Well, folks, I’m halfway there. Just completed my first ever six-mile run, and I am proud to say that it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I anticipated.
To be completely honest, what I was most afraid of with this run going into it was the monotony. Six miles is a long distance, and at 10 mins a mile, that’s a full hour of running. I was getting really bored on my treadmill even on the shorter runs, and the high school track is equally monotonous. So I ventured out into uncharted territory – that is, a nicely paved path about half a mile away from my house – and just started running. Since I knew the road would be relatively flat, well-paved, and straight, I just ran and ran until my Nike+ Running app alerted me that I had run three miles, at which point I turned right around and ran back toward where I came from.
I also had all conditions working in my favor: it was a beautiful, 72º evening, I was well-fed (having had toast with peanut butter a half hour before) and well-hydrated (I even brought along the nifty water bottle I won at my last 8K!), and I had Songza to keep me company. It was one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve been on so far.
I feel so empowered. Four weeks ago I never would have thought that I could run six miles without a break. Now that I’m halfway there, the half marathon is seeming much less daunting.
12 miles, here I come!
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was actually pretty nervous about my 8K yesterday. Not only had I never run 5 miles straight before, but this was my first actual race (even though most people would probably start with a 5K). To increase my mental stress even more, as soon as I got on the trail, I realized it was far more difficult than I had anticipated.
The race was called “Into the Wild” – and they weren’t kidding. The trail wound though steep hills, and the terrain alternated between soft sand, rocky river beds, and pavement. At some points the trail was a foot or less wide, making it nearly impossible for runners to pass each other.
I also decided not to wear my Vibram FiveFingers for fear that I might get blisters, so I wore my other minimalist shoes, the New Balance Minimus. They worked well and were super comfortable.
One thing I really loved about the race, however, was the sense of camaraderie among the runners. Maybe it was especially pronounced since the trail was so tricky, but many of the runners chatted during the race about how difficult it was and cheered each other on. Since I’ve largely been training on my own, I’ve missed this kind of community, and it was nice to find it here.
At around three miles, though, I definitely started to feel like giving up. I had just conquered an incredibly sharp incline and I thought, “Okay, that will be the last of it,” only to encounter a similarly difficult slope right after. The course felt like it was never going to end. Had I been running on my own, I would have stopped at this point. Luckily, I had incredibly buff, seasoned runners passing me by, and that was enough to keep me motivated. (Or maybe it was the approaching nightfall and the fact I was in the wilderness that kept me going…)
This race was really helpful because it taught me a few things to consider about before the actual half marathon:
- Don’t rely on your iPod. I usually use Songza (an app that uses internet to find playlists) but because there was no internet, bringing my iPod along ended up just being a burden.
- Take a TUMS before the race, or bring one along. I don’t know what happened – I didn’t eat anything strange at all before the race, but I kept getting indigestion and it made running very uncomfortable.
- Bring gum. This might be TMI, but I kept choking on my saliva since my throat was getting really dry.
- Wear longer shorts. I experienced some pretty uncomfortable chaffing between my thighs and this made the last mile even more difficult.
All in all, I felt that my cardio was pretty strong, and that if it were not for the points mentioned above, I would have had an even faster time.
For beginner runners, I would highly recommend registering for a short race before the actual half marathon. Not only is being around the other runners inspiring, but it was great to get a feel for a typical race environment. Not to mention, I now feel that much more inspired to keep training!
Here’s the 12-week training schedule I’ll be following for the next 11 weeks (I’ve already completed Week 1). In order to hold myself accountable, I’ll post an updated chart at some point in the future of what I actually ran, my pacing for each run, and what activity I did on my cross-training Sundays. Hopefully the distances will be pretty similar, if not identical!
Join me on my journey to run a half-marathon. In this series, I’ll be outlining my training program and loggin my progress along the way in order to (1) hold myself accountable, (2) seek help/advice from any readers who may be more experienced, (3) connect with any readers who are also in training and looking for support/encouragement.
Disclaimer: I don’t claim to be an expert in the slightest degree. I’ve only been running seriously for the past few months, so I’m still new to the whole thing. If you have any advice, I would be more than happy to hear it in the comments below.
I’ll go into the specific training plan I’m using in the next post, but for now, here are some fundamental tips I’ve picked up about training wisely for a half-marathon:
- The Shoes. Choosing the right gear is important, but the shoes are perhaps the most essential. I decided to do the barefoot thing all out for this training program so I’ll be alternating between my Vibram FiveFinger Sprints and my New Balance Minimus. Since I feel fairly educated about the risks and adjustments associated with barefoot running, I think I can make these two shoes work for the long distance.
- Cross-Training. I will devote every Sunday to cross-training, which for me will probably be swimming, a yoga/pilates combo, or maybe just a visit to the gym where I will rotate between spinning, weights, the erg, etc.
- Mid-Week Training. My base distance will be 3 miles. During my mid-week training, I will stick mainly to this distance while slowly increasing my pace, elevation, etc.
- Race Pace. Since my ultimate goal is a half-marathon, my race pace will be 9:00/mile. One day a week, I will run the assigned distance at this pace.
- Rest Days. The rest days are as important as the running days. When I first started running, I tried to run every day of the week. To my surprise, I ran stronger after my first rest day that I had been running previously. Rest days are essential for our muscles to regenerate and get stronger.
- Indoor v. Outdoor Training. I’m conflicted over how much training to do on my treadmill v. outdoors. While I enjoy running on the treadmill because it tracks my distance, pace, and elevation exactly, I recognize that the treadmill is somewhat easier in that the “conditions” are always perfect: no wind, average temperature, humidity, etc. In addition, the treadmill provides more “give” and is thus a little gentler on your knees and ankles, you never have to run downhill (which I find very hard on my ankles), and instead of learning how to keep your own pace, the treadmill electronically determines it for you. I’m going to try to strike a balance between the two – maybe three treadmill and two outdoors days each week.
- Races. A lot of sites recommend running shorter races (5k or 8k, for example) before your half marathon in order to (1) have a concrete goal for the near future, (2) make sure you are comfortable in the race atmosphere and you know the proper protocol, and (3) check your time/progress. I’ve just signed up for an 8K (“Into the Wild Rockin’ Summer Race”) on September 5th, so I have 15 days to prep for that.
Training begins tomorrow – see you on the track!
Sites I’ve found useful: