What I Learned From Every Half Marathon I Ran- Part 2

If you missed part one, you can read it here What I Learned From Every Half Marathon I Ran. TLDR? I went through the half marathons I ran in all 50 states beginning with my first one in North Carolina in 2000. I briefly state what I learned at each race, since after all, life is a learning process. In my first post, I stopped at a half marathon I ran in Mississippi in 2010 so that’s where I’ll start here.

Picking back up where I left, although I was struggling with health issues at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon in November of 2010, my health continued to deteriorate for another reason. By the time of the Arbuckles to Ardmore Half Marathon in Oklahoma in March of 2011, I had full-blown anemia. This was my 21st state (and 23rd half marathon) but my first experience with anemia. I was borderline in need of a transfusion but my doctor chose to prescribe heavy doses of iron pills along with B12 and other vitamins to help with absorption. She also told me not to run. I learned it is indeed possible to run a half marathon if you don’t mind going slowly (but I certainly don’t endorse this).

At the Missoula Half Marathon in Montana I learned to be better prepared for drastic changes in weather at races. Although it was supposed to be mid-50’s at the start of the race, a cold front had moved in the day before the race so it was predicted to drop to the low 40’s that morning. For some people, that’s shorts and short-sleeve weather but not for this southern gal. I went to a running store in search of running pants but the closest they had was capris, in a size smaller than I normally wore. I bought them anyway and while not ideal, at least my legs weren’t freezing.

I learned having elite runners at a race can have its perks for everyone else. When I ran the Kaiser Realty Coastal Half Marathon in Alabama, elite runners Deena Kastor and Johnny Gray were speakers there (they didn’t run the race) and we were treated to one of the best post-race spreads I’ve ever had at a race. At the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, I learned it’s possible to have fun and not be overwhelmed at big races as long as they’re well-organized like this one. I learned just how hot it gets in Chicago in June at the Chicago 13.1 Half Marathon.

At the Amica Half Marathon in Newport, Rhode Island, I learned just how much of an underrated state this smallest of the US states is. The Covenant Health Knoxville Half Marathon showed me just how insanely hilly Knoxville is (one of the hilliest races I’ve ever run). I learned how amazingly scenic the islands off the coast of Washington are when I ran the San Juan Island Half Marathon.

I learned that all-women’s races have a different vibe than coed races do when I ran the All Women & One Lucky Guy Half Marathon in Newburyport, Massachusetts. The New York City 13.1 showed me how many fun half marathons (and other distances) New York State and New York City has and you don’t have to run the bigger, better-known races to have a great race (this was in Queens). When I ran the Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, Maine, I learned just how hot and hilly Maine is in July but since it’s so beautiful, it’s worth it.

The Roller Coaster Half Marathon in Branson, Missouri showed me it’s possible for someone who had never even finished in the top three in her age group before to finish first. After I ran the Frederick Running Festival Half Marathon in Maryland and learned the race director was my daughter’s teacher’s niece, I learned what a small world it truly is. The Spearfish Canyon Half Marathon in South Dakota showed me two things: 1) South Dakota is entirely different in many ways than North Dakota and 2) I love races that start at the top of a canyon and you run down it.

In September of 2015, I learned that some race directors were still not using timing chips at the Dixville Half Marathon in Colebrook, New Hampshire. At the McKenzie River Half Marathon in Eugene, Oregon, I learned just how intense runners are in this part of the country. I asked someone at the packet pickup about the hills and was told, “they’re not that bad,” only to find out the only flat portions were the first two miles and the last mile, with none of the hills going down, only up. The Boulder Rez Half Marathon in Colorado showed me what I already suspected, that running at altitude is no joke.

I learned sometimes race directors try to cram too many events into one race at the Silver Strand Half Marathon in California. In addition to the half marathon, there was a 5k, 10 miler, and half marathon for skaters, handcyclers, and wheelchair racers and the course was extremely crowded. I learned it can be so cold in Utah in February that despite wearing gloves, my fingers were still cold at the end of the Dogtown Half Marathon and my feet were numb for the first couple of miles. The Superhero Half Marathon in Morristown, New Jersey showed me how much fun it was to see other people’s costumes at a race (I didn’t dress up).

The Marshall University Half Marathon in Huntington, West Virginia showed me how cool it was to run with a football on a football field at the end of a race. The Famous Potato Half Marathon in Boise, Idaho showed me how life often doesn’t turn out how you think it will but that can be a good thing. For years I thought I’d run a half marathon in Coeur d’Alene for my Idaho race but the timing was never right so I signed up for this race in Boise and loved it. I learned it’s possible to have a not-so-unique race even in such a beautiful state as Alaska at the Skinny Raven Half Marathon in Anchorage. The course was primarily on greenways, with little water views and overall not that scenic in my opinion.

I learned it’s possible to have a blazing fast course, plenty of amazing volunteers, boatloads of food before and after the race, huge medals, and quality shirts for finishers at small races like the White River Half Marathon in tiny little Cotter, Arkansas. At the Seashore Classic Half Marathon in Lewes, Delaware, I learned running on crushed gravel is killer on the legs and a frozen strawberry daiquiri really hits the spot after a tough race. I learned it’s possible to PR at high elevation if the race has a downhill start like the Star Valley Half Marathon in Thayne, Wyoming.

The Hot Cider Hustle Half Marathon in Omaha, Nebraska taught me to tie my shoelaces better before a race. I had double-knotted them but they still came untied and that 20-something seconds it took me to tie them likely cost me a third place age group finish. At the Circle of Life Half Marathon in Lake City, Minnesota, I learned that “Minnesota nice” is real. Those were some of the friendliest and nicest people I had ever chatted with at a race.

I learned it’s possible to PR at your 51st half marathon at the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon in Iowa. This race also showed me that Des Moines knows how to put on a half marathon right, with so many little touches and big additions as well. The Albuquerque Half Marathon in New Mexico showed me life truly is all about the journey. Although many things went wrong or not exactly ideal before, during, and after this race and it didn’t end on such a high point as I would have liked, I learned running a half marathon in all 50 states isn’t just about state number 50, but the point is every single state along the way that adds up to all 50 states.

So that’s it- 53 half marathons in 21 years and what I learned along the way. Every single race taught me something, sometimes big things, sometimes smaller things but they were all lessons nonetheless.

If you’d like to read more in-depth about any of the half marathons I’ve run, check out my page here: https://runningtotravel.wordpress.com/half-marathons/

What lessons have you learned from half marathons or other races you’ve run?

Happy running!

Donna

What I Learned From Every Half Marathon I Ran

Life is really just a learning process, right? If you don’t learn as you go along, you don’t make progress and grow as a person. Looking back at the half marathons I’ve run, I realized I learned something at each and every race. Sometimes the things I learned were life-changing and with others it was just minor things I probably knew already but they were re-emphasized to me.

Let’s take a look back at the half marathons I’ve run over the years, going back to the very first half marathon I ever ran, way back in 2000, up to the present day. For most of these, I’ll keep it brief but for the truly life-changing races, I may dig a bit deeper. Hopefully this will be fun, so let’s see!

My very first half marathon, the Battleship Half Marathon in Wilmington, North Carolina in November 2000 was quite a learning experience for me. The weather was crazy, with freezing rain and even snow, which is almost unheard of in this southern coastal city. By the time I finished, my arms and shoulders were so tired I could barely lift them to take my sports bra and running shirt off. I learned several things after this race but the top ones were: 1) I needed to start lifting weights, concentrating on upper body exercises, 2) I learned what a huge factor the weather can be and I knew I could run this race faster under more ideal weather conditions, and 3) I learned I was hooked on running half marathons and wanted to do more.

When I ran the 2001 Battleship Half Marathon, sure enough, I cut several minutes off my finish time and the weather was a beautiful day for a race! I learned the importance of being prepared for a half marathon with strength training and a training plan. The Gold Rush Half Marathon in Concord, North Carolina taught me that heat, hills, and humidity is a nasty combination when it comes to races and to avoid the possibility of the 3H’s at all costs when signing up for a race!

Philadelphia Distance Run (can you find me?)

The Kona Half Marathon in Hawaii (at least when I ran it) was on the same course as the Ironman running portion. It was hot and hilly (but not humid) and beautiful. I loved every second of it and I learned having great views along a course goes a long way! When I ran the Philadelphia Distance Run, I learned big races can be fun as long as they’re well-organized, which this one was.

Kiawah Island Half Marathon in South Carolina is very flat but also tends to have strong headwinds. I learned races along the beach can be difficult despite being flat because of the winds. When I ran the Valley of the Sun Half Marathon in Phoenix, I learned it’s possible to run a half marathon when pregnant as long as you follow your doctor’s recommendations and advice.

The Columbus Distance Run was a race I never should have run. I had been suffering from Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) before this race and had pain in my knee after running only a couple of miles at a time but I ran it anyway. I couldn’t run for months after the race and I learned sometimes you should DNS (did not start) a race if you’re injured.

After running the Louisville Half Marathon in Kentucky, I learned to research my races better because like the race in Columbus, Ohio, this race was just OK with nothing exceptional about it. The Naples Daily News Half Marathon in Florida taught me there are plenty of fun races in Florida besides Disney and they don’t have to cost a fortune and you don’t have to get up at 3 in the morning on race day either! Covered Bridges Half Marathon in Woodstock, Vermont taught me how much I love Vermont and left me wanting to see the rest of the New England states.

I was surprised at how stifling hot it was at the half marathon in Connecticut!

When I ran the Marathon of the Americas and Half Marathon in San Antonio, Texas, I learned the importance of working in some vacation days after a race; San Antonio is a fun city to explore. The Laughlin Half Marathon in Nevada showed me you can’t always trust the website descriptions for a race (I didn’t find it scenic at all) and packed dirt with gravel on top is horrible to try to run on. Stratton Faxon Half Marathon in Fairfield, Connecticut showed me that even the New England states can get extremely hot during the summer.

The Evansville Half Marathon in Indiana showed me that sometimes taking that leap of faith to run in small towns you’ve never heard of can be worth it (it was my fastest half marathon to date and I loved every minute of the race). Run the Reagan in Snellville, Georgia taught me it’s not fun at all to run along a freeway and even more miserable when it’s raining and cold. The Bayshore Half Marathon in Traverse City, Michigan showed me popular races are popular for a reason (this one sold out quickly when I signed up) and I loved the scenic course.

Finishing on a track was fun at the half in Traverse City, Michigan!

Kroll’s Diner Half Marathon in Bismarck, North Dakota showed me it can be tough to find a half marathon that fits in with your schedule in some states, with North Dakota being one. When I was looking for a half marathon there, I could only find a few races and to this day there are only a handful. Ole Man River Half Marathon in New Orleans showed me even a fun, quirky city like New Orleans can have plain and ordinary races like this one. The Olathe Half Marathon in Kansas showed me some race directors aren’t thoughtful at all when planning a race course and will take you through industrial areas and past neighborhoods with just ordinary houses (or maybe that was just the best they had to offer for a safe course).

The Madison Mini-Marathon in Wisconsin showed me when you run a half marathon in August, even in a state as far north as Wisconsin, it’s going to be HOT so you’d better be prepared for slower race times. I learned a couple of things when I ran the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon: 1) just because you’re running in a cool place like a space center doesn’t mean you’ll see actual rockets and 2) it sometimes gets cold in Mississippi in late November (I was not expecting it to be in the 30’s).

I’m going to stop here since I still have several half marathons to go and this post is already pretty lengthy. I’ll continue with the rest of the half marathon lessons in another post.

What about you? What lessons have you learned from half marathons or other races you’ve ran?

Happy running!

Donna

How I Did It

I recently reviewed Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery’s book How She Did It, which you can read here (Book Review- How She Did It. Stories, Advice, and Secrets to Success from 50 Legendary Distance Runners by Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery).

In my review, I also provided a link to their website where you can buy a copy of their book and if you go there, you’ll see it includes a reader worksheet. This is the same list of questions the authors asked everyone they interviewed for their book. I thought it would be interesting for me to post the questions on the worksheet and put my personal answers here. Here goes!

YOUR CHAPTER

Below are the questions we asked all the athletes interviewed in How She Did It.

Use these questions as a guide as you think about your own experience. Then, look at the answers from the athletes in the book. Do you notice any similarities? Come back to this page often and review how your answers change over time

What were your PR’s?

