Stripes and Races

There’s more to my athletic life than just running (yes, fellow runners, it really is possible). In 2012, I found my way to Ironside Martial Arts, where I took up boxing and Muay Thai. In 2015, I really decided to challenge myself by getting into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and I managed to earn my first stripe  in December of that year (see below). But then life happened (my first marathon, illness, injuries, work, getting married, etc.), and before I knew it, it was June of 2018 before I was pulling out my gi and getting back to the mats.

(Started Saturday with one stripe and hoping to change that.)


It hasn’t always been easy, and I haven’t made it to every single class I would’ve liked to attend. But, I showed up, I worked, and I kept going. And yesterday during our adult promotion ceremony, the last six months of effort were rewarded with another stripe on my belt!

For the non-martial artists, let me explain: Each belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu starts with an empty black patch. As you advance, you earn new stripes along the way. Once you’ve received 4 stripes, you’re usually promoted to the next belt color. So, having earned my second stripe, I’m now halfway to my blue belt. But more than that, that little piece of electrical tape is a sign of my progress and accomplishment. That little stripe is validation that months of work, of frustration, of being submitted when rolling are all paying off. 

(Me and my Jiu Jitsu coach after promotion day. OSS!)

(Two stripes, up close and personal!) 


BUT, that’s not the end of my Saturday accomplishments! After BJJ, there was a quick change of close, a quick lunch at Chick-fil-A, and then off to Dallas for the Trinity River Run! Because why not run 13.1 miles through Dallas at sunset with almost 1,000 other people? Also, I’m a big fan of using half marathons as long runs during marathon training for several reasons:

  1. If I’m going to have to cover the distance, anyway, I might as well get another medal and race shirt out of the deal, right?
  2. Half marathons scattered throughout the training schedule have–in my experience–helped kept me from being overwhelmed. By and large, I only tend to worry about the next race on the calendar. So, when there’s a half marathon (or two or 3) on the calendar in the lead up to a marathon, I tend to worry less about the results of marathon race day.
  3. Scheduling a half marathon in the lead-up to a full marathon can help me get a grip on where I’m actually at. That is, I can use the half marathon (aka a tune-up race) to assess how my training is going: if I’m on track to meet my marathon goals, if I need to change anything, etc. Plus, my half marathon finish time can help give me a rough idea of how long it’ll take me to finish the full marathon.

(Me and the hubby chilling out at the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge before the race.)

(The start/finish line before the race.)


Given how much I’ve struggled with most of my long runs, I came to the race just hoping to finish in three hours or better. And since I’d been considering dropping down from the full marathon to the half marathon next month, I made an unofficial deal with myself: if it took me more than 3 hours to finish Trinity, I’d only run the Dallas Half Marathon next month; but, if I managed to finish under 3 hours, I’d stick with the full marathon. Needless to say, there was a lot riding on the outcome of this race.


I started off at 4PM with the sun still shining and a little bit of wind. As we made our way through Dallas’s Design District and along the Trinity Trails, I just tried my best to be mindful: focus on my breathing, pay attention to what was around me, and simply concentrate on the current mile. All seemed to be right with the world when a sudden shot of foot pain around mile 5 or 6 slowed me down to walking. But, after a little bit of walking, the pain subsided, and it was back to the work at hand. Before I knew it, I’d settled in to a steady game of leap frog with the 2:30–that’s 2 hours and 30 minutes–pacers!  (NOTE: pacers are runners in a half or full marathon designated to run a specific time. They usually carry signs announcing their pace and/or wear some sort of shirt or uniform to mark them as pacers. They exist to help runners keep track of hour their pacing and estimated finish time.) I even managed to catch up with the 2:25 pacers and thought I just might be able to hit a new PR, but another round of foot pain hit, and it was back to leap frogging with the 2:30 pacers.

(Post race with my finisher’s medal and part of the Dallas skyline.)

In the end, I didn’t set a new PR. BUT, even after a few more rounds of foot pain that slowed me down to walking, I still managed to finish with a chip time of 2:35:13! This race was a moment I needed to see that all the mileage (as sucky as many of the long runs may have been) and all the strength training has left me more than ready to not only finish the Dallas marathon, next month, but to finish well! It was one of those rare runs where everything else fades away, and I’m reminded of all the reasons I love running in the first place. Like the stripe I’d earned in the morning, it was validation of moving in the right direction, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the day.

Why Am I Doing This, Again?

