In lieu of recent injury events I thought I would post something positive and take a look back at my “half history.”
Something has been working for me in the half marathon. I’ve been able to change an element with each race and it’s worked in my favor every single time. I’m going to break down the changes I made with each training cycle in hopes I might help a reader or perhaps my future self! This is a read, so get yourself a cup of coffee & enjoy!
8/2/09 Rock n’ Roll 1/2 Chicago 2:24:14 My very first half. 🙂 I never did a shorter race. No 5ks, no 10ks, no 15ks. I jumped right into a half. I’m glad I did because after this race I never looked back. The half marathon is and (probably) will always be my favorite distance.
How I trained: I ran. I wanted to get healthy, be active and drop a few pounds. I ran 10-15 miles a week and never followed a training plan. I literally had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know about websites like Runner’s World, FloTrack or Competitor, and at the time I had no friends or family who were distance runners. But it didn’t matter, I was having fun. This was back in the day when didn’t have nor did I know what a Garmin was. So i’d either run, then drive my car to map distance, or do google maps. Holy cow this makes me sound ancient.
2009: 368 miles
8/1/10 Rock n’ Roll 1/2 Chicago 2:14:31 I don’t remember why i signed up to do this again, maybe to beat my time?
How I trained: I ran a more. I hit a wall at mile 8 during the first half marathon and i knew i didn’t want to feel that bad and out of gas at the end of a race so i figured running more was a good place to start. I used the Nike+ attachment for iPod to keep track of time/miles. I didn’t really understand what pace was or the difference between fast/slow. I just ran for distance. (She’s Going for Speed, just didn’t exist back then!)
2010: 695 miles
5/1/11 Cincinnati Flying Pig 1/2 2:03:57 This course is notoriously hilly. A 7 mile hill climb, then a steep downhill to the finish. I remember the day before the race telling my friends that I anticipated running a 2:30, just because i’d never ran hills before.
How I trained: You’ll notice the trend, i ran more. The thing that scared me about a hilly course was that I had nowhere to train on hills in the midwest. (“Hills” were jumping from the street up to the curb.) So i used the Stairmill for 15-20 minutes and then ran on the treadmill with tired legs. This saved me and worked for subbing hills since I pulled a 10 minute PR! The other big thing I did was hire a personal trainer. We worked on overall strength training once a week.
8/14/11 Rock n’ Roll 1/2 Chicago 1:53:07 After Flying Pig, I was excited to see what I could do on a flat course. I started taking beginner yoga classes once a week to get my stretch on. I noticed adding more miles and running faster times meant more often I had tight muscles & soreness. Yoga was helping with strength, balance & stretching even though I was developing a hip and knee issue.
I did get shin splints once, early during this training year. After seeing race photos & reading up on Runner’s World I realized my heel striking might have been the cause of the problem. I started to look at my running form & slowly tweak it. I was a heel striking, chicken wing armed, super pronator!
2011: 840 miles
9/9/12 Chicago 1/2 Marathon 1:52:44 During the Chicago Marathon (Oct 2011) I knew my hip was not right. I wanted to run more comfortably and the pain just wasn’t going away.
How I trained: First thing I did was rehab. I visited a local chiropractor. He was the first to tell me i didn’t have knee pain from a knee issue, i had knee pain from an extremely tight hip & tight hip flexor. I’d visit him about every 6-8 weeks when the problem would arise and i’d be pain free for several weeks. This was the year I was studying to become a personal trainer and make a move to the DC area. Running wasn’t at the forefront, but I still got my miles in & did one last Chicago race.
I also started to strength train on a more regular basis. About 2 times a week I was working on squats, lunges, pushups, planks and at home workout dvds (oh Jillian Michaels how you used to kick my ass). My PR wasn’t huge this time around, but a lot of personal changes were happening, and hey, a PR is a PR!
Total: 860 miles
3/16/13 USA Rock n’ Roll DC 1/2 1:46:57 The first race I did on the east coast!
How I trained: When I moved out to the DC area I wasn’t used to all the hills. My body had to adjust to the rolling terrain. This helped my speed and endurance even though I had doubts I would ever be able to run because hills were so hard. I’m dramatic, but i was seriously upset that I was running so slow, so out of breath and had to stop often because of the hills. At this point I was a personal trainer, I had a gym at my disposal and I had a much better understanding of the mechanics and physiology of the body. I started strength training and put on pounds of muscle. In January 2013, I found a sports chiropractor that started working with my problem hip–not just to make the pain disappear for a few weeks, but to fix the problem and fix it for good.
9/15/13 Rock n’ Roll 1/2 Philadelphia 1:43:25
How I Trained: From April 2013-June/July 2013, I did a lot of hip/leg strengthening and not a lot of running. I did more leg exercises and stretches than ever before. Slowly building mileage, speed work and running on a healthy hip was the simple reason for this almost 3 minute PR.
10/12/13 Baltimore Running Festival 1/2 1:41:22
How I Trained: I added this to my fall roster on a whim. I wasn’t too sore from the previous race and I thought I could tack this on without a problem. This PR happened for reasons not related to the training. I went into this race to have fun and without having a time goal. The no-pressure attitude kept me calm, relaxed and happy resulting in a huge PR just 4 weeks later.
2013: 1068 miles
3/15/14 USA Rock n’ Roll DC 1/2 1:39:57
How I Trained: After having a really PR-tastic fall, I had to settle down and figure out how the heck i was going to start pulling out more PRs and what I could do differently the next training cycle. I reached out to an online coach and awesome blogger who was confident she could help me out. This took my training to a whole new level, adding plenty of variety and increased mileage like never before.
After looking at the lengthy training descriptions, I think I’ve narrowed down the ways to PR a half.
1) Run More. (Safely of course)
2) Strength Train /Cross Train /Do something other than run.
3) Stretch/ Rehab/ Recover/ Chiro/Massage, whatever keeps your legs happy.
4) Vary your runs. Every run should not be the same. (hills, easy, tempo & long will keep you progressing forward)
5) Run Faster. You can’t run faster PRs unless you mix some form of speed work into your schedule.
6) Ask for help. Ask a coach, another runner, the guy at the shoe store, anyone who can help answer your running questions or give advice that will help.
Simple enough right? There is no quick fix to a PR, it takes work and a lot time to build endurance and speed. Be patient, take rest days and the distance and speed will come.
Give a piece of advice for runners to PR a race!
How’s your Saturday going? (This is me begging for long run details!)