Running my first half-marathon
I try to run frequently for exercise because I enjoy it. It helps me numerous ways. But until this summer, I’d never really run a distance longer than 6 miles. This summer, my friend John challenged me to try to run a half marathon in my hometown. At first, I was reluctant, figuring the pounding on my wimpy, skinny legs would likely injure me. But I relented, registered for the Chilly Half-Marathon in my hometown and gave it a shot. I’m glad I did. Some thoughts on the process:
1) It really gave me an extra dose of motivation to run at least four times a week. That was worth it, in and of itself. The prospect of failing at the race (or bailing in advance) kept me running consistently.
2) The mileage didn’t really cause any injuries. I’ve been focusing on shortening my stride and moving my foot strike from my heel. I think that paid off.
3) I found I really really loved the longer distances. My standard runs are all about four miles. When I trained for the half-marathon, I did a weekly long run on Sunday mornings. Gradually these long runs built up from six miles up to 12. For some reason, breaking through the ten mile barrier seemed like an imposing task. Once I did it, I found I liked those 10+ mile runs the best. Time floated by from miles 6 – 10 and my brain seemed to slow down. It was my favorite part of the training, hands down. I found myself really looking forward to my long training runs, days in advance.
4) The drama for me came when I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia 6 days before the race. Race day was a Sunday. It threw off my last week of training badly (missed my last long run the Sunday prior to the race), I didn’t run Monday through Wednesday of that week either. I was on antibiotics. I felt well enough to run on Thursday and Friday and ran pretty well those days, felt fine.
I asked my doctor if I was stupid to run a half-marathon 6 days after being diagnosed. He dryly said “I wouldn’t say ‘stupid’ . . .” and proceeded to tell me that if I felt ok, it was all right by him to give it a shot. Basically, he told me to listen to my body and channeling Brian Halligan to “use good judgement”.
So I gave it a shot on race day.
I went out cautious from the start, in part because it was my first half-marathon but mostly because I was nervous about the pneumonia. But when I got to mile 3 and the timer called out my split as close to 28 minutes, I said “screw that, I want a better time than that” and turn things up a few notches.
I don’t regret it. I finished in 1 hour and 48 minutes. About an 8:15 pace and the pneumonia didn’t really impact me while running the race. I was really happy with the result — my training runs had been about 15 seconds per mile slower on terrain not quite as hilly as the race course.
I think the half marathon set back my recovery from pneumonia a few days (flying out to Denver to be at 5000 feet for 3 days didn’t help either), but I’m no worse for the wear now.
In short: the goal of running a race provided more motivation; the longer distances were very relaxing; don’t get pneumonia the week before the race.
What’s next? I’m thinking I’ll give another half-marathon a shot — maybe something in the spring like this half-marathon near my parents’ house in Gloucester. Anyone want to join?