A few days ago on Thanksgiving day I finally did something that required real effort; I ran a half marathon. I set a goal for myself and I met it, even if just barely. I’m pretty damn proud of myself, so bear with me while I brag, and hopefully convince you that you can do it too.
The Lead Up
I started running back around my birthday in July. I wasn’t in bad shape, but I’d go out and throw the frisbee or something and I’d be out of breath in no time. That would not do. No, not at all. So, I started running a couple times a week with Buda and Anna. At that rime, my only real goal was to be able to run 4 miles by my birthday.
I struggled to meet that mark, which seems ridiculous now. I turned 29 on a Friday and I wasn’t able to run 4 miles without stopping until the following Monday, and it took me 40 minutes to do it. I had only been running seriously for about 2 weeks though, so I couldn’t be too hard on myself.
Up until this point I’d been running in some old New Balance Cross Trainers I’d had forever. They got the job done, but they were heavy and kinda beaten down, and I really just wanted something else. Since those Vibram Five-Fingers shoes came out a year or so ago I’ve had my eye on some, but I just never had the $100 to throw down on something that might not work out for running and I sure wasn’t gonna wear them around casually. My Mom solved that dilemma for me by picking up some of the Fila Skele-Toes shoes that were on sale at JC Penney’s or something. They’re basically the same thing as the Vibram’s but about half the price. Mine look exactly like this:
Anna and I signed up for a couple of 5Ks in September and after vacation time in August, we started getting a bit more serious about running. My first 5K was the Kaiser-Permanente Corporate Challenge. Jenn joined me and we ran for Anna’s corporate team.
I finished the race in 24:50. Not too shabby for my first 5K, but nothing spectacular either. I ran the Lexis Nexis 5K a week later up in Alpharetta and finished that one in 23:52. I was pleased with that. Any time my pace is under 8:00 a mile, I’m pretty happy.
Anna and I ran the East Atlanta Strut 5K at the beginning of October with Rick from Fontaine’s. Rick and I matched each other pretty much step for step and I finished in 24:07. The course was a little longer than the usual 3.14 miles so my pace was actually still under 8:00.
After the race, Anna started talking up running some longer distances. I figured she just meant a 10K or something. No, she wanted to try for The Half; 13.1 miles. I certainly wasn’t going to let Anna get all the credit for doing something badass, so I agreed to run it with her.
We had exactly 8 weeks from that point to train to do this, and it’s not like we had been ramping up our distances in our runs up to this point. We’d basically go out and run for half an hour then go eat chicken wings and drink beer. Adding 8 to 9 miles to our distance in 8 weeks was gonna be a tall order. Fortunately, I like my orders like I like my women… tall. (Not necessarily true, but it sounds good.)
Anna found an 8 week training plan online and we adapted it suit our needs. The plan originally had us running 4 times a week, but we dialed it back down to 3 times just because of our busy schedules. On Saturdays or Sundays we would run longer distances and then Tuesdays and Thursdays we’d dial it back just a little to try and get used to running the distances we were adding.
About 4 weeks in, my feet and my knees really started to hurt. And I mean really hurt. I’m not a wimp. I’ll run right on through stuff that would make most normal people quit long ago, but when we did our first 7 mile run, I barely finished. The only reason I didn’t quit was that running was the absolute quickest way for me to get back to my sofa to pass out.
By this time, Brett had started running with us. He’d just moved back from New York where he ran in a couple of half marathons. He was instrumental in pushing us to run further and since he’s about the same speed as me, he’s good for my pace.
I took a week off to rest my feet and knees and did a bit of research on what could be causing some of my issues. I bought an IT band for my right knee which solved almost all the knee issues. My feet I just chalked up to running too much and them not having a chance to get acclimate to the distance.
From that point until the race, I only ran once a week. Brett, Anna, and I would start out in the Highlands, run down Virginia to Monroe and then cut over to Peachtree and run as far up Peachtree as we needed to go to get in our distances. In the 3 weeks leading up to race, we did 8 miles, 10 miles, and 12 miles. I was sore for a couple of days after each of these runs, but I was having way better results than I was when running 3 times a week. Despite not ever making it to 13.1 miles in training, we felt like we were ready.
