The Half-Marathon Diaries

13.1 Miles, Done and Done!

Looking pretty good for running 13.1 miles!

I did it!  I DID IT! Woohoo! OK, I just had to get that out of my system.

As you all know I have had major butterflies leading up to the big race last weekend. I went through the training program, had the usual ups and downs and the morning of the race I’ll admit I was down-right scared! I know it sounds really silly, but there are still times where my inner overweight girl tells me I won’t be able to do it. Thank goodness I had FITNESS’ very own Jenna Autuori-Dedić there cheering me on.  She literally looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, you totally got this!” Sometimes a simple encouraging word is all you need to give you that little push. By the time I got to the starting line I was ready to attack this challenge. My game plan was to really pace myself and keep a consistent speed the entire race.

So many people told me that I would want to book it in the beginning because of the excitement and adrenaline and boy, were they right! I wanted to sprint all out in the beginning, the excitement from the crowd and the runners was electric! Despite my desire to break the world record, I started off with a pace I knew I could sustain. I felt very strong for the first seven miles, they seemed to fly by. Around mile eight I hit my first wall. I was so thankful that I programmed some funny music on my playlist because right when I needed a boost RuPaul’s “Cover Girl” came through my headphones. It really made me laugh and was just the boost I needed.

There were multiple times throughout the race that I was very emotional. It was a little over a year ago that I was 261 lb, unhealthy and unhappy. Fast forward and I am running (running!) a half-marathon. This is what life is about! I have never been so proud of myself. To be honest I don’t really even remember miles 11 to 13, I was so fixated on finishing! As I crossed the finish line I fell into a huge puddle of tears. I did it and I ran every step. It was just another moment in my life where I was overwhelmed with thankfulness. The Biggest Loser not only helped me lose weight, they introduced me to my inner athlete. And I’ll tell you, she’s pretty cool.

I am so thankful for the FITNESS Magazine team. I can’t tell you how amazing the entire staff is! They truly care about people and helping us all become well-rounded, healthy individuals. I am thrilled to have had this experience and the opportunity to share my journey with its readers.

Health & Happiness,

Olivia Ward

Winner, Season 11 The Biggest Loser

A Beautiful Day for a PR

Finish line here I come! (And thanks to my cheerleader sister for snapping this pic!)

And that’s a wrap! As tired and cranky as I often was the past ten weeks with what I like to call my “big girl” training schedule, all the miles logged and workouts six days a week really did pay off. I soared through the finish line this past weekend at 1:50:27 (8:26-minute-mile pace), a full 30 minutes faster than the last time I ran this race and a PR for the course!

This was the first time in my racing career that I have really thought of myself as a more advanced runner. I knew what kind of energy gels I wanted, when to take them, how often to stop for water and how to preserve my energy to last the entire course. I still had some pre-race jitters and night before nerves, but I don’t think those ever really go away and to be honest, I wouldn’t want them to!

Sunday morning I joined the rest of the FITNESS team, including Olivia in Central Park before heading off to our corrals. Even though it was a tad early (7 a.m.!), it was super inspiring to see tons of women pouring into the park to pound out some asphalt together. Over 7,000 women finished and despite a few raindrops just before the start, the weather managed to hold out–whew! Looping around the park twice gave me a great chance to check out everyone’s signs and costumes. My personal favorite was a guy holding a sign for his girlfriend that read, “You run better than the MTA!” A+ for creativity for you, sir.

Next week I’m rewarding my legs with a trip to Mexico!  When I come back I’ll do a short training stint to get ready for the ten mile Blue Cross Broad Street Run in Philadelphia and after that, who knows!

For all the runners that ran this past weekend, I hope you enjoyed the race as much as I did. Time to set some new summer racing goals!

Ready for the Starting Line

Staying hydrated during the race clearly won't be a problem! (Photo courtesy of John Herr)

It’s the final countdown! Who is excited? I know this girl is! I can’t wait to run with everyone on Saturday, we are going to have a blast. Even though I am at the end of my training program, there are a few goals I set for myself in this last leg.

First, I want to up my water intake every day this week. I don’t want to have any hydration issues the day of the race, so by going into race day well hydrated I’ll be in great shape.

Second, I want to really take the time to enjoy my runs this week. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed them all, but there was always an agenda behind them. This week I just want to enjoy the ride and all my hard work. I feel like this is the point in training where you really relax a little. There shouldn’t be anything you need to change up at this point, so when I run I’m going to just take in each moment.

