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Training for and Running a Half Marathon

by Gini Cunningham

posted in Health and Fitness

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As a runner I enjoy challenges, especially those that fit evenly into my daily routine and schedule. While I have completed one full marathon, an adventure and accomplishment I treasure, fulls require hours and hours of preparation, balancing nutrition and exercise, work time and play time, sprints and jogs, and months of advance planning. With half marathons, I already have a solid base since I have been running for over forty years and so when a half offers itself to me, I just need a couple of months to increase mileage, making the 13.1 miles doable as well as fun.
My training plan is based on the elaborate one I created after much reading and research for the full. I run four days per week, doing a regular stint of 4-5 miles three of those days and adding distance on the fourth. As a result, Monday, Friday, and Saturday fall into the "regular" category, although I often add a few miles on these days as well, leaving Wednesday for my big day. About two months out I begin adding a mile per Wednesday, planned so that two weeks before the race I run 13+ miles, then tapering off to no running after the next Monday or Wednesday right before the event (depending on if it is a Saturday or a Sunday). Days of rest are really good for my legs, but I will admit as an addict to running, I sort of have to tie myself into a chair to prevent myself from sprinting out the door.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays I swim. While this maintains action on my legs there is no pressure or pounding, and the strokes activate my arms, pulling them into angles and rotations that do not come with running. Sundays are left for a walk, yard work, housework, and all of those other commitments of life. It is still exercise, but of a different sort. All of these - from running to swimming to mowing the grass - are activities I enjoy, activities that activate thinking, mind expansion, and general happiness. I feel better after each pursuit and so do my body and my mind,
With a marathon I had to consider food intake with intricate attention. 26.2 miles is a long distance to run and a long time in training to build-up strength and endurance without breaking down knees, hips, or feet. I carefully managed vitamins and minerals, healthy food versus junk, adequate liquids and careful alcohol consideration, and so forth. It was great for me because my daily and weekly outline transformed into a lifestyle for nutrition, one that I have kept over time. For the half, I pay attention, but skipping breakfast or missing dinner is not as critical as I have a nutritional reserve at the ready.
This running regime and nutritional diet have also helped me sustain an ideal weight. If I put on a pound or two I can immediately feel it in my movement and carriage and so I step back, eat with more attention and add a mile. If my weight dips, which usually only happens when I have one of my seasonal raging colds, I focus on high-protein foods and healthy beverages. As a vegetarian I sometimes worry about enough protein to preserve my health, but a conscientious focus on food overall fairly well solves that issue.
A few days before the event I think about my meals, not really changing them but making sure that what I eat and drink are good for me. On "game day" I have my usual cup of coffee and keep it at that to avoid pit-stops along the route. I realize that a bagel or banana, peanut butter toast or an apple would probably be wise, but this is not my standard and so I avoid making changes. Adrenalin guides me through the first miles and then offerings of Gatorade carry me onward. I skip water figuring I need salt more. I also usually have one pack of protein gummies or a goo packet just to keep me feeling fresh. I prefer the gummies as I can reward myself with a gummy per mile making the snack transform into a mind game.
By Mile 8 I know I am over halfway home; by Mile 10 I am raring for the end. At Mile 12 and can tick up my speed a notch because the medal is almost around my neck. Yes, most races provide a tangible reward at the end and I love and admire my stack of medals. It is silly but very thrilling at the same time. Crossing the finish is a blast, especially if the announcer gives my name, city, or state. A second of glory is very amusing. A banana and chocolate milk accompany my medal award and fulfillment floods in. Being greeted by family in attendance is awesome as is a text of congratulations from someone who has followed me throughout the course through runner tracking. It all feels empowering.
While I have sadly slowed down over the years and stiffness pulls in and stays a little longer, running half marathons is an exciting experience. Entailing mind and body and plenty of hours in training, these all enhance my positive outlook and inner strength. Maybe it is an event that would enrapture you. Begin with the short-term goal like running to the end of the block and move to around the block, down the lane, up the trail, and so forth, taking baby steps of exercises into paths of pleasure. Also remind yourself of the good running provides you and smile as often as possible along your route. Greet dog walkers and other joggers, plants, trees, and deer. Your outward positivity affects your inward delight. Yes, truly, the rewards are wonderful.
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