just maybe, bailing water is now my approach to life.

This ship isn’t sinking! Hand me a bucket. I finally know how to bail water!


Shamrock Spotlight: Sue Tate



We are so excited to be bringing you the “Shamrock Spotlight Series” on our blogs! The Yuengling Shamrock Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 8k Races bring thousands of runners, of all ages, abilities and locations, to the Virginia Beach oceanfront every year! As J&A Racing Live Love Run Ambassadors, we decided we wanted to celebrate these races, J&A Racing, and our community by doing a series that highlights participants, both local and out of town, on their journey to this years’ races.

We were incredibly fortunate to get the response we did when asking for volunteers to be spotlighted, and are grateful for the opportunity to share their stories with you!

Kristy and Lesleyanne


Name  Sue Tate
Age. 38
Current City. Alexandria, VA

Blog: This Mama Runs for Cupcakes

I am a 37 year old mama to two beautiful boys, a Pediatric ICU nurse and Air Force veteran.  My passion is running and trying to be a good role model to teach my boys the importance of healthy living!

Why you are running a Shamrock race in 2014? I’ll be honest,I’m running because it was my backup race for not getting in the NYC 1/2 lottery. I had to choose between Rock N Roll USA and Shamrock. I live close to DC and have run so many races there I wanted a change of scenery and I have never been to Virginia Beach!! This sounded like a great excuse to go down there!

When did you start running? I started running in college as a way to stay in shape and avoid gaining the Freshman 15!

How many races have you done and what’s your favorite?  I have done about 20 races but probably more. Before I became passionate about running I didn’t really keep track and know I ran a bunch of 5K’s.  My favorite by far was the Marine Corp Marathon!

Where do you prefer to run? I prefer to run outside on a trail!

What’s the longest distance you’ve run? 26.2 miles!


What is the one thing you DON’T like about running? Honestly, there is NOTHING I don’t like about running, unless maybe the foam rolling afterwards :)

Favorite post-run indulgence? I love a great omelet immediately after a run, but a real indulgence would be a cupcake or ice-cream. I have a bit of a sweet tooth.

Favorite running shoe? Right now it’s my Saucony Cortana 3′s

Favorite song to run to?  Pretender by the Foo Fighters

Favorite website to waste time on? Facebook

Favorite running moment? Crossing the finish line of my very first marathon.  I was in so much pain but I couldn’t feel it because of the emotions of finally accomplishing my goal!

If you could pick one celebrity to run with, who would it be? Ryan Reynolds


Want to continue to follow Sue on her road to Shamrock 2014? You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Bloglovin


If you are participating in one of the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 8k Races this year and are interested in being spotlighted, please email

Shamrock Spotlight: Holly Kline


We are so excited to be bringing you the “Shamrock Spotlight Series” on our blogs! The Yuengling Shamrock Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 8k Races bring thousands of runners, of all ages, abilities and locations, to the Virginia Beach oceanfront every year!   As J&A Racing Live Love Run Ambassadors, we decided we wanted to celebrate these races, J&A Racing, and our community by doing a series that highlights participants, both local and out of town, on their journey to this years’ races.

We were incredibly fortunate to get the response we did when asking for volunteers to be spotlighted, and are grateful for the opportunity to share their stories with you!  

Kristy and Lesleyanne


Holly with her Mom

Holly with her Mom

Blog: Road Runner

Age on Race Day: 29 years old

Current City: Fort Myers, Florida

Training for the Shamrock Marathon

“I first started running in 2011. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in August of 2011 and the next day I signed up for Race for the Cure. I ran it in October of 2011 without any training and having never been a runner before. Since then, my mom has been there to cheer me on every time I have done a new distance. She is now cancer free and is my inspiration for everything and since she lives in Virginia I decided to do my first marathon where she can cheer me on!”

Why you are running a Shamrock race in 2014?  Shamrock was my first ever 8K in 2012. I had only been running for 5 months and decided to go for it after only doing two 5Ks. It was my first half marathon in 2013 and it will be my first full marathon this year!

When did you start running? October of 2011, Race for the Cure Tidewater, VA

How many races have you done and what’s your favorite? Sixteen 5Ks, two 8Ks, four 10Ks, one 10 miler and three half marathons. My favorite is the Wicked 10K. I love to look at all the costumes people run in!

Where do you prefer to run? I prefer to run in Virginia. It’s too humid here in Florida!!!

What’s the longest distance you’ve run? 15 mile training run last weekend for Shamrock!

What is the one thing you DON’T like about running? You take off a couple days and it feels like you have never run before!

Favorite post-run indulgence? my protein shake, Tropical Punch ULTRAGEN by First Endurance….honestly! Its sooooo good

Favorite running shoe? Asics Gel Noosa Tri series (I have the 6, 7, and 8…)

Favorite song to run to? Anything by Rise Against…perfect beat for running!

Favorite website to waste time on? Pinterest! I’m a pinaholic…Is there a twelve step program for that yet??

Favorite running moment? Finishing the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon in 2013. My dad died two months before the race and he never saw me run. When I finished my mom told me that he finally got to see me cross the finish line.

If you could pick one celebrity to run with, who would it be? Will Ferrell…he would keep me laughing so hard I would probably miss the finish line!

Want to continue to follow Holly on her road to Shamrock 2014? You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on her blog

At Shamrock

At Shamrock


If you are participating in one of the Yuengling Shamrock Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 8k Races  this year and are interested in being spotlighted, please email