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Resting Up for Race Day

Seeing family and friends on the course helps to keep me going. Here, I think I'm reaching for a banana. (Thanks, Mom!)

Well here we are – race week! I’ve put in the miles and now I have to let myself taper, stretch and rest before the big day. Last week’s training started to slowly decrease mileage, and this week will be a big change, running only 4 to 5 miles a few times before the big 13.1.

Saturday morning I laced up my sneakers for my second NYRR run this month – the Scotland Run 10K. Not only was it fun to see everyone sporting their Scottish pride by wearing kilts and flags, they had bagpipers at every mile mark playing for the crowds!

After the race I needed to tack on an extra 4 miles to complete my long run, but instead I cut it short and went home. The past two weeks I have been feeling achier than usual and often exhausted, which is most likely from overtraining (yes, that is a bad thing!). By committing to a more difficult training schedule than you are used to you can risk doing too much, which then leads to injury. Getting injured the week of the half-marathon is something I would be none too pleased about should it happen. Here are some warning signs I’ve noticed that I was starting to overtrain:

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Speeding Up and Staying Safe

My GoSportID bands–the easiest way to sweat safely! (Photo courtesy of GoSportID)

I can’t believe we are less than two weeks away from the big run! I remember when I started training it seemed so far away. Now it feels like the time has just breezed by! Like most of you I’ve been trucking along logging these miles the past few weeks. And I can’t lie the long runs are hard. I pretty much feel like I’m going to die toward the end, but you know what? When I finish I feel like a million bucks and can’t believe I can actually run that long. It’s such a huge accomplishment for me.

My IT band still keeps me on my feet, but everything else this week was pretty smooth. I really have been trying to concentrate on my hydration (or lack thereof). I have a bad habit of not getting enough water before my run, and then during I am so thirsty. My goal is to up my water intake during the day when I’m not running, so that when it’s time to run I’m not chasing my hydration. Based on what I have read dehydration is something many long distance runners struggle with. Not only will being hydrated help me in running, the health benefits of getting enough water are huge! Who doesn’t want beautiful skin, hair and nails while running your race? Not only will we be speedy, but we’ll look good too!

Another thing I wanted to quickly share with you is in regards to safety. It is so important to have identification on you at all times while running, or working out in general. When I run I don’t like to carry a bunch of stuff. I know there are nifty fuel belts with pockets and all that jazz, but I like to run light. Thankfully, I came across a company called GoSportID when I left The Biggest Loser. They make these awesome safety bracelets that you can engrave your personal mantra on the front and all your emergency contact information on the back. The plate on the bracelet is made of surgical stainless steel and comes with tons of colorful bands you can switch out. Now when I go on my training runs I don’t have to worry about carrying ID and emergency contact info. It’s all right there on my arm! To grab one of your own, check out

Let the countdown begin!

Getting Back Into Racing Mode

Another thing keeping my legs fresh? Lots and lots of stretching! (Photo courtesy of Karen Pearson)

This past weekend I was able to do some serious multitasking. I ran a New York Road Runners 15K to correspond with my long run and checked off one of my qualifying races to enter into the 2014 NYC Marathon. Turns out, it was exactly what I needed to reboot my motivation. By the end of a training plan, I am usually pretty burnt out, and my legs tend to shift into autopilot. Being around hundreds of other runners this weekend kicked me back into high gear, and I was able to PR for this race, finishing the course in 1:19!

Another thing that helped was some new gear I got to test. Last week I met with some of the team behind Celliant, a patented technology that recycles the body’s natural energy through the use of fibers. You might think this sounds high tech (and it is!) but what you don’t know is that you probably already own something made from Celliant. The fibers are found in brands like Reebok, Adidas and Asics, just to name a few. It basically works by absorbing the electromagnetic energy emissions your body throws out while you work out and tosses them back into the body to be reabsorbed into your skin and muscle tissue. And you don’t have to be exercising to get the perks. David Horinek, the chief scientist behind Celliant started researching the effect of blending minerals into fibers to have a positive impact on the body when he wanted to help his grandmother with some knee pain she was having (aww!). Since the start of his research in 1990, Celliant has been clinically proven to increase tissue oxygen by 7 percent, which speeds up up your performance and recovery time. It has made its way into knee braces, athletic clothing, bedding and even products for your pets.

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Get the Dish on the Grapefruit Active Lifestyle Meal Plan [SPONSORED]

florida grapefruit juicy scoop

Photo courtesy of FDOC.