Although I ran on my elementary school’s track team, I have no idea what my times were for the distances I ran then (the mile, 800 meter, and 4 x 400 meter relay). That was the only time I ran on a school team and the only time I raced shorter distances. I didn’t start racing until I was an adult so I only have PR’s from the last 22 years. I bring this up because in the book, people had PR’s from high school, college, and beyond. Here are my PR’s: 5k- 26:53 (May 2022), 10k- 52:27 (July 2021), 10-mile- 1:27:13 (April 2022), Half Marathon- 1:51:20 (October 2021).

How did you get into running?

As I mentioned above, I started running on my elementary school’s track team. Our PE teacher was phenomenal and I believe a big part of why I’ve always been athletic is because of his encouragement. I’ve always also had a drive in me and the adrenaline rush from running has kept me going.

What major setbacks/challenges did you face as an athlete?

I had shin splints in college that stopped me from running for a few years. At their peak, they were so painful I was in tears as I walked home from a run and that deterred me from running for a long time. I also had ITBS (iliotibial band syndrome) that I developed after the birth of my daughter when I was training for a half marathon in Ohio. I tried to push through the pain and keep running but that was not a good idea and I was forced to stop running for a few months after that race.

If you have this setback/setbacks, describe how long you were off from running competing? How did you overcome the issue?

I already answered the part about how long I was off from running. I overcame shin splints by buying better running shoes, focusing more on recovery, and just training more properly. My foam roller and deep tissue massages helped me recover from ITBS and it’s not been a problem since I incorporated both of those things into my regular practice.

What is your best race following your setback (or your best race ever!)?

My best race ever was the IMT Des Moines Half Marathon (see photo above). It was one of those races where all of the stars were aligned and I felt like I was flying on the course. In a close second (or maybe even a tie) was the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta where I had a huge smile plastered on my face for the entire 10k. Not surprisingly those were also my fastest races.

What are you most proud of in your running journey?

I don’t consider myself a “proud” person in general; I don’t go around bragging about myself or my accomplishments. That being said, I am proud of completing my goal to run a half marathon in all 50 states. It took commitment and perseverance on my part and the journey changed my life.

What did you learn and what would you have done differently?

I’m not sure if this question relates to the previous question but that’s how I’m going to answer it. I learned that I’m stronger than I give myself credit for (physically and mentally). I also learned that big goals are achievable if you make them a priority (I realize sometimes that’s just not possible so I’m not saying it’s easy to do that). I would have changed a couple of the races I ran and chosen different ones, with the Run the Reagan just outside of Atlanta high on the list as one of my most miserable races.

Who makes up your support system? (coaches, trainers, family, teammates, friends?)

My support system has changed over the years. For all 17 years of her life my daughter has been my biggest fan and supporter. She traveled with me to all but 3 states for the half marathons I ran (Pennsylvania, Iowa, and New Mexico) and always cheered me on. Never once when she was younger did she complain when I told her I was going on a training run. Now that she’s older she’ll often have a cold glass of water with Nuun waiting for me after a run.

What is your favorite workout?

My favorite workout is one that incorporates quarter mile repeats. They’re over before I know it but I feel like they make me faster and stronger.

What is your most interesting/funny race story?

Believe it or not, despite running somewhere around 60 races, I don’t really have any interesting or funny race stories that come to mind. I guess maybe the best I can think of was the half marathon in Boise, Idaho where a guy was running with a pool cue balanced on a finger, trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.

If you could give other girls in sport one piece of advice, what would it be?

My piece of advice for other girls in sport would be to listen to your body to notice any changes and seek help from either a coach or physical therapist when necessary. If something feels off, figure out why that is. For example, if you have a pain on the side of your knee, figure out what’s causing that pain and work on getting rid of that pain. Don’t continue running if something hurts. It’s not worth the damage you’ll inevitably do and be forced to take time off from running.

What has been most rewarding about your running journey?

The most rewarding part of my running journey has 100% been the people I’ve met along the way. I still remember conversations I had with other runners years ago either before or after a race. Joining a running club has been one of the best things I’ve ever done and have made lifelong friends. Connecting with other runners through my blog and social media has also been one of the best parts about my running journey.

Have you read How She Did It? Did you fill out this worksheet? If you did, is there anything from it you’d like to share or discuss?

Happy Running!

Donna

Book Review- How She Did It. Stories, Advice, and Secrets to Success from 50 Legendary Distance Runners by Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery

When I heard Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery were working on a book, I was excited about reading it. Molly Huddle is a two-time Olympian for Team USA and a six-time American record-holder and Sara Slattery represented the US at the IAAF World Cross-Country Championship and was a four-time NCAA champion. Knowing this, it was interesting to see what kind of book these two accomplished runners would write.

How She Did It is different from any other book about runners that I’ve read. First, it’s only about female runners and includes parts taken from interviews the authors had with 50 prominent female runners going back to the pioneers like Patti Catalano Dillon (also pictured on the cover), Kathrine Switzer, and Cheryl Bridges Flanagan Treworgy, Shalane Flanagan’s mom and ends with more recent runners like Aliphine Tuliamuk and Sally Kipyego.

The authors’ main question was “How did you do it?” but they asked similar questions like what was their support system like, how did they overcome challenges, how did they take care of their bodies, along with the general information about personal records at different stages of their running careers. There were many overlapping stories with the athletes such as stress fractures from under-fueling.

There’s much more to this book than interviews with famous runners. After an introduction by the authors about how the idea for the book was conceived and their running stories, part one is called “The Experts.” Huddle and Slattery brought in experts to help cover what they call the four keys to being a healthy young female runner. The four areas are: physical health and injury prevention, hormonal health, sound nutrition, and mental health and sports psychology. Not only is there advice from experts they talked to on each of the four areas, there are citations of scientific articles included in case anyone wants to dive deeper.

Part two is the bulk of the book and is comprised of the athlete interviews, which I’ve already discussed. While I enjoyed reading about each of the athletes in the book, I found it did get a bit much and in my opinion some of the athletes could have been left out. I heard on a podcast with the two authors that originally the book included interviews from 80 female runners and they whittled that down to 50, so I guess they already felt like they were cutting out quite a chunk of their book.

The next-to-last section, called “The Cooldown,” is short and includes anecdotes that happened to some of the runners in the book that weren’t included in part two. For example, Molly Seidel tells the story about when her phone was stolen from a track in Ethiopia and the whole town came together to help find it. Carrie Tollefson recalls the story about how her husband proposed to her on a run.

