What I Learned Training For a Half Marathon

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My journey with running started in college. One of my friends was gearing up to run the OneAmerica 500 Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis and encouraged me to sign up. I had no idea what the training for a half marathon consisted of for a beginning runner… At that point in time, I had probably never run over 1 mile. With little to no training or preparation, I crossed the finish line a little over 3 hours later, my hips were achy, my inner thighs chafed, and I was exhausted.

Looking back, I’m proud and shocked I even crossed the finish line. After that race, I stopped running until a few years later. I tried the Couch to 5k plan and began running for pleasure as opposed to running in an effort to control my weight or out of an obligation to exercise. At this point, I was discovering a whole new story about myself, a story where I was a runner. A story in which I enjoyed running. A story very different than the previous one I told. The one where I hated running and was terrible at it.

Fast forward 7 years from my first half-marathon attempt, I found Dave’s Marathon-In-Training. This local program offered a plan starting in early January and going up until the Glass City Marathon (and Owens Corning half-marathon) at the end of April. The program offered a beginner’s half-marathon track that I embarked on.

The first couple of months were very chilly. Ohio winters are no joke especially when you’re trying to pack in a long run at 8am Saturday morning. But meetings with my training group soon became some of the best parts of my week. There were runs that flew by so easily and others that I struggled through. But meeting with my training group always made every run more pleasant.

As I entered the 12th week (out of 16) of training, things were going well. I was feeling strong and proud of the progress I had made. At that point, my longest run was 7 miles. My long run for the 12th week was 9 miles. I wasn’t able to make the group run so I headed out solo on a Tuesday night to get my miles in.

The run was difficult. I was aiming to complete a new long distance on my lonesome. After about 5 miles, my mind told me to stop and I listened. I stopped to walk for brief stretches, but eventually completed all 9 miles. Once home, I was sore and disappointed. I recall lamenting to my training group that I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t make myself run the full 9 miles.

 

Afterward, I truly began to understand that running was not just this physical progress that I was making. I realized that running long distances requires a mental fortitude that I had not discovered.

Over the remaining 4 weeks of training, I sustained a foot injury (peroneal tendonitis) that kept me from running with my training group. This fed my already defeated mind. And when I stepped up to the start line at the Glass City Owens Corning Half-Marathon, I had already given up on my goal to run the entire race.  

The race was difficult. Mentally I was weak and unprepared. In comparing times, I didn’t improve much from my initial half-marathon experience. But what did I gain?

Not only did I gain the friendships from the Dave’s Marathon-In-Training program, but I learned what my next “steps” needed to be for running: improving my running form and building my mental endurance. 

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