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Created by Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, CSSD,  the meal plan is for women who are looking to refine their eating habits and maintain a fitness routine. The plan is designed with busy women in mind and includes three nutritious, simple-to-prepare meals and two snack choices, per day.

For the full seven-day meal plan, visit Florida Grapefruit’s Juicy Scoop on Facebook

PLUS: Enter to win a $500 gift card to a local sports shop, thanks to Florida Grapefruit, an official sponsor of the 2012 More/FITNESS Magazine Women’s Half-Marathon.

Overcoming My Injury Fears

Keep your legs injury-free by taking time the time to stretch. (Photo courtesy of Laura Doss)

Since the beginning of my training I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. While I was at The Biggest Loser Ranch I seriously injured my IT band. I have mentioned this before, which is why all the icing and foam rolling has been crucial to my training. Up until this point I haven’t had any issues, but in the back of my mind I have been counting the minutes for this issue to flare up, and this week the other shoe finally dropped. It wasn’t as bad as it has been in the past, but that nagging knee pain was there toward the end of my long runs. I’m thankful it’s something I can work through, but it is disappointing at the same time.

I’m writing about all of this because it really got me thinking. I remember when I was on the ranch and Jillian Michaels told us that what you fear the most has a way of materializing. Interesting, right? I think it’s not just what you fear, but also what you focus on. At the risk of getting too philosophical, I think that in the back of my mind I was so fixated on waiting for my IT band to flare up that it finally did. Perhaps it would have flared up regardless, but it is still something to think about.

I’m sharing this with you because I’m hoping it will bring you some encouragement. I could have taken this situation as defeat and given up, or I could choose to move forward, learn something and do my best. I choose to overcome my fear. Does that mean that my IT band will stop acting up? Probably not, but it does mean that I can choose to not live in fear of that happening!

Can you believe we are getting so close? I can’t wait to see you all on the big day and run together! How has your training been going? Tell me about it in the comments below!

Allergy Tips for Sneezy Striders

Try these tips to run toward, not away from the springy conditions outside. (Photo courtesy of

Last week’s long run was a 12-miler for me, just a mile shy of the race distance coming up! Having a successful 11-mile run the week before I had pretty high hopes, which were then promptly squashed about 3 miles in. I just wasn’t feeling it – my legs felt heavy (I’ve been slacking on my strength training), I was dehydrated and found myself stopping quite a bit to catch my breath and stretch.

Even though I wasn’t having the best run of my life, I was far better off than the other runners in the park who were having sneezing and wheezing fits due to springtime allergies. My legs may occasionally feel like lead, but I am thankful I don’t suffer from allergies, because quite frankly they look like a buzz kill!

Even though my nose is intact, yours might not be so lucky. So I got some tips from Dr. William Berger, M.D. and author of the book Allergies and Asthma for Dummies for runners who suffering from allergies. Below, his suggestions:

  1. Pollen counts are higher in the early morning. Run later in the day if you can for easier breathing. (Note: Because of the mild winter, Dr. Berger says pollen has appeared earlier this year, meaning this could potentially be the worst allergy season in a decade. Eeks!) Read more

The Pros of Treadmill Training

I keep this cutout close by in case I need even more motivation to get on the treadmill!

Now that we are less than a month away from the big day, I thought it would be a great time to talk about treadmill training! First off I have to admit, I am a huge wimp when it comes to the outdoor elements. If it is sprinkling outside, I am in the gym on a treadmill. As you can imagine that makes it a little tough to get the miles in when you live in NYC with our always-fickle weather. Since I have done a lot of my training thus far on a treadmill, I wanted to share with you the details of the one I chose to have in my home.

From the day I left The Biggest Loser Ranch I’ve done a lot of research on treadmills. I spent so many hours running on a treadmill there that I knew it would become a very important piece of equipment in my maintenance journey at home. After looking at what felt like hundreds of treadmills and reading thousands of reviews, I went with the NordicTrack C900 Pro. I really felt like NordicTrack had such a good track record with at home equipment.  And let’s face it, as much as I would love to have a commercial treadmill, they are just plain huge and extremely expensive. So I was extremely fortunate when I found out NordicTrack and Sears wanted to gift the C900 Pro to help me prepare for my first half-marathon. It now sits in a proud spot in my living room! Yes, that’s right it’s in my living room, right smack in the middle. I love watching people’s reaction when they come over! I figure you can’t ignore a machine like that when you see it every day. I’m also proud to say not only have I used it every day, but there has never been a single pair of clothing hung on it! Seeing is believing, so if you have a treadmill, keep it in eye’s view. Odds are you’ll definitely use it more.

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