On February 7 I began training for a half marathon. The idea came as I realized I was turning 30 and felt that I should do something worthy of a big birthday like that. Running a half marathon was the first thing that popped into my mind, and so I signed up for the American River Parkway Half Marathon. While I was a bit annoyed at the fact, I was as unsure as Sarah was that I would be able to keep training past week 3. But I did…and except for a week of being sick and a week of traveling in the middle, I pretty much maintained Hal Higdon’s Novice Half Marathon training schedule.
Last Saturday, May 1, I ran the half marathon with a time of 2:11:02 (which is a 10:00 min/mile pace – photos here). It felt great to be able to accomplish something like this, and here are a few thoughts about the process.
There were times when the training SUCKED and when it was fun. I know some people decide to do these things (especially for the first time) with some friends, but I was solo on this one. Having a running group may have made some of the runs more fun or endurable, but that wasn’t really an option for me this time. I did find an amazingly supportive and encouraging community through www.dailymile.com friends (some of which I know in real life, others who I just met online). Dailymile is basically “Facebook for Runners/Athletes.” It was great to post my workouts there and get encouragement, motivation and very helpful advice.
I logged about 160 miles in preparation for the half marathon. Getting new running shoes was obviously important and I got to know the folks at Fleet Feet in Pleasanton very well. My last pair of running shoes were a pair of motion control shoes, but I moved to the much lighter Saucony ProGrid Omni 8 shoe which I love. They gave me the support I needed but were MUCH lighter than my previous pair. Throw in some good running shorts, a couple good shirts, some Bodyglide and Mountain Berry Clif Shot Blocs, and I was good to go with my training.
We live right along a great running trail which was super handy. I had a few set routes that I pretty much stuck to, but I think if I was going to train for another race, I’d need to mix it up more often and get onto some different terrain.
Effect on Body
I know that runners are very injury-prone, but luckily during this training and race, I didn’t have any major problems. There was one run in my 10th week I think that just really sucked. My shins started KILLING me about 2 miles in and I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish the run. The only consistent thing I’ve had is a little bit of pain in my right hip. I’m not entirely sure what it is, but it would normally go away after running on it for about 3-4 miles, and then it would be pretty sore again after the run.
The one effect on my body that I was HOPING for was that I might lose some weight. I figured running 4x/week might help me to shed a few pounds. Surprisingly that didn’t happen. Part of that was definitely connected to my eating. It’s funny – sometimes I felt like because I had worked out that day, that it gave me “permission” to eat more than I probably should (or eat things that I probably should have passed on). So, I’m guessing if I do better at watching my intake, portion sizes and what I eat, in addition to running regularly, I’d probably notice some weight loss.
One of the best things I did during this whole training process was to run an actual race prior to the half marathon. I ran the Diablo Trails Challenge 5K which was a great experience. It helped me have a better sense of what “race day” might feel like for the big race and was actually a lot of fun too.
Going into race day for the half marathon, I had three goals for myself:
- Finish the race.
- Run the entire race. There is nothing wrong with walking, but I just wanted to be able to have run the entire distance.
- Finish with a pace between 9-10 minutes/mile. This was the least important goal for myself, but in the back of my mind, I was hoping I could shoot for just around 10 minutes/mile.
I was using my RunKeeper iPhone App to listen to music and get updates on my distance/time/pace. The one thing I did that I wouldn’t recommend is that I gave myself a pace to aim for (9:45 min/mile). What that meant was that every 5 minutes, when I’d get the other updates, I heard a voice saying YOU ARE BEHIND YOUR TARGET PACE. So, it wasn’t as much “positive affirmation” – I felt like I was playing catch up the whole race instead of just enjoying the run. So, I probably wouldn’t do that again.
The American River Parkway Half Marathon is a great race. There were 2838 runners and they put on some great pre-race festivities. They do a really great job with aid stations along the way, and they also had bands (from street performers, to college jazz bands, and woodwind quintets) along the path of the run, which was fun. The course is pretty much flat the whole way and you get to run along a really scenic path, which helps when you start sucking air.
For me the last 3 miles were pretty hard. While the adrenaline totally kicked in for the last mile, I slowed down pretty noticeably for the two miles before that. But it was pretty great thought to run through the gauntlet of supporters and people cheering for you as you cross the finish line.
So, I did it. And it feels good to be able to say that. But now what? I have never really viewed myself as a runner, but I’ve come to start to enjoy the sport through this process. Now, I’m still not one of those people who you see with a huge smile on their face when they’re running – I don’t *love* running. But – it’s something that I could see myself getting into. I think for now I’m going to look into some other races to do – maybe a 10K and then another half marathon.
Someone told me that doing a half marathon would just make me want to run a full marathon. Well, I can honestly say that I’m not there yet. When I crossed the finish line, having just run 13.1 miles, I couldn’t even IMAGINE that being the halfway point of a full marathon. So while I won’t rule out the possibility that someday I might try one, definitely not yet. Thanks for everyone who has been supportive of me throughout this process. I never thought I could run a half marathon, and now I have. If you’ve ever thought about doing one before, I’d encourage you to get out there, start logging some miles and see if it’s for you.