Thanksgiving morning was cold, but clear. I decided to go with my shorts even though it was so cold. I was a bit hesitant to wear my running tights for that long of a distance since I’ve never run in them before. I didn’t know if I’d wind up with some weird chafing issues. With shorts, I might be a little cold to start off with, but at least I knew what I was working with.
Brett and I were in the B coral with a projected finish time of 1:45. We were scheduled to start at 7:35 am. Anna was in coral D, scheduled to start 10 minutes later.
I had some technical issues at the start of the race. I couldn’t get the music app on my cellphone to work and I was a little worried that I’d have to run the whole 13 miles with no music. I didn’t know if I’d be able to make it that far without Elvis and his American Trilogy to motivate me at mile 10.
The more pressing issue at the start was my feet. They were numb from the cold. It took a good two miles before they thawed sufficiently, but even then it felt like only half of my heel was there. It was really unnerving. Fortunately I was able to get my music app to start working so that was one less worry.
Brett and I stuck together at the start. We started really strong once the crowd thinned out a bit. Our pace was just under 8:00 a mile through about Mile 5 or so then we got to the hills…
About Mile 8 my feet really started hurting and my pace began to suffer. I was still right around 8:00 a mile, but Brett was starting to pull ahead of me. I was able to dig deep and catch back up with him, but then we got to another hill and I just couldn’t keep pounding my feet at that pace.
I held steady with a respectable pace for the next 2 miles, but then we got to Auburn Ave. where a stretch of the street is paved with those octagonal concrete pavers. Those things just beat the hell out of my toe-shoe shod feet. Then I got to Boulevard and it was also paved with concrete. (For those of you that don’t know, asphalt is a much softer surface to run on than concrete. You’d never notice it in normal shoes, but when you run in minimal footwear, you can tell a huge difference.) My pace suffered horribly here and for the next mile or so which was basically just a long uphill.
About 11.5 miles in I started seeing the 1:50 pace team pass me, so I realized I was falling behind. Like it or not, I had to put the pain out of my mind and finish this thing strong if I was going to hit my goal time. I dug deep and I as I rounded the last corner and saw those Olympic Rings on Capitol Avenue, I forgot all about the pain and sprinted. I passed a ton of people in those last 100 yards and when I crossed the finish line, I realized something; I really didn’t feel that bad, but my feet felt like they had axes buried in them.
I grabbed a bottle of water and a banana and set out to find Brett so we could cheer Anna on as she crossed the finish line. I found him soon enough and we set up post right near the finish line. I stretched as best I could and tried to keep loose. Anna crossed the finish line a little while later with a strong time considering she’d never run more than 10 miles in training due to some shin splint issues.
As the day wore on, I realized that all the parts of me that were typically sore really didn’t feel that bad. I’d taken extra care to stretch really well before the race and I stayed hydrated throughout. The only thing that held me back was my feet. Those toe shoes just don’t provide enough cushion for 13.1 miles of battery. I can run like the wind for 5 or 6 miles in those bad boys, but they really held me back at this distance. I had way more in the tank cardio and muscle wise, but my feet just couldn’t hold up.
That night, before I went to bed all fat and happy and with a sense of accomplishment, I checked online for the official times for the race. I’d finished in 1:50. I hit my goal right on the nose.
Friday I helped my Mom rip up the old carpet in their living room and clean the hardwood floors underneath. It was quite the undertaking. I wish I had some before and after pics, but the camera on my cellphone is acting up. The room looks a hundred percent better without that nasty 20 year old carpet in there. In exchange for working my tail off all day, my Mom and Dad bought me some of the New Balance Minimus running shoes. I’ve only gotten to try them out for a couple of short runs up the street because my feet are still recovering from the half marathon, but so far they feel great.
Below I’ve included the Google Map data from the half marathon. You can click on the little pins and it will tell you my pace and all that stuff. (7.5 mph is an 8:00 per mile pace.)
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