Thursday, February 7, 2008

Take It and Run Thursday: Half Marathons

Runner's Lounge sponsors a Take It and Run Thursday when they invite lounge members to share their collective wisdom about a particular running topic. Today's topic is Half Marathons. Since I'm such an expert on that topic, having run exactly 1 (one) half marathon in the entire 53 years and 9 months of my life, I thought I'd jump right in.

That first and only half marathon (Richmond's Maymont X-Country Half) did teach me some things (my profile picture is my finish of that half):

1. A half marathon is not a cake walk. Granted, what I ran was not the typical half since it was a mixed-surface run -- roads, trails, bridges, steps, etc. The terrain made it more difficult than I expected. But, unlike Amy, I'm not sure it's a run that everybody should attempt, but anyone who does needs to be prepared for it to be hard.

2. Train for it. Yes, I know, there are some folks who can hop off the couch and run whatever. But most of us can't. I would advise anyone planning to do a half marathon to train specifically for that. I used a training plan from Runner's World (Smart Coach). Not only was it good to have some expert advice but it gave me the confidence that I could actually do the run in respectable form.

3. Build endurance. Long runs seem to me to be the key to a successful half marathon. I didn't do enough in preparation and my endurance suffered (well, I suffered) even though my time was still good.

4. Do some speed work. I ran either a tempo run or mile repeats once a week. Even though all my other runs in a week were at an "easy" pace, those special runs kept my speed from being negatively affected.

5. Don't start too fast. While that's true of any race, it seems to be especially important in a long race like a half. If you start too fast in a 5k race, the distance is short enough so that it won't kill you. But, start out too fast in a half and you still have a long, long way to go.

6. Run your own race. Related to #4 -- know how you run and follow the same pattern. In my everyday runs, even without planning to do so, I run the 1st mile at a fairly easy pace. Then I pick up the pace throughout the run. When I ran the half, we decided to aim for the average goal pace each mile. The first mile was right on target but then my body/mind did what it always does -- picked up the pace on succeeding miles. That lasted only 4-5 miles before I knew this wasn't working. Next time, I'll not plan to be consistent for every mile.

7. A partner is great. I almost forgot this one. Without the young man (my son's age) who ran with me -- and, yes, he had to slow way down -- I would not have done as well as I did. Justin (in the orange shirt in my profile picture) was a real encouragement, especially since the X-Country course is not spectator friendly. Hey, he even let this old man finish ahead of him. So, you can do a half by yourself, but you'll like it more if you're running with a friend.

As hard as it was, I will do the X-Country again, probably not in 2008 because of a conflict. I will be smarter and more prepared. In the meantime, I hope to do the Richmond Half in November.

Run well, y'all,
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