Coming up: #6marathonsat40done #1halfat41

This Sunday, March 17th, I will be participating in my first official half marathon.  People don’t quite “get” that I have done six full marathons and no official half marathons. 

Yet here we are, just a few days out.

Training for a half is quite a different experience; in some ways, a lot easier.  For obvious reasons.  While training, I don’t have to worry about making sure I have a 2-3 hour window to run, like I do when I am aiming for 18-20 miles.  I don’t feel the wear and tear on my body as much, needing more time to recover in between long runs.  I didn’t have to manage my hydration and nutrition regiment quite as much. 

But while it is half the distance, it does not translate into half the milage per week leading up to the race.  And, just because I have done six full marathons does not mean I think the 13.1 will be easy.  In fact, I believe it will be quite challenging.  

Here is how- from my own personal experience- training for this half marathon was for me.


Cold Weather Running

Fortunately, this winter was not as severe as other winters have been.  And, by wearing the right clothing (i.e. the base layer should always be a wicking material to take away the sweat so you don’t chill), as well as the right hat and gloves, some of the obstacles are taken care of.  And, as someone who runs “hot”, I tend to warm up quickly, and found myself not needing as many layers.  

However, there are other factors that may occur when the temperatures are freezing.

I found that- on some of the runs- when the temperatures were below or around freezing- my body was exerting more energy just to keep itself warm.  No matter how many layers I wore, or the type of clothing, sometimes breathing in the cold air would lead to additional pressure in my chest where I would find myself coughing even though fortunately I was not sick.

And then there is, like anything else, the mental challenges.

Last week, I found myself having to run after two snow falls.  Both were not significant in terms of accumulation but were in terms of the aftermath of slush, ice pockets and slippery streets.  Balancing the decision to get the necessary milage in verses not wanting to risk slipping and falling was tricky.

Last Monday, before I went to run in Central Park, Sophia said “Mommy be careful! I don’t want something to fall on your head.”  In my mind, I was more concerned with slipping.  And when I got to the park, I realized Sophia was absolutely right as ice and snow chunks kept falling from the tree branches during my six mile run, just missing me.


Speed and Consistency 

With the weather being cold, I found myself, at times, running faster at first in order to warm up.  As someone who has a tendency to go out too fast, I have had to make an extra effort to slow down, particularly when training for my longer runs.  This was an added challenge in the cold weather.

Unlike training for a marathon, training for this half felt like an enhanced version of my regular running schedule.  When not in training, I generally run 4-6 miles 2-3 days a week, and cross train the other days.  This feels like a nice balance, given my aggressive teaching schedule, and where I feel motivated to go running when I can.  Early on in my training, my running coach, Brian Hsia told me it was about consistency.  It is important to consistently put mileage on my feet, and becoming comfortable “in the uncomfortable” while doing the speed work.  With this in mind, along with my teaching schedule and cross training regiment, we felt like running 3-4 days was best, whereas when training for the marathon I ran 4 days a week.

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Discipline and Accountability 

This half marathon snuck up on me; unlike the full, where I had a 16 week training program and held myself consistently accountable by posting runs, and writing about the process, I did not blog about this race quite as much.  Perhaps it was because it did feel like an enhancement of what I normally do when I am not training for a marathon.

Fortunately, because I WAS training for a half, it definitely kept me running through the cold months.  There were many days where, after a long day training clients and sub-freezing temperatures, I did not feel like running.  Having a race to look towards kept me going instead of choosing another form of exercise.  And clearly, while I do believe in other forms of exercise, above all, running is what mentally and physically grounds me the most.  


No Expectations 

As someone who has ran six marathons I have a general idea of what to expect when heading into a marathon.  While every marathon has been its own unique experience, I have a general game plan and expectations.

Heading into Sunday’s race, I have very little idea what to expect.  I do not know if I will hit an emotional “wall” like I have at some point during all six marathons, that I had to fight through.  I do not know if I will feel any sort of leg cramping at any point.  And I am much less familiar with the terrain, as I did not run a large part of the course during my training.

I do know, that as of now, the weather looks ideal.  I am excited about tackling a new experience at age 41.  And, assuming all goes well, my next half will be the Women’s Shape Half Marathon on Sunday, April 14th.

See you on the other side.

Laura Kovall