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Learn : Half Marathon Story  

Running Background:

marathon photoI decided to run a half marathon because I enjoy the challenge of the distance. Having a race on the calendar keeps my training motivated.

Training:

I trained for 4 months following a self-modified FIRST plan. I like the concept of three quality runs each week. It provides the flexibility my schedule needs, while still allowing me to maintain an adequate level of fitness. For this particular race, I decided my training needed to include runs longer than the race. Previously, I haven't run the race distance prior to race day. This time I ran the race distance or longer twice and had a total of six double digit mileage runs. I would say the results of this strategy were mixed. I was more prepared for the distance than I had ever been in the past, and that was a positive. However, I think I peaked about three weeks too early and didn't feel as fresh as I would have liked come race day despite a proper taper period.

Race Day:

The 2008 Sioux Falls Half Marathon was not quite what I expected. My race day went well, but it didn't go quite as well as I wanted. I set a new PR by several minutes, but I was expecting to be a little bit quicker. The weather was perfect (mid 50s and little wind on a protected course). After a slow start due to the crowds, I settled into my goal pace and held it for about 10 miles. Early in the race, I let some negative thoughts creep into my mind because I wasn't running very well. It felt too difficult even though I was sticking to my goal pace. The negative thoughts stuck with me for much of the race. I never really felt like I was racing. It just felt like a training run.

My plan was to stick to goal pace until the halfway point, and then make a decision as to whether I would try to go faster. My body just wasn't up for anything faster, so I stuck with goal pace as long as I could. At the 10 mile mark, I couldn't maintain the pace any longer and slowed up. I finished the race about 2 minutes slower than my goal.

It's hard to be disappointed by a new PR, but I expected to do better than I did. I'm really happy with my improvement from last year's race (1:59), but know I can do better. I look forward to the next one.

Recovery:

My recovery wasn't bad. I did next to nothing as far as recovery is concerned, and consider myself lucky that my recovery was good. I had some of the post-race food and drink, but that's about it. No stretching, no recovery drink, just a short cool-down walk to the car. I was a little sore later the same day and a little less sore the following day, but the soreness didn't really effect anything I was doing. It was a good recovery, and I attribute it all to luck.

Running Gear Recommendations:

Garmin Forerunner 305
I've used this for nearly 2 years now, and am still uncovering new ways to use it to enhance my training. The ability to use custom workouts through the watch makes interval training easy at any location.
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Hammer Nutrition Recoverite
I use several Hammer Nutrition products, and think they're beneficial, but I really look forward to the post-run refreshment of Recoverite. "When you're done training, you're not done training at least not until you've put some fuel back into the body."
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iPod Shuffle
Hard training runs seem easier with my favorite music.
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Tips/Words of Encouragement:

At every race I've run or watched, I've been impressed by the wide variety of people that are participating -- from the elites to the first timers. Runners come in all sizes and shapes, but they're all out there doing it. If you're nervous about committing to doing a race, go watch a race. You'll be inspired.

I also recently came across this statement, which I find particularly motivating: "There will come a day when you cannot do this. Today is not that day."

Plans to Run Another:

I'm planning to continue to run half marathons because I enjoy the distance. It's not as punishing as a marathon, but it's not a distance that you can fake either. You have to commit to your training or the race is going to be painful. That thought keeps me motivated and consistent with my training. Also, I know I can go faster, and I want to see how fast I can go.

I think running longer than the race distance in my training was helpful, but I think I did too many double digit mileage long runs. I had six training runs that were double digit miles. Next time, I'll only do one run longer than the race distance at the peak of training, and probably three total double digit mile runs. Hopefully, my legs will feel fresher.

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