I am not a “natural” when it comes to running. I do not believe that I have ever experienced a “runner’s high”. I’ll never break a 4-minute mile, a 10-second 100 meter dash, or a 2-hour marathon. I run because it is good for my health, is relatively inexpensive, and gets me outside enjoying God’s creation. I do not love to run, but I love the benefits that running brings me.
I ran my first half-marathon in 2009, ran one again in 2011, and completed yet another 13.1 miles in 2013. (The every-other-year timing has more to do with the training commitment and how much time it takes away from my family than anything else). I have steadily progressed in my time, completing the course in 2:21 in 2009, 2:07 in 2011, and 1:49 in 2013. I have also run an assortment of 5K and 10K races along the way. You see, I am the most consistent in my exercise when I have a goal (in this case, a race) to prepare for. Why else would I willingly choose to get up at 4:30 AM on a cool Tuesday to run 6 miles?
As for half-marathon training programs, I have found success with those created by Hal Higdon. The first two times that I ran I chose one of Mr. Higdon’s novice programs that lasted 12 weeks and had you top out at 10 miles pre-race. This past year I stepped up to one of Mr. Higdon’s intermediate programs that again lasted 12 weeks. The changes from a novice to intermediate program included:
- More weekly mileage
- Quicker progression in the long, weekend runs, topping out at 12 miles pre-race
- Inclusion of tempo runs
- Inclusion of speed work
More than anything, I believe that the tempo runs and speed work had the single largest impact on my race-day performance. I believe that this was primarily due to the fact that my body “learned” what it felt like to run as a quicker pace. Before adding those two new workouts to my routine, my fastest mile pace was around 8:30. Week 11 of my training this year found me completing a 5-mile run at almost a 7:00 mile pace.
I still struggle with staying motivated to run and this struggle has been heightened by some nagging injuries that, unfortunately, become a bit more common as one ages. That being said, I still enjoy running (that is a relative term) and hope that my exercise regime enables me to stay more healthy and set a good example for my kids. That is why I run.