My long road to a Half
It was a long time ago that I decided that I was going to run a half marathon. My original running race goal was to run a 5K. I felt like when I could run that far without stopping, it would be a good way to get a judge of how I was doing and get a feel for a race. At that point I had been running a while, and I already knew that I was planning on running a 5K as my first race. I actually ended up signing up and committing to both a 5K and a half marathon before I actually ran the first race.
I started running last year, when I was starting to get a bit bored on my exercise routine. I was doing a brisk walk rather regularly back then, taking a short loop around the neighborhood and listening to podcasts. I was feeling pretty good about my health because I was a ways through my planned weight loss, and I was starting to think I might want to do some running around. I jogged a few blocks here and there - I would basically just run when I felt like it, and then stop running when I got tired. Usually that meant that I would run for a three or four blocks.
After doing that for a while, I took a long walk and spotted Hart Lake on the GPS map. It wasn’t too far away, and I wanted to see if it was any good as a lake, for walking around or lounging or whatever. It turned out to be pretty crap as a lake, but I liked the route that I took to get there. I started running intervals, with the first goal to be able to actually run them all the way through the 4.5 mile loop, which didn’t actually include the lake.
I started with 90 seconds walking, and 60 seconds running. At the start, I couldn’t even run the intervals for the whole time without skipping one or two. I ended up backing off to 2 minutes walk, 1 minute run. As I got better at that, I would increase the running time every few weeks or so. It worked out okay for almost 8 months - by the end I was doing 3:15 runs and 1:30 walks I think. Then I ran Goldy’s 5K as my first race. Almost immediately after I had signed up for the Red, White and Boom half marathon, and I needed a plan.
Looking for a plan online, I quickly found Hal Hidgon’s website. He’s pretty easy to find, and was one of the first results when I googled I think, and also recommended highly by some people at the running subreddit. He had two plans for novice half-marathoners. Since I had been running for a while, I decided to look at the Novice 2 plan, which has more running in it. However, it was already less running than I was already doing, on a per-week basis, and it didn’t go to the half marathon distance at all until the race day. So I modified it a little, adding 2 miles to every run.
Training was hard sometimes, but mostly it was just a lot of running, more than I had done ever in my life. I felt really good about three weeks before the race when I had my long run that was a whole half marathon, and I finished it without any problems. The next week was a lot different - I could barely get through it. It was a slog, but it was also a good thing for me, because I finished in about two and a half hours. It gave me a time I think would be the slowest I could run. I also went 14 miles the week after without too many problems, in the same time. Twelve weeks after I started, I was ready for my first half marathon.
Too Hot for This Half
When I went to pick up my race packet on July 3, I found out as I walked in the door at Twin Cities in Motion that they had shortened the race from the half marathon to a five mile run because of predicted high heat. I wasn’t happy, because I felt like I could run in lots of heat. At the same time I understood - with the forecast at 90 with over 80% humidity, it was basically a recipe for heat stroke if you wanted to run 13.1 that day.
I ran the five mile course without any problems - which basically a lot of streets that I already run, since the race was in my neighborhood. I finished in 44:46, which was on pace for my planned half. Considering it was so hot, I had that as a victory.
Five miles isn’t a half marathon though, so I picked out another race to get the job done. I picked the Minnesota Half Marathon which was about a month after the July 4th Red, White and Boom. For training, I just turned back the clock four weeks and continued with the same plan.
Half it at Last
My last three long runs went pretty well better than the ones that I had in the first time around. The training went basically as expected, especially since the weather was actually cooperating more often, and I had already done it once before. When race day was coming up, I stopped by for the packet early again, and scoped out the race route. It was pretty boring compared to the first one, and it’s shown above.
On the day of the race, I got up on time, and drove to the race. There were a lot of people there! It was a multiple race event though, including a duathalon using inline skate and racing for the two legs. I had to make a pit-stop before the race, but things worked out. I found my pacer too, which was great. I have a hard time running at a consistent speed over the whole distance. There were actually two pacers helping for the two hours from the MN Pacers Team. I wish I remembered their names, because they were great.
We also had a little group with the two hour pacers for the first few miles. It was interesting to run with a group, and it bolstered me for a while. When the first water stop came around, I didn’t want to stop and the group was slowing down so I ran ahead of them for a bit. I wasn’t having problems with running ahead of the 9:10 minutes per mile pace, so I just kept running along for a while. When the second water stop came around I grabbed some water, and then walked for a while and formulated a plan. I would run until the water stops and then walk it until the pacer caught up with me.
The plan worked for the most part, with the walking time getting shorter and shorter until near the end of the whole race, when I was just running with the pacers. The last couple miles were pretty tough though, with some low grade hills. I was really bolstered near the end, and came in strong for a finish with the gun clock reading just over 2 hours. I thanked the pacers (who, again, were really awesome) and then headed to get a banana and some more water from the post-race snack tent.
It was a pretty great experience all around, and finally I had run a half marathon. My official time came in just a couple hours later that day, 2:00:23. 23 seconds away from my sub-two hour goal, but I think I might be able to live with that for a first half time. I just discovered that you can see me cross the finish line in video. I’m the one in the white shirt who looks like he’s been rained on.
Looking back, it’s been a long time since I started running to the end now. In the weeks after the race, I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do next. I wanted to keep running I was sure, but didn’t have another race planned. I started just running some of the same types of runs that I had near the end of the training. Vacation came soon, and I was able to get some good runs in there too. I think I’ll be running another half marathon soon though, and maybe a whole marathon next year. It seems like a good challenge. I got a medal for finishing this race, and for the five mile (that one says half marathon too). I’m going to have to figure out what to do with those eventually, especially if I keep running races.