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Half-Marathon Training

This past summer, a good friend of mine talked me into training for and participating in the first ever Disneyland Tinkerbell Half-Marathon, which takes place at the end of January. Now I’m the sort of person who needs a goal to work toward, and when she first brought up the idea of walking the half-marathon with her I had just gotten my meds, blood chemistry and hormones straightened out and needed a good reason to get back to a schedule of regular exercise. So, without giving it too much thought, I agreed to do it.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t think much would come of it. I successfully walked in a 5k race in March, so the idea of walking in a half-marathon six months away didn’t seem too far-fetched on the surface. And I didn’t really think she’d actually register for the half-marathon, so when she told me that she had and offered to pay my registration as well, I knew it was time to “put up or shut up,” as the old saying goes. So I decided to go for it.

And then I sat down to make a plan. First of all, I went to the Run Disney website and learned that, although it is perfectly acceptable to walk the race rather than run, if you don’t keep a minimum pace of 16 minutes per mile, you get “swept.” (i.e., There is a van that brings up the rear at that pace and anyone who falls behind has to get on the van.) Since my pace in March was approximately 17-18 minutes per mile, I have some work to do. Second, at the time I started training, I was essentially sedentary, about 80lbs. overweight, and struggling with recurring plantar fasciitis in both feet. Third, the furthest I’d walked before the start of my training was the 5k race I’d completed in March, and 13.1 miles is a lot further than 3+ miles, especially at the faster pace. On the positive side, I am fairly determined when I set my mind to something, and I scoured through lots of “couch to half-marathon” training plans before devising my own. I set up what felt like a reasonable schedule of daily walking with speed and distance increases built in at weekly intervals. I got the commitment of a local walking buddy who is in better shape than I am and who is dependable and reliable. And I started working my plan.

So far, it is going pretty well. With the combination of new medication, better eating habits and regular exercise I have already shed 20 lbs. and am on track to keep dropping more weight to get back down to a healthy range for my age and height. The plantar fasciitis is down to a manageable, dull roar, which is better than I’d hoped. I’ve been able to get my pace down to 14-15 minutes per mile for shorter distances (3-4 miles), and I’ve worked up to a distance of 4.5 miles per day. My long-dormant shin splints are trying to flare up again, but I think I’ve got that managed pretty well too.

Even though I’m only eight weeks into my training plan, I’ve learned a couple of interesting lessons:

1. Miles walked as laps around the block with a friend are much quicker and easier than miles walked on a straightaway with only the iPod for company.

2. A half-marathon is 13.1 miles, which is a helluva long way, and a <16 minutes/mile pace is really fast, at least for me right now.
3. I can be pretty determined when I want to be, and I really don't want to have to get on the Van of Shame during the race.

Although I don't want this to turn into a training blog, I'll post regular updates here because the process is becoming a metaphor for my life these days.