TGIF: Marlena McLean

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This Goal Is Finished

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Today’s TGIF achiever is Marlena McLean. Marlena comes to us from New Jersey and is avid reader and supporter of both Velocity and everyone that has shared their story with us on Fridays. We love featuring our biggest fans and are SUPER proud of her recent accomplishment. Check out Marlena’s story below!

The Achiever

My name is Marlena McLean. I am a social worker, but I am currently fortunate enough to be caring for my beautiful daughter full time. I also serve as the treasurer for a non-profit charitable organization created by family and friends in memory of my brother-in-law, Jim McLean. The organization raises money to award an annual scholarship to a graduating scholar athlete from our alma mater high school (

The Goal

My goal was to run the Long Branch Half Marathon in Long Branch, New Jersey on May 1, 2011, preferably in less than two and a half hours.

Why This Goal?

I chose this goal, because I wanted to challenge myself and it was important to me to have a personal goal outside of being a parent. About six months ago, I began to run consistently as a means of improving my physical fitness and allotting myself personal time a few days a week. Prior to signing up for the half marathon, I had run two 5ks. I found that having those races scheduled motivated me to workout regularly. Two days prior to registering for the half marathon I had watched my husband, Justin, successfully complete his goal of running in the New York City Marathon. Watching Justin train and run the race was very inspiring. I wanted to experience the pride and happiness he emanated for days after he ran NYC.

This goal was also very important to me, because, in junior high school, I enjoyed running competitively. As a self-conscious teen, I gained confidence from running. Due to ongoing knee issues, I stopped running in high school. Since then, multiple professionals told me I could/should not run, because of my knee problems. I believe that anything is possible and I wanted to prove to myself that it was possible for me to run.

The First Step

The first step was to have the courage to sign up for the race. While this sounds simple, it was a big step for me. It meant that I was admitting that I would be capable of completing a half marathon. It also meant that I was committing to the training over the next six months.


One obstacle I faced was finding the time to run. I feel that running with my daughter in the stroller compromises my running form, which meant I had to wait for my husband (or sometimes my mom) to get home from work so I could run. Scheduling specific days in which I was to run made it harder for me to back out of a run at 8 or 8:30 at night.

Injury (two, in fact) presented another obstacle. A foot injury prevented me from running in December. A hamstring injury sidelined me from about mid-February until mid-March. I began going to physical therapy for my injuries (if anyone in Central NJ needs an excellent physical therapist, I highly recommend Ric Costa at MARA Physical Therapy in Warren!). I tried to stay positive and began swimming to maintain my cardiovascular health.

Doubt was an obstacle I faced at times, especially when I was injured and unable to run as much as called for by my training program. Discussing my doubts with my husband often gave me perspective on my concerns and left me feeling encouraged. Recognizing that whatever pain or obstacle I was currently experiencing would not last forever encouraged me to move forward with my goal. Velocity’s Facebook posts also encouraged me. I remember experiencing a significant amount of hamstring pain on a run one month prior to the race. I felt very discouraged and I told my husband I was not sure that I would be able to run the half marathon. The next day I read Velocity’s T.G.I.F. about Irene Vatandoost’s recent success in completing a half marathon. Reading Irene’s post was very inspiring to me as she discussed doubts, obstacles, and fears similar to mine. In her post, Irene discussed concern about having to walk near the end of the half marathon (Congratulations to Irene who was able to run the entire race!). This may sound silly, but I remember thinking in that moment that it had not occurred to me that I could walk any of the race. Shortly thereafter I decided that I would be completing the half marathon whether I had to run, walk, or crawl!

Staying Motivated

I tried to keep my eye on the goal, and envision how proud of myself I would feel finishing a half marathon. On days when I did not feel like running, I reminded myself how good I feel when I am done with a run. I also reminded myself of something my husband said to me once: “The race is today.” Remembering that each run I completed was a step towards my ultimate goal was motivational to me.

Who Helped?

There were many external factors that contributed to my success. The most influential person was my husband, Justin. He believed in my ability to run a half marathon, before I even believed in myself. Justin helped me with a training plan and he provided me with a tremendous amount of encouragement along the way. He also adjusted his schedule, at times, so that he could stay with our daughter while I ran.

My mom also provided me with an incredible amount of support. She shared in my excitement and believed in my abilities from the start. She never doubted my ability to run the half marathon, despite my injuries. My mom also helped with childcare.

My weekly yoga class helped me physically, as well as mentally, by encouraging a positive outlook on all things, including my running. The concept of Chi Running allowed me to run without knee pain. I received very helpful advice and support from ChiRunning Coach, David Stretanski . David helped me make changes to my running form to prevent re-injury to my hamstring.

TGIF – Celebrate!

I got my medal and looked for my family at the finish line! I was thrilled! I also took some time to reflect back on the past year and the progress I had made.


When completing any goal, I think the most important step is to believe in yourself. I also think it helps to break down the goal into steps and to be patient with progress. I recommend developing a support system. While I always ran alone, talking to others about my running was helpful. I also found running “support” by reading various running websites, books, etc. Logging my training helped to keep me on task and allowed me to review my progress. Changing how I viewed success and failure also helped me achieve my goal. Initially, I defined success as completing the half marathon, but the day before the race I realized I had already succeeded by signing up for the race and training for it, despite some obstacles.

What’s Next?

I plan to keep running. I thoroughly enjoy the physical and mental challenges I experience with running. I will be running a 10k in June. I am also very excited to be running a half marathon with my husband in September!

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