For the next few months, we are following Katie O on her journey to her first marathon. Katie is an accomplished runner who has completed 3 half marathons with a PR of 1:48. She struggled with an eating disorder throughout college; post-college, her struggle continued, and she had long periods of injuries, including stress fractures. In her late 20s, she learned that she really enjoyed working out and has since become healthy; running has been a key contributor to that.
I’m Katie And This Is My Journey To My First Marathon
Name: Katie O’Dell
Location: Lancaster, PA
Training For: Gettysburg Blue-Grey Marathon
Tell me more about yourself: What was growing up like? Were you always an athlete?
I am NOT athletic by nature. I tried many sports growing up and was not great at any of them except for swimming, but I didn’t love swimming, so I never pursued it competitively. I fenced for four years in high school and played lacrosse for three years. I was bad at lacrosse but was pretty good at fencing, qualifying for the Junior Olympics twice. That is, however, the only sport in which I displayed any sense of innate talent. I honestly stink at most sports; zero hand-eye coordination.
I developed an eating disorder in college, severely restricting food intake and obsessively exercising. I added running to my workouts, and while I started to enjoy running, I was too unhealthy to run consistently. Those struggles continued into my mid-late 20s. I would have periods of consistent running followed by periods of injury – stress reactions and fractures, hip pain, etc.
What kind of struggles did you have? How did you get into running?
I struggled with being healthy. I gained a lot of weight during my first year of college and then lost entirely too much weight. I had almost a decade of never being stable in terms of weight, exercise, or eating.
With the help of therapy, I finally got over the hump in my late 20s. I learned I genuinely enjoyed working out – running, walking, lifting weights; however, to continue enjoying fitness, I had to take care of my body, and I wasn’t doing that.
Running has always been my first love, and everything else has supplemented that. Because of the damage I did to my body; I will never be someone who can run 5-6 days a week. I manage 3-4 days a week and credit weight lifting with allowing my body to do that. Several years ago, a physical therapist told me that I was relying on my hips and quads to run instead of my glutes. Once I rectified that, my running took off.
What made you choose this race?
Given that this will be the first marathon I have trained for and not knowing how my body will respond, I wanted to find a semi-local race. I didn’t want to commit to something far away that would require flights if this training did not go well. It’s also a lovely area. I also have two stepdaughters, and I wanted to find a place that would be semi-entertaining for them, knowing that they and my husband would be spending hours waiting.
What is your goal for this race?
I am stupidly stubborn and competitive. My fastest half marathon is 1:48.xx, and I PRd each half I’ve run, so I feel like I have the potential to finish in under four hours. That being said, that’s not really the smartest goal.
So, for my first marathon, my number one goal is to finish. I am following a very conservative training plan, and while I do regular speed workouts and hill workouts, I believe a traditional approach will keep me healthy, and that’s the only thing I want when I get to the starting line. After that, I want to get to the finish line. I am excited about my journey to my first marathon.
What are your strengths as a runner? Your weaknesses?
My strengths are that I am committed to a schedule and a process. If I have a plan, I will follow it. I also have some innate endurance. Endurance was the only thing that allowed me to contribute in any way during lacrosse games. Short sprints? Not my strength.
I do struggle with being injury prone. I feel like I’m in a good place at the moment, but having had stress fractures, stress reactions, and hip pain, I’m always very alert to twinges and tweaks.
Do you train alone?
I train alone. I’ve never trained for a marathon before, so I’m not sure how well I’ll do training alone for this distance, though! I run very early in the mornings while my husband, stepdaughters, and animals are all still sleeping.
I was hoping my husband could hop on his bike to keep me company on some of my longer runs, but he just had rotator cuff surgery, so that’s not going to happen!
How is the weather?
I live in Lancaster, PA. I do not have a treadmill, so my runs are outside. Part of the reason I chose an April race is that by the time I do the bulk of my high mileage, it will be late February and March, where – hopefully – the threat of massive ice and snow storms becomes minimal.
I may consider joining a gym for a few months if the weather becomes an issue. Lancaster gets what you would expect from the northeast in the winter months. We’re not under feet of snow at all times, but I’m also not running in 60 or 70-degree weather.
What does a typical training week look like? Will it change?
Right now, I am running 3-4 days a week, lifting/walking three days, and resting one day. I do anywhere from 4-6 miles per run. I do one weekly workout – a speed/sprint workout or hill repeats. In the coming months, I will shift to running four days a week while keeping one of those runs as an activity.
I am excited to continue to chat with Katie about her journey to her first marathon. We will explore how her training is going and how food plays a role in her training. We will also be discussing how life has a way of getting in the way and what Katie does to overcome those hurdles.