The final section, “Favorite Workouts” includes some of the runners in the book’s favorite running workouts, as you might imagine. I found most of these extremely vague so you won’t find true workouts, at least not in the sense I think of as a workout. For example, 2008 Olympian Anna Willard Grenier states that “all-out 200s, all-out 300s, and 150s” were her favorite workouts. Four-time Olympian Coleen De Reuck’s favorite workouts are “hill repeats. I don’t go too far because I think if your form breaks down, then you lose some benefits.” It’s interesting but is less than four pages long and just has comments from ten runners.

In total, the book is 336 pages in the paperback version and it’s available on Amazon and other book sellers. I borrowed it from my public library, which I encourage others to do unless it’s a book you know you’d read over and over. For most books, I like to see if they’re available at the library before I buy them. It’s better for the environment and is a lot cheaper! Or, you can order directly from the website and get a signed copy: https://howshediditbook.com.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. I’ve never read a book comprised solely of information about female runners through the years and from this type of angle. It’s not meant to be a training guide so as long as you don’t think that’s what you’ll be getting, it’s a worthwhile read.

Have you read this book or heard about it? If so, what did you think? Would you like to read this book?

Happy running!

Donna

My Tried and True Half Marathon Training Plan

First a disclaimer: I am not a running coach nor do I have any running certifications or affiliations. What I am is a runner who has been running races since 2000 and I’ve run a half marathon in all 50 states (plus a marathon, 5ks, 10ks, a 10-miler, and a 15k). Over the years, I’ve used many training plans including ones I’ve gotten from books, online, and from other runners. Since I’ve run more half marathons by far than any other distance, that’s what I’m going to focus on here.

When I discovered this particular half marathon training plan several years ago, I liked it for a few different reasons, which I’ll cover in a moment, but I did tweak it over the years. At first glance, you can see there are 5 running days with an option for another. When I first used this plan I was going by the “Run Less Run Faster” training plan where you only run 3 days a week so it would have been a stretch for me to go from 3 days a week to 6 and even jumping from 3 to 5 concerned me. It turns out running 5 days a week was the perfect sweet spot for me.

If you’re not familiar, the Run Less Run Faster program focuses entirely on speed work and a long run; there are no easy recovery days. This seemed to be working for me for a while but I began to feel like I was in a running rut and I needed a new plan, hence the training plan I will go over here. I feel like this training plan needs a name so I’ll just call it “Donna’s Half Marathon Training Plan” to keep it simple, or “Donna’s Plan” to keep it even more simple from here on since we all know it’s a half marathon training plan.

I finished first in my age group with this training plan (in Missouri)!!!

In Donna’s Plan, there are both timed runs and distance-measured runs, so for example, some days you may run for 45 minutes and other days you may run 5 miles. I like this mix of both timed and distance-measured runs because I feel like if you’re only running by time all of the time it may be not give you enough time on your feet to prepare you for the race. If a training plan says to run for 60 minutes and you’re super-speedy you’re going to cover much more ground than someone who’s running 11- or 12 minute-miles. No matter what your speed is you need to get that time on your feet before the half marathon.

On the other hand, if you only run by distance, it can get to be a bit of a head game for some people. You see that you have to run 12 miles and you think, “I’ve never run that far before. I’m not sure I can do that” and you may talk yourself out of it and run for 9 miles instead. Likewise, if you see you’re supposed to run for 6 miles during the week and you work full-time and have a family and a million other things to do, it’s too easy to tell yourself it’s ok to just run 4 miles even though the plan calls for 6 miles. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like people are more likely to get hung up on the distance-measured runs than timed runs.

Having a mix of both timed and distance-measured runs seems like a good mix to give you the confidence you need as you gradually build up both the distance and time you run. Speaking of gradual build-up, it’s important to give yourself the full 14 weeks to complete the plan. You don’t want to jump into the plan by skipping the first few weeks nor do you want to cut the training plan short by skipping the last few weeks. Donna’s Plan also assumes you’ve already built up a base of at least 25 miles/week and have been consistently running at least 5 miles for your long run.

I’ll discuss some of the terms used in the plan now.

Distance Runs are timed by minutes. They’re meant to be easy runs.

Intervals are speed workouts that include tempo runs and runs at interval pace. Tempo runs are meant to be about 25 seconds per mile slower than 5k race pace. Interval pace is supposed to be close to your current 3k or 5k race pace. This could also be referred to as a VO2max workout.

Fartlek runs are divided into three parts, a warmup, then faster brief segments that are usually repeated such as 8 x 45 seconds, and a cooldown. These are timed runs in Donna’s Plan.

Long runs sometimes include part of them at your goal half marathon pace or they can be at even distance/long run pace.

One day is slated as either a rest day, aerobic cross training (such as cycling, eliptical, rowing or some other non-impact activity) or an easy 30 minute run. If you’ve never run a half marathon before or haven’t run one in a while, I suggest you take this as a rest day.

Strides are usually done at the end of a run but can be done in the middle if you need a little pick-me-up. They aren’t meant to be sprinted all-out but help improve turnover. Focus on your form; you want to be relaxed with light footfall landings, and quick push-off. These are 15-20 seconds each.

One last note, the plan starts on Monday and includes runs on Monday, Tuesday, (optional on Wednesday), Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Sunday is a rest day every week. If you prefer to do your long runs on Sundays, you should shift everything so that you’re still running three days in a row. In this case, your day off would be Thursday instead of Wednesday and you would run Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I PR’d with this plan for my 51st half marathon in state number 49 (Iowa)!!!

Week 1

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy running, 6 x 400 meters at interval pace with 1:30 jogging recovery between. Cooldown 1 mile easy. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 35 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 2 x 3 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 35 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 5 to 6 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 2

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 10 x 300 meters at interval pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 35 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 5-7 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 35 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 5 to 6 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 3

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 15 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 8 x 400 meters at interval pace with 1:30 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 3 x 3 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 6 to 7 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 4

Monday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 6 x 1000 meters at tempo pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 6 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 8 x 1 minute pickups at 5k race effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 8 mile long run. First 4 miles at long distance easy pace then last 4 miles at half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 5

Monday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Intervals- Warmup 1 mile easy, 10 x 400 meters at interval pace with 1:30 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 5-6 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 3 x 4 minutes at tempo effort with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 9 to 10 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 6

Monday- Distance Run- 40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo run- Warmup 1 mile easy, 4 x 1 mile at tempo pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 6 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 15 minutes easy, then 12 x 30 seconds pickups at 5k effort with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 11 miles. First 5 miles at long distance run pace, last 6 miles at goal half marathon pace.