Dallas isn’t my first marathon. That honor goes to the Walt Disney World Marathon of 2016. It’s not even my first time to attempt to run Dallas. The first time I tried to run Dallas as a full marathon was December of 2016. Having run Disney in January of that year, I figured a second marathon to finish the year wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. (Besides, I’ve always been a fan of long races in November – March because they help ensure I keep running through the holiday stress and holiday eating.) It didn’t go well that year: between calf cramps and other setbacks, I ended up making it to mile 15 before I had to throw in the towel. And that’s how I notched the first DNF (did not finish) of my running life.


That DNF has bugged me. It still bugs me. So, this go around is about “setting the record straight.” I’m not that worried about how long it takes me to get to the finish line (although, if a miracle happens and I manage to qualify for Boston, I won’t object 😉). I’m just more concerned that I complete the entire course, this time. This is really about me proving to myself that I’ve done this before and that I can do it, again.


Every part of me wants to panic…mostly because that’s what I tend to do with less that 5 weeks to race day. And, yes, part of me has actually considered dropping down to the half marathon, instead. But–barring illness or injury–I’m still planning on running the full. All signs point to 26.2…again.

5 Weeks to Race Day…

…and it’s hard not to panic. Most of my training runs have left me feeling like finishing this marathon is doable…at least the training runs under 13 miles leave me feeling that way. Anything longer than that has been ugly, brutal, and slow. Painfully slow. In fact, those long runs have been slow enough that I honestly have to consider whether it wouldn’t be better to drop from the full marathon down to the half marathon.


I’ve still got some time to decide one way or the other. Would I rather be running and finishing the full? Hell yes. But, if the writing on the wall says I’m not going to be able to finish the full marathon, methinks it’d be better to scale back and accomplish what I can by running the half marathon.

A Sign You’re a Runner

Scene: me walking to my desk on Thursday morning.

Me: “Good morning, Ms. M—”

Ms M—: Good morning. Did you go run this morning?

Me: No. I’m just going to wait until after work.

Ms. M—: I can see it all over your face [that you didn’t run this morning].

Moral of the Story: if your co-workers can tell you didn’t run in the morning, you might be a runner.

So Far, So Good

I’m coming up on the halfway point of training. In other words, I’ve got about 8 more weeks until the Dallas Marathon. And so far, aside from a ridiculous amount of rain, training has been mostly uneventful: just the usual 6 days of training around a full-time job, marriage, etc. And yet, I must admit that this round of training has actually felt easier than training for Rock N Roll Dublin.


I realize “easier” is a wildly relative term when we’re talking about marathon training, so let me explain. My goal for Dublin was to try and set a new PR. This time, however, my only goal is to finish—no time goal; just get across the finish line upright and in my own power. When I ran Dallas in 2016, I didn’t finish; I made it to mile 15 before I had to throw in the towel…and it’s bugged me ever since.


So, this time, around, my only goal for this race is to set the record straight and cover all 26.2 miles of the course. I don’t care if it takes me 6 hours or if I end up qualifying for Boston (it’s a long shot, but a girl can dream, right? 😉). And because that’s the only goal—finish well—this round of training feels vastly different even as it involves considerably more time and mileage. Running to finish has taken an enormous amount of weight off my shoulders. It’s granted me a clarity about my own abilities as a runner that I didn’t quite have the last time around.


Maybe I should forego the time goals more often.

Rock N Roll Dublin: The Half Marathon

So, for anyone that’s (still) wondering, I didn’t meet my time goal for this race. I was hoping to finish in faster than 2:27:32. Instead, I finished in 2 hours, 56 minutes, and 24 seconds. Yes, it’s still a respectable time. Yes, I finished the race upright. But it’s been a few weeks, and I have to admit that it still bugs me.


It hurts to spend weeks working for a goal and not meet it. It stings a little more when you’ve spent weeks blogging in the lead up to said goal attempt. But, if we’re being honest, this failure was just a reminder that sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. My problem wasn’t a lack of physical training; my problem came down to the space between my own two ears.  I’ll own that, and I’m already working on that for the next few races.


In the meantime, finish time notwithstanding, let me just say that this will go down as one of my favorite races. It’s hard to be completely bummed out when you had the chance to run in another country—a beautiful one, at that—in some of your favorite running temps. This race may not have been perfect, but it was still no less amazing.


And in the meantime, all I can do is keep learning, keep trying, and keep running.


