How NOT to Train for a Half Marathon - A Cautionary Tale
I just registered for the Camp Cole 5K Rail Run and Walk to support the midlands first overnight camp and retreat center for folks with disabilities.
I’m training and trying to watch my diet. I want to make a respectable effort - unlike the time several years ago when I decided to do a half marathon in Central Park.
This story is a cautionary tale – how NOT to train for a half marathon. It all started over lunch. My friend Regina had just gotten into running, and I really wanted an excuse to go to New York. Somehow those two things led us to the decision that we were going to do the More Magazine Half Marathon in New York City.
For me, “do” meant “walk.” To Regina, the word “do” meant “run.” This is where the many differences begin.
My goal was to finish. I really did not want to be dead last, but my goal was to finish. Regina’s goal was to run (actually run) 13.1 miles.
Mistake #1 – You Should Actually Train for a Half Marathon
In general, I try to stay fit by exercising several times a week. I didn’t change my routine very much in anticipation for the race. At the time, I was swimming twice a week and walking about 5 or 6 miles a week. Let me say that again – walking five or six miles a week. I thought that was pretty solid. I wear a pedometer, and most days I am able to get in 10,000 steps. I learned the hard way that walking back and forth to the copy machine and doing recess duty does not quite cut it.
Mistake #2 – Partners Should be on Same Page
Warning bells sounded when Regina started a sentence with “My trainer says…..” I didn’t even hear the rest of the sentence. I realized she was taking this thing seriously. I was not.
More warning alerts at the race expo when Regina’s husband asked me my farthest distance. He seemed a little concerned that Regina had not run a full 13.1 miles. He said her max was 10 or 11 miles but that he was sure adrenaline would kick in and take her the rest of the way. I lied and said my max was 6. My stomach dropped at that point. My unsettled feeling could have been the realization that I was in big trouble or it could have been from my junk food breakfast of Cheez Its and Diet Coke.
Mistake #3 Actually Complete a Race Before Trying a Half Marathon
Words to live by: Don’t let a half marathon be the first race that you do. Regina, who was actually training, did the following: First Flight’s Resolution Run 5K, The Greenville News Run 5K, The TD Bank Reedy River Run 5K, the Greenville Hospital System Swamp Rabbit Trail 5K, the St Patty’s Day Dash and Bash 10k and the Clemson Easter bunny Run 5K. I walked my dog all the way to Garner’s Ferry Road one time.
Mistake #4 Make Appropriate Travel Plans
Regina flew up Friday night so she would be well rested. I took the 8:00 AM flight out of Charlotte Saturday morning because it was the cheapest flight. I really didn’t think through the whole getting up at 3:30 AM to leave by 4:30 AM to get to the airport by 6:00 AM. On the flight up, a darling college student who was flying up for an audition in a Broadway musical asked me why I was going to NY. It was the first time I had said the words “going to do a half marathon” out loud to anyone. I was able to keep straight face. Because she is a trained actor, she kept a straight face, too. Mistake #4 – do not travel the day before the race. If you must travel, pick a reasonable flight schedule.
Too Many Mistakes to Count
At this point, let’s just say I made series of mistakes – no need to keep count. Part of training before a race includes watching your diet for the months leading up to the race and watching your liquid intake for the two weeks before the race. I should have said no to all my favorites - Little Debbie oatmeal pies, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, peanut M&M’s, Rice Krispy Treats, Diet Coke. I should have eliminated them all, but I did not.
During dinner the night before the race at a wonderful restaurant overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park, Regina informed me that she had given up sodas and alcohol for two weeks before the race. Let’s just say that I did NOT give up soda and alcohol two weeks before the race. I reminded her that she watched me drink a 16oz Diet Coke that day in front of her very eyes. “Why didn’t you stop me,” I asked????? She said, “Well, I figured you needed the caffeine since you had been up since 3:30 am.” Fair point. She was kind enough not to say anything about the two cocktails I had just finished (which were fantastic, by the way). Everything is better when you are overlooking Central Park.
Mistake Number #115 – Prepare the Night Before the Race
Since I had been up since 3:30 AM and had two martinis while overlooking Central Park, I fell asleep without doing any race day prep. Race day morning found me a bit disorganized.
Heading to breakfast, I realized I forgotten to attach my shoe timer. Had to go back to the room. Headed out again and remembered I forgot chapstick. Had to go back. Half way down to breakfast with the elevator bells ringing in my head, I decided two advil might be a good idea. Back to the room yet again. I had walked 13.1 miles before I ever left the Midtown Hilton.
After the many trips back to the room to get all the things I had forgotten I finally hobbled into the lobby for breakfast, still trying to work out the cramp behind my knee (probably a result of the diet coke and tiny bit of vodka
The wait staff seemed surprised that I was one of the many folks sporting a number pinned to my shirt. “Oh, Senora,” one older waiter said, shaking his head, “what do you need?” “Another six weeks to actually train” was what I thought, but what I said was, “coffee – black and some bacon.” He brought me a carafe of coffee and a plate of bacon. What a good, good man.
I walked/hobbled down 6th Ave, still trying to work out the cramp. By the time I caught up with Regina, she knew just what to do. We stood in front of the Essex House doing all sorts of stretches. By 7:15 I was ready to go. By ready to go I mean that I was able to put my right foot flat on the ground. Thank goodness.
We were actually going to do it. We were “doing” a half marathon in Central Park in New York City on a beautiful spring day.
The More Magazine half marathon is a scenic 13.1 trek through Central Park. In the first couple of miles, we passed the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and the Jackie Onassis Reservoir. I kept thinking, “I am in paradise. This is heaven.” I was excited to walk by the Museum of Natural History – one of my favorite places. You name it, we saw it. The Dakota, Strawberry Fields, the Carousel. I wanted to pinch myself. I was actually competing in a half-marathon in Central Park in New York City on a beautiful spring day. The forsythia was in full glory. Daffodils were everywhere. It was a picture. At about the 6-mile point, the picture changed. It changed dramatically.
Oh, there’s the Museum of Art AGAIN. There’s the Guggenheim, AGAIN. I did not need to pinch myself anymore. My shoes were doing enough pinching, and I am pretty sure my big toe had gone numb. Yep, the Museum of Natural History for the THIRD time. I never thought I would tire of sight seeing in New York, but by mile 9 I had tired. I was in paradise no more. I was straight up cursing as I hit the Harlem hills for the second time. “I am in hell. This is hell.” Those are the only curses I want to put in writing. There were many, many more. The worst part was that I knew I had done it to myself.
Regina finished the 13.1 miles in record time. I don’t think that we need to document my time. I did finish. I have my finisher medal as proof.
Despite all the many, many mistakes, it was a great trip – still one of my favorite memories.
Cautionary tales should bring about change. Lessons should be learned. So, as I prepare for my upcoming 5K, I’m going to try to do better. We’ll see how it goes.