Week 7

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 4-5 x 1 miles at tempo pace with 1:00 jogging recovery. Cooldown 1 mile. Total 7-9 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 10 x 30 second pickups at 5k race pace with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run- 13-14 miles at easy even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 8

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 3 miles at tempo pace with 5 minutes jogging recovery, 1 mile at tempo pace. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-8 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 10 x 45 second pickups at 5k race pace with 45 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 12 miles. First 6 miles at easy long distance pace, last 6 at half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 9

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 2 x 2 miles at tempo pace with 2 minutes jogging recovery. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-8 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 8 x 1 minute pickups at 5k race pace with 1 minute easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 13-14 miles at even pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 10

Monday- Distance Run- 40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 3 miles at tempo pace followed by 2 miles easy, followed by 2 x 1 miles at tempo pace with 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 8-10 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 4 x 1:30 minute pickups at 5k race pace with 1:30 minute easy between then 4 x 1:00 minute pickups with 1:00 easy + 4 x 30 seconds pickups with 30 seconds easy. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-45 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 11 miles. First 3-4 miles at long distance pace then increase last 7-8 miles to goal half marathon pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 11

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 4-5 x 1 mile at tempo pace with 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-9 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 10 x 30 second pickups at 5k race pace with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30-40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 13-14 miles at easy pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 12

Monday- Distance Run- 40-50 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1-2 miles easy, 6-7 x 1000 meters at tempo pace with 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1-2 miles. Total 6-8 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 45 minute run. Start with 10-15 minutes easy, then 8 x 45 second pickups at 5k race pace with 45 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 45 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 11 miles. Run first 3-4 miles at long distance pace then increase final miles to half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 13

Monday- Distance Run- 40 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1 mile easy, then 3 miles at tempo pace. Cooldown 1 mile easy. Total 5 miles.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Light Fartlek- 40 minute run. Start with 10 minutes easy, then 8 x 30 second pickups at 5k race pace with 30 seconds easy between. Cooldown easy to reach 40 minutes.

Friday- Distance Run- 20-30 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Saturday- Long Run 7-8 miles. Run first 3-4 miles at long distance pace then increase final miles to half marathon goal pace.

Sunday- Rest Day.

Week 14

Monday- Distance Run- 30 minutes + 6 x 20 second strides.

Tuesday- Tempo- Warmup 1 mile easy, then 4 x 1000 meters at tempo pace. 1 minute rest between. Cooldown 1 mile easy.

Wednesday- Rest day, aerobic cross-training 30-45 minutes, or easy 30 minute run.

Thursday- Easy short run 30 minutes + 6 x 10 second strides.

Friday- Rest day.

Saturday- Easy 20-30 minute shakeout run.

Sunday- RACE DAY!

That’s it! That’s Donna’s Half Marathon Training Plan. It’s worked well for me because I was able to PR using this plan for my 51st half marathon in Iowa, my 49th state last October. I like the plan because it’s challenging enough but not so overwhelming that I’m not able to hit my goal times or run the specified distances.

What about you- do you have a tried and true half marathon plan you use for races? Or would you prefer to just wing it and run by feel on race day? Do you feel too “locked-in” or are you just too busy to follow most training plans?

Happy running!

Donna

Bucket List Running Goals and Motivation

Most people that regularly follow my blog know that I had a big goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states and I ran state number 50 in New Mexico last November. What you probably don’t know is since then I’ve been slacking off quite a bit when it comes to my running. Since my half marathon in November I’ve run a couple of races, Catching Fireflies 5k- My First Night Race! in May and Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in April but that’s it. I was supposed to run a race in February but it was postponed until next February.

The major reason I haven’t run that many races or started working on another big goal for myself is my daughter has been going through a serious health situation. It’s not cancer or anything like that but a chronic condition she’s had since she was 9. She’s under the supervision of some incredible doctors and we hope she’ll be through the worst of it soon and her life will greatly improve by the time she goes back to high school in late August.

It’s been extremely stressful for me as her mother, and I’ve had to take her to multiple doctor visits and stay in the hospital with her around the clock multiple times sometimes for more than a week at a time. Of course it’s been even harder for her. She’s supposed to be having fun with her friends and just enjoying life as a teenager, not being in and out of the hospital for months on end.

I realize you may have seen the title and thought I was going to announce a big bucket list running goal, but I’m not. While I did say at the beginning of the year that I would like to start running a half marathon in all of the Canadian provinces in my running resolutions post in January (Running Resolutions and My Word for 2022), that’s not going to happen any time soon. When I wrote that, I thought it would be possible to run a couple of half marathons in Canada this year but since then things have changed and there’s no way that will happen. Maybe next year.

Taken on a run with my daughter back in 2020

In hindsight now I can see when I had the goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states, that definitely gave me motivation to run. I know not everyone needs a big goal to keep them motivated but for me it certainly helps. Even running local races hasn’t been possible for me since late spring. I just haven’t had the time to devote to training for much of a race other than possibly a 5k. Plus, once the summer heat and humidity kicked in here in late May, there were less and less races so my options dwindled.

Although it took me 21 years to complete my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, I never doubted it would happen. It was always about the journey for me anyway. I’ve never been the type of person to run a race just to check off a box (not that there’s anything wrong with that; to each his/her own). But I always wanted to spend at least a few days, preferably more in every state to get an idea about what the state was like, or at least the part or parts of the state I was in, try the local foods, and talk to the local people.

Even though bucket list running goals are a huge motivator for me, it’s OK that I’m not working on any big running goals now. It’s OK that my motivation to run has dwindled. And it’s OK that my overall running has slacked probably more than it has in over 20 years. Obviously my daughter comes first before anything else.

Honestly, it’s not like I’m not motivated, either. That’s not truly stating how I feel. I would love to be able to train for half marathons and travel to run them. The timing just isn’t right for me at the moment to be able to do that. It’s more like my motivation to run local short distance races has waned a bit. But then again, I never was motivated to run local short races other than the 5k I ran in May, so that’s nothing new.

