m a r g i n a l i a

notes from a creative writing PhD candidate

three. more. days. | training for a (first!) half marathon

When there’s no more gas in the tank, seasoned marathoners say that repeating a mantra while running can keep you motivated.  Phrases like “One step at a time,” “Just keep going,” and “Dig deep, breathe deep” have helped numerous runners cross the finish line, but I’ve developed a mantra of my own:
“Why. Why. Why. Why. Why.”

Namely, why the hell did I sign up for this?  Why am I enduring shin splints, a possible stress fracture, dehydration, exhaustion, blisters, chafing thighs, and no social life to run 13.1 miles?  WHY?

I don’t know why.  I guess the promise of wine at the end of the race helps.  Hopefully I’ll have the answer after completing the Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon in Loudoun County this Saturday.  I’ve been training hard for three months; my longest run has been 8 miles, so the last 5 miles of the half will be, uh, interesting (i.e. painful, scary, unknown, the worst hour of my life).  Amazingly, a 3-mile run feels like a warm-up to me now, but due to a recent setback with blinding pain in my right shin, I haven’t been able to increase my mileage to the suggested 12 miles.

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Before the shin splints/stress fracture calamity, I was running 9:30–10:00 minute miles consistently and happily.  Now my newly purchased Garmin Forerunner informs me that I’m running 10:30’s; I try not to pay too much attention to the numbers, but it’s a bit disheartening that the more I’ve trained, the slower I’ve become.  Ice and massage helps, so does stretching.  The overuse injury is constantly painful, but its effect on my mental state approaching the race has been the worst.

There are a ton of half marathon training programs out there, but I followed Hal Higdon’s–it seemed reasonable and simple to follow with shorter runs during the week and a long run on the weekend.  I took time off to go to Mexico City, but I walked everywhere and still met my mileage for the week.  Looking back, I already see where I went wrong–I should have been icing to prevent injury, not waiting until one happened.  I wish I had bought the Garmin from REI when I began training rather than a week ago; Garmin Connect is an amazing program, especially when training for a hilly long-distance race.  And I wish I had lost a bit more weight.  I’m not overweight at all, but I know that being a little lighter would make the impact onmy shins significantly less.  These are all lessons I’ll be applying if (when?) I run my next half.

Why am I running 13.1 miles at 7 a.m. on a humid Saturday?  Why would I sign up for such a physically demanding, time-consuming endeavor when the only other race I’ve done was one measly 5k in 2013?  I suppose simply because I’ve never run that far, and I just want to see if I can actually finish–that’s the new goal: finishing the half marathon, not necessary running it.

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