Friday, July 18, 2008

Training for a Half Marathon

Round about December last year, I started to fidget. No exercise to speak of since my car crash in August, and I was getting soft and grumpy! My neck and back were feeling enough better that I really wanted to try something, anything, to get my bod moving again. After all, I'd be 50 soon, and we all know it gets harder to get in shape the older you are!

I went to my friend Sue, a marathon runner who is 54 and looks 44, to ask her advice. See, my usual exercise "regimen" included playing adult soccer once or twice a week, and that was about it. I know the value of exercise and keeping in shape. I am an educated medical professional, after all. But, I tell you, if it isn't fun, I simply won't do it. Laps at the pool? Bo-o-o-ring! Routines at the gym? Spare me.

I wasn't sure I was up for soccer yet. The only kind of soccer that goes on here in winter is indoor soccer, which is notoriously rough and risky. I figured I better start with something kinder and gentler. I was hoping to be back in good enough shape for the Spring women's soccer season.

I might have predicted Sue's response. "Try running!" Ugh. Running was right up there with pool laps and machine weights.

"Wel-l-l," I waffled. But Sue persisted. She told me about the program and group that got her running. Albuquerque Fit.

I checked it out. Their beginner program is called In Motion. They met every Saturday for an hour, starting in January. I decided to go. The first day we "ran" a half hour as follows: run for one minute, walk for four minutes, repeat. Wow, I thought. I can do this. So I continued.

The next week, we ran for two minutes and walked for four. And so on. Bit by bit, the running time increased and the walking time decreased. We hardly noticed our muscles growing and our endurance increasing. By the end of the program, 11 weeks later, we were running for eight minutes and walking for one.

By then I was hooked. Not only did In Motion give me people to run with once a week, they gave me a proscribed schedule for running during the week. This, I failed to mention, is the other way to get me to exercise. Tell me what to do. Give me instructions, a task, a schedule. Make it so I don't have to motivate myself and I'll do it. Of course, I still have to get my own rear out the door and move it, but having a formula really helps me. Get up, go do the run, check that one off, shower, go to work.

When that program ended and the next one, Albuquerque Fit, began, I stuck with it. ABQ Fit trains you for one of three races: marathon, half marathon or 10K. The coaches, who are regular guys and gals who started just like we did, encouraged us to aim high, saying it was easier to shift down than up partway through. So I went for the half, thinking from the beginning that I'd probably end up changing to the 10K, but secretly hoping I could make the grade for the half marathon. It just seemed so perfect. This is my half century year. Running a half marathon in honor of that was fitting.

So here I am. Several weeks into it, and still hanging in there. People do drop out, by the way, naturally. But a couple weeks ago Coach Mike informed us that, statistically, of those of us who had made it to that point, over 90 percent of us would finish our target race. We had made it over some kind of hump.

Tomorrow, our long Saturday run will be 8 miles. I have never run that far in my life. But, thanks to the incremental training technique, I have run 6.6 miles, and 7 miles. My weekly totals (long weekend run plus three weekday runs) are now up over 13 miles. Now I run for a mile before I walk for a minute, because the run/walk technique is what they teach. We're aiming to finish, not to break any time records here. So far my old bod is holding up pretty well. A few aches and tweaks here and there, but --knock on wood--nothing that has laid me up.

My target half marathon is in early September. Wish me luck! I'll let you know how it goes.


Lori Anderson said...

Peg, you're doing an awesome job with your running. Glad you're enjoying the program. Keep up the good work. Maybe next year your sights will be set for a marathon.

Peg Spencer, MD said...

Thanks, Coach Lori! You coaches are all fantastic!

LORI said...

I thought you posted a picture of the 3 of us. Where is it?

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