I have no doubt things will improve with my daughter and once that happens, I can jump back into things. Well, I should probably ease back into things and not overdo it. Still, I know this isn’t permanent and eventually I’ll be able to start on my bucket list goal of running a half marathon in all of the Canadian provinces. Until then, I’m going to continue running when I can and be content with that.

What about you? Have you had a bucket list running goal you’ve had to put on hold for something other than covid? Do you have a bucket list running goal/s or does that not appeal to you and you’d rather just see what races pop up?

Happy running!

Donna

Book Review- Next Level. Your Guide to Kicking A$$, Feeling Great, and Crushing Goals Through Menopause and Beyond by Stacy Sims with Selene Yeager

When I saw that Stacy Sims was coming out with another book, I was excited. If you don’t know who Stacy Sims is, she’s a PhD researcher who studies exercise nutrition and performance in women and focuses on athlete health and performance. Dr. Sims has lectures she calls “Women are Not Small Men” and has been trying to make people more aware that much of the research done in relation to exercise has historically been done in men, not women, and as we all know, women’s bodies are very different from men’s.

The Foreword for this book is Selene Yeager’s personal experience with menopause beginning at the age of 43 and how Stacy was able to help her by adjusting her training, adding adaptogens to her diet, and lifting heavy weight. After implementing some of the advice Dr. Sims gave her, Ms. Yeager won a tough bike race at the age of 50. Instead of just saying that her best days were behind her, Ms. Yeager gained back her confidence in herself and continued challenging herself.

Next Level was written especially for active women either approaching menopause or experiencing menopause. The book is broken into two sections, Part 1: Menopause Explained is just what it sounds like. There are simple, easy to understand explanations of perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Differences among races and ethnicities are given as well. For example, Asian women are able to metabolize isoflavones in soy better than women in Western countries. This is important because isoflavones can help reduce hot flashes.

Also included in Part 1 are some common menopause symptoms and some things you can do to help reduce the effects. Dr. Sims gives some advice on how to deal with heavy periods, as many women experience heavier than usual periods during perimenopause.

Part 2: Menopause Performance is the bulk of the book. Several pages are devoted to information on menopausal hormone therapy, past and more recent research on the subject, bioidentical hormones, and nonhormone options. She extensively covers adaptogens that are life-savers for many women. Adaptogens are plants that increase your body’s resistance to stress. When you take adaptogens in pill form, they block some of your cortisol response, resulting in a stimulating or relaxing effect depending on the adaptogen. I really appreciated this section and found it descriptive of what each adaptogen is good for, how it works, the results from studies, and how much to take.

Dr. Sims also discusses why sprint interval training (SIT) is hugely important for menopausal women. There are several examples of SIT exercises including how to do them. She is also a huge proponent of women lifting heavy weights, which is emphasized in the book, and she also gives some warm-up exercises, complete with photos. The importance of jumping exercises is brought up, with the reminder that running isn’t enough to help prevent bone loss. Several plyometric exercises are given, along with photos and good descriptions. That’s one area I was lacking in before and I’ve started doing the plyometrics circuit in her book a few times a week. It’s quite the heart-pumping workout, too!

There’s one chapter on gut health and another on diet, including fad diets like ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting. One thing many people don’t realize is women respond differently than men to intermittent fasting. Studies have shown women that fast have increased oxidative stress, slower thyroid function and slower metabolism. For women who exercise, the negative effects from fasting are amplified.

Several chapters are devoted to nutrition and the timing of fueling in relation to exercise and a chapter on sleep. There’s a chapter on core exercises and more examples with photos given. Finally, there’s a chapter on supplements including everything from vitamin D to creatine. I didn’t know that women have 70-80% lower creatine stores than men. As a result, Sims recommends menopausal women take 0.3 grams per kilograms a day of creatine for 5-7 days and then cut back to a lower daily dose (but she doesn’t say how much that is); alternatively, she suggests taking a routine daily dose of 3-5 grams.

In the final chapter, “Pulling it all Together,” Sims encourages women to take inventory of their symptoms, track your body composition, schedule your training and workout days, and plan your nutrition. She says to track everything for four weeks and see what worked and what didn’t work and try different things if necessary.

As a perimenopausal woman, I absolutely devoured this book. To my knowledge, this is the first book related to menopause geared toward active women. Some of the information was new to me and some I had heard before. Overall, I absolutely recommend this book to any woman in her mid-30’s to 40’s who is active. There are many scientific papers referenced, personal examples given throughout the book, and practical advice any older woman can appreciate.

Have you read this book? If so, what did you think? If you have not read Stacy Sim’s other book I have a review here: Review of “Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” by Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager.

Happy running!

Donna

Book Review- Run Like a Pro (Even If You’re Slow). Elite Tools and Tips for Running at Every Level by Matt Fitzgerald and Ben Rosario

Have you ever been curious about what it’s like to be an elite runner? I personally have never wanted to run for a living but I know many runners who are at least curious about that type of lifestyle. This book claims that elite runners aren’t as different from us mortal runners as we might think.

Matt Fitzgerald has written over 20 books and has been a contributor to many publications like Runner’s World and Outside. He is a runner and while in his late 40’s he had the opportunity to run with the NAZ elite Hoka team in Flagstaff, Arizona for three months. Another of Fitzgerald’s books, Running the Dream: One Summer Living, Training, and Racing with a Team of World-Class Runners Half My Age (which I have not read) is apparently partly about his experience in Arizona and trying to achieve a lofty goal time at the Chicago Marathon. In this book, Run Like a Pro, Fitzgerald also discusses some of the things he learned from that experience in Flagstaff.

Ben Rosario, the co-author, is the head coach of the Northern Arizona (NAZ) Elite team, which he and his wife Jen founded in 2014. The NAZ elite Hoka team is considered one of the best distance running teams in the United States. Rosario’s contributions to the book includes Coach’s Tips at the end of each chapter.

The book is broken down into 14 chapters but the last five chapters are training plans, starting with beginner’s, intermediate, and more advanced levels each for the 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, and ultramarathon distances. Several of the chapters include topics you would expect like nutrition, recovery, and managing mileage but there are also chapters on mindset (Think Like a Pro) and how to learn to pace yourself (Pace Like a Pro). I believe mindset is a huge divider between “middle of the pack” runners and “faster” runners. If you think you aren’t capable of running fast, you likely won’t be. Of course you have to put in the work but if you don’t think you can ever get faster, chances are you won’t.

