Monday, February 27, 2012

Going the distance! - A bastardized tale of my first half marathon

I've finally done it! I finished my first half marathon yesterday at a respectable pace, and more importantly, I finally get to cross that off my whiteboard. Of course, once something gets crossed off, another thing is added...and so it has been replaced with running a full marathon by the end of the year.

So, on to the details! I finished the 13.1 mile race in 2 hours and 6 minutes, which averages out to about 9:35 minutes/mile. I had been shooting for finishing around 2:10, based on just about every previous long distance run in which I'd averaged 10 minutes a mile. I even would have accepted 2:30, just for it being my first time out there, but luckily I managed to pull it all together. Now I'm just wishing I had been six minutes faster!

I've been running on and off for several years, but until August of last year the farthest I had ran in one shot was about 3 miles. At that time, life had forced me to rethink plans, and I resolved to a life of constant self-improvement, and the neverending whiteboard was born. I thought having one of my all-time goals, running a marathon, should be on there, so I began researching the topic. Not surprisingly, it turned out running 26 miles out of the blue is a really bad idea, and the common sense approach is to build up to it. So I hustled my browser over to, and looked up the next 5K. I ran that in just shy of 30 minutes in a muggy August sun, and claimed my first t-shirt.

The next month had me switching over to night shift, which for anyone who hasn't had the experience, leads to a life of darkness and many the TV rerun. Instead, I eventually grew frustrated (after watching every episode of Mad Men and How I Met Your Mother) and found a 10K to run with one of my friends. Six miles is a fair distance for the uninitiated, so I began to run between 3 and 6 miles about four days a week, in addition to laying off the cigarettes. This was also around the time that I went for what ended up being a 10 mile run. And yet on race day, I only managed to finish it in about an hour. However, due to the low participation of 25-29 year old men, I took 3rd place in my age bracket!

Between that 10K in October and late January of this year, I let running fall by the wayside, though I quickly got back on track after plunking down the $45 registration fee for the half marathon. I began using the tried and true method of two or three short runs a week of about 4-6 miles a week, and gradually increased my weekly long run over the course of three weeks. The first week my long was 6 miles, the next week was 8, and my final long run was 10. I was only averaging about 10 minute paces, as I said before, but I felt confident that I'd at least be able to finish the damn thing.

By the way, up until this point I had never tried carbo-loading...and up until this point I had never needed it. I'm pretty sure eating a pizza isn't the proper way, but I certainly enjoyed it. All I know is that on race day, I needed every calorie I had in me, and probably a fair amount more. Previously, I had employed a run/walk mix into my long runs, but sure enough, I had so much energy I managed to avoid walking until around mile 11. Long story short, I finished the race, bought another pizza, and then went home with my medal and wiped that goal off the whiteboard. Mission accomplished.

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