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What I learned while training for my first half marathon

This weekend I participated in the Horse Capitol Half Marathon. It was my first half marathon — a goal I’d never thought possible until Jeremiah Tudor told me he registered for the run and suggested I do the same and train with him for the event. I signed up in January, only half-heartedly committed to the goal, but committed to give it my best.

I learned a few things along the way.

  1. There will always be excuses. Don’t let them stop you.
    This winter was one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record for Kentucky. I ran anyway. On February 17, I decided I wouldn’t do a 3 mile run because it was snowing so hard that the region essentially shut down. “It would be dangerous to run on a day like today,” I told myself, and chose to skip the run instead of figuring out a way to make it happen. That date sticks out on my training plan like a sore thumb. And I decided I wouldn’t let it happen again.

    skipped Feb 17 run
    The skipped Feb 17 run.

    Sure, there were other days that the weather made it difficult to run. But that only meant I had to do sometimes long, always boring runs indoors instead. It didn’t matter. I was sticking to my training plan and working toward the goal.

    Acknowledge the excuse, and even recognize there may be some merit to it. But don’t let the excuse stop you from accomplishing your goal.

  2. Claim support wherever you can find it.
    Like most difficult goals, a good, strong support system is extremely valuable and increases the likelihood of success. My wife and family were superbly supportive during my training, always reminding me they were proud of me, prompting to get in my training runs, asking me about my progress, and sending congratulatory messages after I crossed the finish line. During training I so looked forward to my 4-year-old son asking “How was your run, Daddy?” on those loooong weekend runs.
    Had it not been for Jeremiah, who signed up in the first place and encouraged me to do the same, I never would have considered this goal. We did quite a bit of the training together, even some of those cold, snowy runs in February and March and the long, boring indoor runs. We’re now looking for a full marathon to train for and run.It also helped to have other friends at work know about my training, in part because I did much of my training during the lunch hour. Before I was training, the question was, “What are your lunch plans?” but the question soon turned to, “Are you running today?” and I took this small change as a sign of their support during my training.I even claimed the support of people who never realized they were supporting me. During cold and snowy runs, I loved to run against the flow of traffic and imagine the people in cars saying, “Look at that crazy guy running in this weather!” For whatever reason, that motivated me. Some sections of my training routes were streets with no sidewalk to use. Cars would drive past and give me a little extra space. In response, I would always wave, just to say “thanks for not running over me.”
    Take hold of the small things that help you mentally push through when you just don’t want to go any further.
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of having the right resources
    On the surface, running doesn’t look that difficult. Put one foot in front of another until you get where you’re going. Except there was space between me and the goal… and the pavement… and the hydration… and sometimes the drive just wasn’t there.The shoes I started training with became shoes that hurt my feet more and more as I ran longer distances, so I had to buy new running shoes. In the process, I learned the shoes I had been running in were trail shoes, not the right type of shoes for my type of running, so I made sure to get the right kind of shoe to help me get me to the finish line.running-shoe-371625_1280
    Proper hydration is not something that you want to learn the hard way. I failed to stay hydrated on one of my double-digit runs during training and spent the following 2 hours in misery on the couch. But you better believe that on the next run, I made sure to stay hydrated. That run felt like a breeze compared to the one that had made me sick and gave me some much-needed confidence to complete the race.
    The right resources won’t make it easy to complete the goal, but they will help with accomplishing the goal.
  4. Understand your limits, then find a way to push past them
    I always told myself I couldn’t run in cold weather because I had a hard time breathing in cold weather. This was a legitimate concern that would need to be addressed if I were going to start strong with training. After some runs early in training, when temperatures were in the 20s, I found breathing wasn’t quite the problem I thought it would be. With some layered clothes and a scarf around my nose and mouth, I was able to run and breathe with very few problems. Now, with midday weather in the 70s and 80s, I miss those cold runs!The idea of running 13.1 miles was daunting at the beginning. I had run shorter 5k races in the past. When I started running a few years ago, even 5k runs were a challenge. But when I trained for this race, I gave myself the opportunity to meet the half marathon challenge by simply building distance a little at a time according to the training plan. In a matter of weeks, I realized that not only could I run the half marathon, but that I was progressing much better than I expected.
    A little resourcefulness and the willingness to stick with the plan will go a long way toward accomplishing the goal.

The things I learned — about myself and about accomplishing goals — on my way to the Horse Capitol Half Marathon are lessons I’ll come back to again and again.

Congratulations to the many other runners who participated this weekend!

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