Some points from the book that I thought I’d highlight here includes one that shouldn’t be surprising but really drives home the difference between faster runners and slower runners. In a 2017 study in Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine with 97 marathon runners, they found the faster runners trained much more than the slower runners, and there were incremental increases with a link between training runs and marathon times. In other words, if you run 30 miles a week on average and run a marathon, you’re probably going to be considerably slower than someone who trains 60 miles a week for a marathon, and someone who trains 60 miles a week will likely be slower than someone who trains 80 miles a week. Of course there is a limit and everyone needs to find that sweet spot of enough miles to be challenging but not too many to break down the body.

Another point Fitzgerald emphasizes is we should be measuring our runs by time, not distance. Like he says, on marathon day, someone running 10-minute miles will take longer to finish than someone running 7-minute miles so you need to prepare by spending that time on your feet. He also says to consider your event focus, but not too much. If you’re training for a 5k, your first thought might be that you don’t have to run that long of long runs since a 5k is only 3.1 miles. However, he says elite runners stay in shape for running anything from a 5k all the way up to a marathon, with the mindset that if you’re fit enough to run a marathon, you should be fit enough to run a 5k as well.

One of the most important points in the book and one that I really need to get better at is the 80/20 intensity balance. This means you should run 80% of your training runs at a slow enough pace that you can carry on a conversation and the remaining 20% of your runs should be at a high intensity. He says too many runners fall into the moderate intensity rut, where you don’t slow down for the majority of your runs so that when it’s time to focus on speed work, you don’t have enough left in the tank to run them as fast as you would if you would have slowed down on the other runs. It’s emphasized to sit down and calculate the paces you should be running for each run to make sure you’re meeting the 80/20 balance.

As you might expect, there are pages and pages of what I’ll call body work exercises, like form drills, plyometrics, and strength training exercises. Form drills (like butt kicks) are important for good form, plyometrics (like box jumps) increase running economy, reduce ground contact time, improve running performance, and increase leg stiffness. Form drills are usually done during a warm-up but sometimes during a run and plyometrics should be done on their own a couple of times a week. Strength training moves are also included and should be done once a week to start, building up to twice a week. There are also corrective exercises in the book such as foam rolling, hip flexor stretches, balance exercises, ankle mobilization, and toe yoga.

The book is rounded out with subjects like rest, sleep, stress, and nutrition. One thing to note about rest is that it means sitting around and playing board games or something similar, not running errands for a couple of hours in a day or doing housework. As you’ve probably heard before, most elite runners sleep around 9-10 hours a night with a nap in the middle of the day. I’m not sure about you, but it’s just not feasible for me to just run, eat, nap, do exercises, cross-train, and sleep, with little to no stress or other obligations in my life, like the elite runners are supposed to do. But then again, that’s their job, not mine.

Bottom line, this book has some useful tips for us “ordinary” runners and reminders for stretches and exercises that would be good to do but is it really that simple that if you follow the advice in the book you’ll become as fast as an elite runner? For most of us, of course not. We’ve got jobs, families, housework, and a million other things, while running is just something we do on the side. Is it possible to get faster if you follow the 80/20 balance, incorporate some of the stretches and drills in your running, and do your best to eat healthy, get a good night’s sleep most of the time, and keep your stress level manageable? Absolutely.

Have you read this book? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an elite runner?

Happy running!

Donna

Catching Fireflies 5k- My First Night Race!

First I have to give a little background info. Even though I’ve run somewhere around 60 races in the past 22 years, the Catching Fireflies 5k was only my fourth 5k, and two of those were with my daughter so this was only the second 5k I ran by myself. Of those two 5ks that I ran by myself, they were 22 years apart and this race in 2022 was 2 minutes faster than my first 5k. Granted, the first 5k was the first race I ever ran as an adult but still, I was happy that I haven’t slowed down, despite the fact that I’m now in a much older age group than when I ran that first race. Anyway, on to the race report!

The Catching Fireflies 5k in Raleigh, North Carolina caught my eye when I saw it advertised a few months ago. Start time was slated for 8:25 pm on Friday, May 20. The charity for the race was the Cancer Shucks group, https://www.cancershucksfoundation.org/. Luminaries could be purchased in honor of a loved one who was effected by cancer and their name would be written on the luminary. The race course was lined with what must have been hundreds of luminaries.

Photo from the race Facebook page

Packet pickup was from 5 to 8 pm at Wakefield High School in Raleigh on race day (no option to pick up earlier). We got cotton t-shirts, our bibs, and glow sticks to wear while we were running. It was great to have real bathrooms to use before the race and not have to walk far to get to the race start since we all parked in the school parking lot. My 16-year-old daughter was also running the race so we hung out for a little while inside the school since it was so hot out. The high for the day was a record high for the year- 99 degrees!!!

Fortunately when the sun started to set it began to feel noticeably cooler, but it was still pretty humid. By the time the race started it was around 86 degrees, still hot but at least it wasn’t in the 90’s any longer. We all kept saying how it was just too hot too soon but there was nothing to do about it. Surprisingly, there were around 650 runners and walkers that night, according to the announcer.

Everyone started lining up around 8:10 and the race started promptly at 8:25 after the national anthem was sung. The beginning of the race was a terrible mess with walkers at the front, mixed in with people with strollers and small children scattered everywhere. I expected that might be the case and planned on staying toward the edge but even that wasn’t enough so as soon as I could I jumped onto a sidewalk until I could get around a big group of people.

Also from the race Facebook page

Fairly quickly, the course thinned out and I was finally free of the mob of people. The race was entirely though a neighborhood, Wakefield Plantation, one of those super-nice neighborhoods with a country club and golf course and enormous houses. As I said earlier, the course was lined throughout with luminaries. I wasn’t sure how dark it would get so I brought a clip-on light but didn’t really need it except for one tiny little stretch where there no street lights for a bit.

This neighborhood is also hilly, which I had been told ahead of time. The course began downhill, so of course I knew that meant we would be running uphill on the way back. I tried to take advantage of that fact by running the first mile a bit faster than I normally would, but still being a bit conservative since I wasn’t sure how the heat and humidity would effect me. My first mile was at an 8:20 mile pace.