Rock N Roll Dublin: The 5K

Greetings from Texas! We made it back from Dublin almost two weeks ago, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to talk my husband into moving back just for the sake of the better summer temperatures. Seriously, does anyone know if Aer Lingus (or any other airlines with hubs in Ireland) are hiring?! 😉

Incredible weather notwithstanding, I couldn’t have asked for a better time in Dublin (if you want to see some pictures, check out my Instagram: @mallorycmorris). Then again, I’d argue it’s hard not to have a great time when there’s wonderful people, great food, and a beautiful city involved. But, since you probably didn’t come to this post to hear me gush about Dublin, let’s get down to the real point of this post.

13+ weeks ago, I laced up my running shoes and started training for the Rock N Roll Dublin Remix Challenge. And two weekends, ago, I saw the culmination of weeks of work in the early-morning hours of a Texas summer with a 5K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday. Yup, that’s right, yours truly actually ran two races that weekend!

For anyone not familiar with the Rock N Roll Marathon Series, let me explain: in some of their locations, Rock N Roll stages what they call the Remix Challenge: a short race on Saturday (a 5K or 10K) and a long race on Sunday (a half and/or full marathon). In my experience, the short races on Saturday are a great way to let someone get a feel for Rock N Roll’s events without having to take the plunge and commit to a half or full marathon.

And no, you don’t have to run both races of a Remix Challenge. But, for the runners that do decide to run both races (and there’s more people who go this route than you’d think), there’s the bragging rights/added satisfaction of an additional race, extra race medals, etc. It might also prove that we’re a little bit crazier than the typical runner, but that’s a debate for another time! 😉

(The two of us over the River Liffey on our way to the race.)

I’ll be the first to admit that I love Remix Challenges because of the extra bling (race medals) and the bragging rights. But Dublin reminded me that I also love Remix Challenges because the short race is easy. Think about it: if I’ve put in the work to get ready for a thirteen-mile race, then taking the Saturday of race weekend to run 3.1 miles becomes a piece of cake. Provided I’ve done the work to get ready for the half on Sunday, I’m not worried about running a short race on Saturday.

(Pre-race crowd)

Unlike Sunday’s race, Saturday wasn’t about any specific time goal. There wasn’t the concern about pace, endurance, etc. that comes with running the longer races. Instead, Saturday was just about having fun and running for the sake of running. Under the right circumstances, the short races of a Remix Challenge remind of all the reasons I fell in love with running in the first place. In the end, not only was it fun, but I ended up finishing in 31:46! One of my running goals is to get my 5K time under 30 minutes. And while I obviously didn’t meet that goal, getting so close without worrying about it (or without actively trying to get it) was the perfect shot of encouragement as I continue on my running journey.

(And DONE!)

Back to the Grind!

You know I’m back like I never left (I never left)

Another sprint, another step (another step)

Another day, another breath (another breath)

Been chasing dreams, but I never slept (I never slept)


With Rock N Roll Dublin done, you may be wondering, “What’s next?”


Well, what’s next is the BMW Dallas Marathon in December, with a few shorter races along the way during the training schedule. As of today, it’s 16 weeks until race day, and that ever familiar cycle started over with a 30-minute run in the pre-dawn hours and Texas humidity. And yet, for the achy feet, cranky hamstring, and sluggish pace, this morning’s run still left me feeling like I could conquer the world and ready for the next round of training.


No two races are the same, so it stands to reason that no two training cycles are the same. The first run of training feels like flipping to a blank page in a new journal: I really don’t have a clue what’s coming over the course of the next few weeks. Do I have goals in mind? Sure. Are there things I want to learn or do better? Absolutely. But, when all is said and done, each training cycle is its own journey; all I can do is take it one day at a time, one mile at a time, and see what unfolds. I’ve had races where that blank training slate felt daunting and left me more than a little anxious. But this time? Bring. It. ON!


I feel glorious, glorious

Got a chance to start again

I was born for this, born for this

It’s who I am, how could I forget?

I made it through the darkest part of the night

And now I see the sunrise

Now I feel glorious, glorious

I feel glorious, glorious

–Glorious, Macklemore feat. Skylar Grey


PS For anyone that’s interested, I do plan on recapping my experience in Dublin. Working on that particular post (or two? I haven’t decided yet) has turned into one of those moments where all the words and thoughts in my head try to work their way out at the exact same time. So, bear with me while I work through pulling that story together.


PPS For anyone that enjoys running to music, check out this cover of Macklemore’s “Glorious” as performed by the cast of NBC’s (now cancelled…*sob*) show Rise. This song may or may not have been on repeat as I ran this morning. 😉


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