Approaching My First Half-Marathon

I had an elaborate dream the other night.

I showed up for the P.F. Chang’s Rock ’n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon super early, then proceeded to wait in various cafeteria lines, for food I think. (Not sure why we’re all eating cafeteria food right before a big race. Someone analyze that.) I used the time to run through things I might have forgotten at home. I remembered forgetting something crucial, although now I don’t remember what.

Now that the training is done for my first half-marathon this Sunday—I have more than 175 miles under my belt—all there is to do is wait. And worry, apparently.

My trek to this race began about six years ago, when my now brother-in-law flew in from the Seattle area to run. I remember waiting for him at the finish line in the shadow of Sun Devil Stadium and feeling so inspired to run the race. I’d talk a big game year after year, then promptly forget about it until it was too late to train properly.

This year was different. Thanks in part to my more organized calendar keeping, I was sure to plug in the key dates with reminders. Early registration deadline. Training. Race day.

If I was going to do this, I was going to do it to the best of my ability. No get-up-off-the-couch-and-run for me. I hooked up with a 10-week, three-day-a-week training program by Furman University (updated link and source).  It was fantastic—and went a little something like this:

Tuesday: A set of 400-meter (1/4-mile), 800-meter (1/2-mile) or 1,600-meter (1-mile) runs.
Wednesday: A run (ranging 2 to 8 miles) faster than my goal pace.
Saturday or Sunday: A run (ranging 6 to 12 miles) slower than my goal pace.

After running a couple weeks prior to my official training start, I decided I could do around 9-minute miles. Since a 9:02 pace puts me right at 2 hours for a half-marathon, I figured that was a good goal. And, based on my training, that’s totally doable, which I’m stoked about. I need to be careful, however, not to get greedy and push myself too hard and potentially burn out.

One thing I haven’t prepared for is the sea of humanity that will be racing with me. All my training has been in the quiet solitude of the streets and fields near my house. A friend told me he added a half-mile in distance at a recent half-marathon simply by “slaloming”—weaving around slower runners. I need to remind myself to be patient. Uh-oh. That may be a bigger challenge than running 13.1 miles.

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