Late last year, I set a goal to run a Half Marathon. After completing a few 5k and 10k races, I was hungry for more. So, this Spring, I accomplished that goal by running the Yellowstone Half Marathon. I wasn’t competitive for any medals, but I did accomplish my goal of finishing. Following that race, I’ve been bitten by the running bug.
Despite a busy summer work schedule, I managed to run the Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage in July (managed sub-8:00 pace on all 3 legs) and the Headwaters Bank Run 10k in Three Forks (placed 5th). Then in September, I’ve overdone it a bit.
On September 12 & 13, I ran the Bozeman 5k and Bozeman Half Marathon. These races, put on by the Bozeman Running Company, were well-organized, on beautiful courses with a great atmosphere. I finished 9th in the 5k on Saturday with a 7:08 pace in 22:08, for a PR. On Sunday, the Half Marathon went great! And by great, I mean my training definitely paid off and the race was tough but I felt great about my effort the entire way, nervous that I was going too fast. I finished with a new PR of 1:42:52, a pace of 7:51. I doubted I could do a sub-8 Half!
The following weekend, I had volunteered to help with a 25-mile Relay Run in the Castle Mountains near Lennep. The course was a 5-person relay with legs roughly 5 miles each, climbing more than 2,000 feet, peaking near 7,500 ft with amazing views. I offered to run a few legs, but ended up filling in on a team that only needed one runner. The Ranch Run was a great experience with several new folks coming to run through 5th generation ranches and public forest service lands. My leg was 4.8 miles of continuous climb with over 1,200 ft elevation climb. Not a big deal, except that at the last-minute the day before, I had signed up for the Montana Half Marathon in Billings, which took place Sunday morning.
By this point, my legs were tired, but I was determined to compete, running the race with a fellow Ragnar Relay Team member, @christyruns, who is a strong runner to say the least. The Montana Half starts west of Billings and runs a gradual downhill, back into downtown. It’s known as a fast course, but I wasn’t seriously going for another PR, just wanted to stay close. My legs were tired and I figured out what exhaustion feels like. I ended up beating my time from the previous weekend by more than a minute, setting a PR with a pace of 7:45 in 1:41:32!
This week, I’m resting.
What have I learned from these three Half Marathons?
Sure, they’re all different races, but all were different experiences, both in performance and training. Here are 3 keys I have learned to being successful in training and executing those plans to complete my first Half Marathons.
In order to succeed and accomplish your goals, you must be dedicated. You can set all the goals in the world, but if you don’t lay out a road map to execute those goals, and stick to it, those goals will be much harder to obtain. For these races, I established a training plan to run 5 days a week, change my diet to fuel that training, and came to terms that I had to give up certain habits and routines to make room for 25 to 30 miles of training each week. That dedication paid off as I covered 131 miles running during the month of August.
It’s one thing to be dedicated, but there must be a certain amount of accountability to carry through with that dedication. First, I had to be accountable to myself. I had a training plan, and I had to stick to it. If I missed a run, I couldn’t give up, but make an honest effort to make up for it. I also shared my goals and training progress online so that friends and family could hold me accountable. This also provided support and motivation when the load became heavy.
I talk about food issues all the time, but nutrition is a different story when you’re reaching 35 miles training runs in a week. You can’t eat like crap and perform well. Food is fuel and through this training, I’ve learned what works well for me. In my diet, that means proportionately higher protein, a moderate amount of vegetable and being selective about my carbohydrate and sugar intake. I eat a lot of beef (10-14 meals per week), full-fat dairy products, dark-leafy green vegetables and eggs. Once I paid closer attention to my nutrition, I saw huge changes in my physical ability to perform. Find out what works for you, hold yourself accountable and remain dedicated to that goal.
I catch many folks saying they could never run a fast pace or a certain amount of distance. That’s ok. I never thought I could run a sub-8:00 pace for an entire Half Marathon.
The only person you have to compete against is yourself. You are accountable for your own actions. Give it your all and that’ll be your PR. Not everyone competes for medals.
What’s next for me? I’ve come to love the trails and can’t spend enough time on them. I’ve created a 50k training plan… We’ll see what happens.