I started running again a few weeks ago and it’s been tough going. The last time I ran a half marathon, I was 5 years younger and 50 pounds lighter. I now get winded walking out to check the mail. And my feet hurt even after sitting at my desk all day.
But I am putting all that aside. My formal training program starts in about 8 weeks, so I have a little time to get back into a level of physical condition to actually begin training.
I do have a small advantage in that the race is at sea level and I’ll be training at over 6000 feet. But running where I live is difficult. It’s mostly mountainous terrain coupled with the high altitude.
But just like anything worthwhile, running a half marathon requires planning, preparation, and execution. I can already tell you, there will be days when I don’t want to go out and run. There will be times when my body is tired and sore. It’s always easy to find other things to do. But having run a half marathon before, I can say the end result is worth the effort.
Why Run a Half Marathon?
My first goal in this adventure is simply to finish without getting injured. I will say that now that I’m over 40, my body takes longer to heal, takes longer to get into shape, and just doesn’t respond like it did when I was in my 20’s. If you’re not careful, you can easily get a stress fracture in your foot or hip. I’ve also had neck and back injuries while running.
But beyond finishing without injury, I am using the half marathon training to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle. Over the years, I have let things go a little too much and it’s starting to catch up to me. Too much food and alcohol. Not enough exercise and sleep.
During training, I expect to lose some weight and introduce healthy eating habits. I can tell you from prior experience, running is much easier when you eat well and stay away from alcohol the night before.
In addition to the physical and lifestyle benefits, running is also a great way to clear your mind. I prefer to run without music and instead use the time to think about my day. It’s remarkable how much stress can disappear after a good run. Running helps keep things in perspective.
Half Marathon Training
The key is to start slowly, but be consistent. The training program for a half marathon is similar to the full marathon just on a smaller scale. In my training program, I’ll have one long run per week, one middle distance run at about half the distance of the long run, and two shorter runs.
During the first few weeks, I’ll be walking more than I’m running. But the key is getting out on a regular basis. I’ll run/walk every other day for the next 7 or 8 weeks until I can get where I can run without stopping for 60 minutes or so.
Once the formal training begins, I’ll run 4 days per week. But even then, I will include a fair amount of walking in each session. I find interval training – shorter bursts of higher intensity activity followed by recovery periods – most effective for building endurance with lower risk of injury.
Ideally, my longest run will be 10 miles scheduled for 2 weeks prior to the race. On race day, at the lower elevation, with race day excitement, I expect to have enough in reserve to push through to the full 13.1 miles.
Keys to Staying Motivated
Set up a regular routine. Just like I said in my post yesterday about my first 100 days of fall blogging, I have found most things are easier if you do them regularly. When you take out the consistency, you lose the habit. And then you are relying on willpower alone for motivation.
Create incremental goals. Looking at the entire training schedule is intimidating. It’s hard for me to see myself running 13 miles over two hours. But I can see myself running 3 miles over thirty minutes. That’s my first goal. Once I reach that level, I’ll target running 6 miles in one hour. Not only do the incremental goals give me something reachable to target, they give me the chance to celebrate a victory when I reach them.
Take days off when needed. When you’re not used to it, running 3 to 4 days per week over 20 weeks takes its toll on your body. I have learned to listen to my body during training. Especially now that I’m older and heavier, it’s easier than you think to get injured. My approach is to go out and run according to the schedule even if I’m concerned that I may have an injury. Once I’m running, if the pain goes away, I can continue. If it remains or gets worse, I stop.
As I mentioned in the beginning, there’s a part of me that’s excited and there’s a part that’s nervous. It’s a big commitment, but the end result is worth it. I’m looking forward to seeing progress over the coming weeks and I’ll let you all know how it’s going.
Readers, any other runners out there? Any old, overweight runners? What do you do to stay motivated during training? I am looking for any motivational tips or tricks. And wish me luck! I’ll need it.