Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Half Marathon Training - Why am I doing this?

I frequently get asked why I run, or why I choose to train for Half Marathons. I will add my disclaimer that I am by no means fast, as my coach and good friend so frequently points out to me. This hasn't stopped me from doing it though and his tough love approach is pushing me to improve every week. I think it is a combination of my inner competitiveness and my desire to prove to him that I can be competitive with other athletes in my age group on race day as well. He is still getting to know me as a runner, so we are still figuring out how hard he can push me during practice, and what my goal times will be every week. Yesterday was my Fourth track workout, for which I was assigned Three 1600M (1 mile) repeats with a 600M recovery in between. My goal pace was 8:30-8:40 for each mile (based upon my previous weeks assigned 800M pace). As a point of reference, my fastest 5k (3.1 mile) race time was 29:16 which translates to a 9:24 pace. At first I was a little concerned that I wouldn't be able to reach his ambitious goal, but would try it regardless. As a new runner, I am still learning all sorts of things about the sport and even how to operate all of the cool functions on my Garmin GPS watch. Unfortunately I was not able to hit my prescribed splits, but my times were consistent for each of my Three miles. Anyone who knows me will not be surprised by the fact that I was really upset about not being able to hit my prescribed splits, but after talking with my coach, he is adjusting his training schedule based on this performance as well, since his pace may have been a little too ambitious for me at this point.

This is just background as to what my life as a runner is like, but does not answer the question “Why am I doing this?” I don’t think there is one answer to that. It started out as my getting out in the morning to have some time to myself and after the finish of my first 5k on May 14th, 2010, became an addiction and sparked a desire to get faster and make running a significant part of my life. After that first race, I started reading everything I could find online about running, whether it be form, nutrition, training, stretching, injuries, hydration, road etiquette and numerous other things. If I was going to take this on, I wanted to go into it knowing everything I could. Running has also been really good therapy for me. As a single Mom there are a slew of stresses that I have to deal with during the day, whether it’s job stress, stress with my Daughter, or stress with “the ex”. Running is my release. It allows me a set time of the day where I don’t have to hold any other title than “Runner”. It has also been a way for my Daughter and I to bond since I have been so blessed as to have her share my love of running.

I started training for my first Half Marathon in October of 2010 following a training plan that another friend/coach put together for me. I trained for that race mostly alone and battled with Iron deficiency and illness which derailed my training for 4 weeks. Watching all of the progress I had made go down the drain so to speak was frustrating and I had to try and keep things in perspective. I even allowed myself to be flexible with my goal for the race itself. My finish time was not as fast as I had hoped it would be, but when I look at the event and what I got out of it, I’m happy. My training has changed since I returned home from that adventure. I’ve added weight training and speed workouts to the schedule and have surrounded myself with people who share the same passion for running as I have.

This time around I run 5 days a week instead of the 4 I did before, and have added harder and longer speed workouts, but I’m starting to see some payoffs. Training in the summer is an exercise in patience and stamina, but will ultimately make me a stronger, faster runner. My best advice to myself and other for summer training is be patient and adjust accordingly. Heat effects effort. If you measure your workout by effort instead of pace or Heart Rate instead of pace it will be much less frustrating. Top coaches will adjust an athlete’s time/pace goals by 20% to compensate for the effects heat has on the body and perceived effort.

The next installment will cover more day-to-day training and all of the little details, but I’m sure at some point there will be more time for storytelling. Happy running!

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