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Third Time’s a Charm?

February 23, 2010

As of yesterday, I am on my way to my third half-marathon: the Lincoln National Guard Half-Marathon in Lincoln, NE on May 2.  The two half-marathons I have run before have been VERY different experiences, so I wonder what this one will hold?

My first half-marathon was in St. Louis in April 2005, about one month before I graduated college.  Running a half-marathon was a goal of mine and something I was determined to accomplish.  I had originally set a goal of under 2 hours, but revised that to “around” 2 hours once I started training.

Now, let’s go back to that bit about it being a month before I graduated college…picture me, two fun roommates, and a run-down campus apartment.  Walking distance to several bars, all of our friends, sorority events, fraternity events…got it?  What I’m trying to say is that my cross-training in those days wasn’t yoga and weight-training, it was happy hour and partying.  Don’t get me wrong, I ran a respectable amount of miles during that last semester and I was pretty dedicated to getting across the finish line.  I also had a student’s schedule, which meant I could run at 2 in the afternoon in the winter, instead of being relegated to the dark of early morning or after work.  I didn’t have any “gadgets”, not even an iPod!  I strapped on my walkman, tucked my apartment key in the pocket of my shorts or tied it to my shoelace and took off around campus and to St. Louis’s Forest Park.  I had a vague idea of distances (it was about 2 miles around campus) and I don’t even know if www.mapmyrun.com existed then.  So how did I train?  I looked at the clock or the screen of my Walkman when I left, ran for the number of miles on my plan times 10 minutes and then went back to my apartment and stretched.  I have no idea if I ever did a 7 mile run when I was training, I know I did a 70 minute run and I figured since my slowest pace was about 10 minute miles, that I had my bases covered.  Then I wrote down the miles on a printed-out training plan calendar taped to the wall above my desk (which was also in the dining room, next to my roomie’s desk and 20 feet from the TV…oh, college), took a shower, ate some dinner, and went to the bar.  Simple as that!  In April I happily jogged myself and about 10 extra lbs. of pure party weight over the finish line in 1:57:47.   And graduated with honors a month later:)

Fast-forward four years later to spring of 2009 when I ran the Lincoln Half-Marathon for the first time.  My excitement for finally running another half-marathon starting building in January and I mapped out my training plan with precision and focus.  My goal: to beat my time from 2005.  Should be a cinch because there’s no way I could drink that much or eat that much greasy food in “real life".”  This time I was also equipped with gadgets: a heart-rate monitor and a Nike+iPod gadget in my shoe to track my distance on my iPod touch (and the obvious upgrade to MP3 player over radio stations on the Walkman!).  I ate healthfully most of the time, slept on a regular schedule and was a generally responsible pseudo-adult.  I also worked 40 hours a week and took a graduate class once a week.  I stuck to the long-runs on my training plan and most of the speedwork, but was a little loose with cross-training and shorter run days.  My knees started bothering me, it was cold outside, and I just wasn’t always into it.  I crossed the finish line in 2:01:11 and, although it wasn’t that much slower than my previous time, it just didn’t feel good.  Usually running makes me feel strong and powerful, that race made me feel weak, achey, and old.

But this year I’m back!  I have taken some time off running to let a nagging hamstring strain heal, and added yoga into my workout schedule.  I plan to get my miles in, but still have fun and not take myself too seriously this time around…striving for a balance between my last two half-marathon training experiences.

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