Saturday, January 16, 2010

I'm Back! Plus an announcement

After quite an extended break, I'm back!  Life just got the best of me over the holidays - with my projects in lab, TAing, Christmas presents and visiting family, there simply wasn't time for anything extra.  I have a sneaking suspension that life will get crazy again....but for now, I'm going to try to keep up and we'll see how it goes :)

With that, the announcement:
I'm running a half marathon!

Finally, I got up the nerve to do what I've been wanting to do for a while.  Last year, I played around with the idea of running the Broad Street Run (10M) or a half, but I didn't feel comfortable enough with running to do it.  After all, I'd just started running seriously in February of that year, and I ran my first 5K in April - I didn't know if I could do longer distances.

Since I started running last year, I've run or walked 210 miles, and I have gotten much stronger at running.  I've gotten faster, too - my average running speed used to be about 12:45/mi, and now 11:45 is a comfortable pace, and 11:15-11:30 is ok on good days.  I know I'm still not fast - but I probably won't ever be running 7-minute miles.  I hope to shave a little more time off my average pace - maybe down to 11:00/mi by half-marathon time.  I know my pace will probably be a little slower for the race - that type of distance usually calls for running a little slower - but if my shorter training runs have me running 11:00/mi by the end, I'll be happy!

I signed up for the "13.1 Marathon" race series half marathon in Boston, on June 27.  There are a few reasons for this choice.  First and foremost, the race benefits the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, a cause which is close to my heart since my friend, Megan, and her mother both struggle with Crohn's Disease.  I would like to raise some money for the cause, and I can't think of a better way to keep me motivated to stick to my training.  Second, the race has a limit of 6,000 entries, which is small - the Boston Marathon, by contrast, has around 20,000.  It's meant to be a good race for first-timers, and advertises itself as walker-friendly - the course closes 3 1/2 hours after the race starts, which is a minimum 16:00/mile time, or a brisk walk.  If I try to run the whole thing, but need to walk sometimes, I should have no trouble keeping that pace.

That said, this training will certainly not be easy.  The longest distance I've done a training run is 5 miles, last May, and that one tired me out a LOT.  I've struggled with plantar fasciitis, I have asthma, and I tend to get headaches when I run a long distance out in the sun.  I don't know for sure that I can run 13.1 miles without stopping - but I'm certainly going to try!

My main goals for this half are:
- Finish!
- Get faster during training - from 11:45/mi to 11:00/mi, at least
- Minimize the amount of time I need to walk during training runs and the race
- Lose some weight and get stronger during training (no specific goal, since I don't know how the training will affect my body!)

I've taken measurements as a starting point, and I'll be comparing back to those measurements every month or so to see how things are going fitness-wise.  I'm not sharing them now, but I promise to share them later - it's so much easier to share those things when you can do it from a "look how much healthier I am now!" perspective.

So far, the plan is to follow the "Couch to 5K" workout, something that's worked for me in the past, for the first few weeks.  I started with week 3 last week - running 90 seconds, walking 90 seconds, running 3 minutes, walking 3 minutes.  I'm hoping that by starting off slow, I'll build up my ability to run constantly without walking, before working on speed.  The next few weeks will be walk/run, and then I'll (hopefully!) be running for 20-30 minutes straight.  Once I get to that point, I'm going to start serious training - I plan to follow the Runner's World training plan.  They have a nifty little tool that lets you input a past 5K time, a goal distance, and a time frame, and it spits out a plan for you.  I actually set up the training plan using Broad Street as a goal - if I'm coming along in the first few weeks of that plan, I'll sign up for the race.  If I can get in shape in time for Broad Street, it's just a matter of maintenance for the half!

With that, I'm off - I've got a vacation coming up next weekend, and it's time to get everything in order so that I can maintain my sanity during the week!

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