When I was about halfway through the race, I felt like I should slow down or I wouldn’t have enough left to get me up the hills at the end. My second mile was at an 8:44 mile pace, which is around what I thought I would run the entire race at, prior to the race. There weren’t many spectators on the course and I didn’t see anyone cheering on runners from their front yards or anything like that. Water was on the course but there weren’t any porta johns, at least not that I saw.

I really didn’t have any finish time goal in mind before the race, other than trying to finish in the top three in my age group, whatever that meant. With only a mile to go, I had to really push myself mentally to not walk up the final hills. I saw people walking all around me and it was tempting to walk along with them but I didn’t and told myself even if I was running slow I was still going faster than if I walked. My final mile was at an 8:42 mile pace, with the final sprint to the finish (the 0.1 mile) at a 7:57 mile pace. My finish time was 26:53.

Immediately after the race- I was so hot and sweaty!

There were children handing out medals at the finish and a big container full of warm bottles of water (WARM water after a HOT 5k is just wrong!). Bananas, pretzels, and cereal bars were further down on a table. I did find a table with cups of cold water being dispensed from those big orange Gatorade containers you see at races and cross country meets and I greedily gulped some down.

The awards ceremony was supposed to be at 9:10 but the announcer kept talking about the music being played and other random things. Finally around 9:25 they began the awards ceremony. I thought my daughter might have a chance of cracking the top three in her age group but she was fourth. I was first in my age group and collected a gift card to a restaurant near the race. The day after the race I checked the official finish times and saw that I was only three seconds behind the third place overall masters female. But then I looked again and actually I was three seconds ahead of her. There was a mistake. I should have won third place overall masters. This had never happened to me, finishing in the top three overall masters.

I sent an email to the race director and he replied back within a couple of hours, which surprised me since it was a Sunday. He said they go by gun time for overall awards and chip time for age group awards. I had always thought chip time would be more accurate so awards would always be based on that, but I guess you live and learn.

I’ll admit, I was a little bitter; after all it was only three seconds. I could have easily moved up closer to the front at the start, had I been able to somehow predict this and have known then what I know now. Or if the race director would have put that information in the awards section on the race website. But then it just gave me a bit of fuel for my fire for my next 5k (no, I haven’t signed up for any at the moment). Knowing how little training I did (basically no speed work) before this race, it gave me hope of what I’m capable of if I truly train for a 5k.

I never thought I’d be saying it but I’m actually looking forward to training hard for a 5k now and seeing what I can do. Now I just have to find a race! That’s going to be difficult since we’re also heating up quickly here so races always thin out this time of year.

Would I recommend this race? Yes. It truly is a unique race, in that it’s at night and has luminaries lining the course. It was much hotter than it normally is the end of May so I would hope the weather was just a fluke and next year would be back to normal temperatures. The hills aren’t going to go away, but they really weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. I would have rather had something other than a cotton t-shirt, like socks or a hat but it was a cute shirt and I’ll wear it to the gym. The medals were cute too. And like I said earlier, best of all, it’s for a great cause.

https://fsseries.com/event/catching-fireflies-5k/

Have you ever run a night race? If so, care to share your experience?

Happy running!

Donna

How My Motivation for Running Has Changed Over the Years

I started thinking about this some time back when I was listening to a podcast and they were talking about how their motivation for athletic activities they do has changed over the years. For example, one person was talking about their motivation for doing triathlons and the other person was talking about their motivation for running. When I started running what I would call in a more regular way in my late 20’s (I phrase it this way because prior to this point I would just run whenever and wherever with no real plan or intention and no races), my motivation was simply for the sheer joy of running, truthfully.

I didn’t need to lose weight or get healthier nor did a friend talk me into running with them. In fact, my boyfriend at the time was motivated by me to run and we would often run together. He ended up doing a sprint triathlon but shortly after that he ran less and less. His heart just wasn’t in it and it was obvious he was just doing it to spend time with me but he had no real motivation to run.

No longer with a running partner, I ran by myself and eventually trained for and ran my first 5k and gradually built up to a half marathon then eventually I ran a marathon. I enjoyed the solitude of being alone with nature and I liked how I felt after a run- accomplished and satisfied. My motivation to continue to run eventually became seeking out more half marathons. It was about more than just running the race, however; all of those training miles became my new normal and a part of who I was.

One thing that helps with motivating me to run is having beautiful places like this to run

Many years ago after I had run a half marathon in several states and I made the decision to run a half marathon in every state, that became my goal and my motivation. Never once did I doubt if I could make it happen. I knew I would eventually get there, no matter how long it took me.

It was definitely always about the journey for me and just enjoying myself along the way. I always made it a priority to spend at least several days in a state, usually more, preferably after the race and take in as much as I possibly could. With only a couple of rare exceptions did I not care for a place I visited. Some places were just OK, as well, but the majority of places I went to far exceeded any expectations I might have had.

Speaking of expectations, one thing I’ve learned over the years but still have to work on is to have zero expectations. This can be about a place I’m going to, about a race, about a person, or about anything coming up in my life. I’m a realist and optimist by nature so it doesn’t work for me to have really low expectations for a place or person but I’ve found if I go into something with no expectations at all, that usually works out well for me. But back to my original topic.

Now that I’ve finished my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, my motivation has once again changed. After my final race in November 2021, I was asked by many people, “What’s your next big goal? A marathon in all 50 states?” or other similar questions. I always just laughed and said, “No. For now I’m just soaking it all in and trying to enjoy the moment.”

After my half marathon in November 2021, I needed a break from running so I took two weeks off from running completely and only went on walks and hikes. Historically when I was still in the midst of my 50 states quest I would almost always take two weeks off from running after a half marathon to let my body heal completely so that wasn’t unusual for me. What has been unusual is for the first time in a couple of decades, I don’t have a half marathon in sight and I’m perfectly OK with that.

I’ve found myself going back to my roots, if you will, when I ran for the sheer joy of running. There is zero pressure for me to find another race to train for, at least in the near future. I had signed up for a local race in February that would have involved something entirely different for me but it was made into a virtual race with the option to defer to 2023, which I did. I ran the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run in Washington, D.C. in April, (Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run) and loved it. For now, I’m just seeing what races seem interesting and going with that.

What’s your motivation to run/cycle/hike/swim/multi-sport/other? Has it changed over the years?

Happy running!

Donna

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