My First Half-Marathon

Post by Abby Meyer. Abby graduated from Virginia Tech in the Spring of 2011 with a B.S. in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise with a concentration in dietetics. She is currently completing her dietetic internship through NCCU and is finishing up her community rotation with Rex Wellness Centers. Upon graduation from the dietetic internship in June, she will become eligible to sit for her Registered Dietitian exam, in hopes to start work as a dietitian by the fall.

13.1 miles. That’s the length of a half-marathon. As a life-time swimmer, this distance seemed insurmountable considering I rarely exercised on land. To me, running was always a foreign concept and frankly, a chore; what’s the fun in pounding pavement for hours on end only to end up with shin splints, twisted ankles, and swollen knees? The answer: the coveted running high and post-workout endorphins that are achieved from increasing your heart rate, respiratory rate, and pushing your body to new limits.

My swimming career came to an end at the close of my freshman year of college. Strenuous Division I training took its toll on my already injured shoulders, and there was no hope of continuing down my current path without facing surgery. That’s when I turned to running. It’s a natural form of exercise for your body that only requires a good pair of running shoes and some clothes and voilà, you’re ready to work out! As my body started to get used to the new form of exercise, I found I was actually enjoying this previously dreaded activity. Looming in the back of my mind was that challenge of doing something more. It started with 5ks and then an 8k but I could never push myself to do more than that. Then an opportunity, too good to pass up, came along. My friends from my dietetic internship were all going to sign-up for a race together, and that gave me the needed push to finally go for it, I’m signing up for my first half-marathon!

The training starts off pretty simple. I was doing 3 miles, 5 days a week, a distance I was already used to. The daunting part comes in when you realize every week, the long run will become one mile longer than the previous week (an extra 9-10 minutes of exercise!). For example, this Saturday I have my 7 mile run. Next Saturday is the 8 mile run, and so forth. The hardest part of training is the mental aspect of the runs. Every time a cramp creeps up, or my legs get tired, my mind starts telling me to stop, take a break, and walk for awhile. It would be so easy to succumb to the temptation. At these points I find it’s important to start the positive self-talk. This is the point when I start remembering where I was a few weeks back to show myself how much I’ve improved. Beyond that I keep pushing myself as a reminder of how strong I truly am. What a wonderful feeling to know you can achieve a new PDR (personal distance record) every week and over-come all of those negative thoughts swirling around in your mind.

The training is only going to become harder, but as my body becomes stronger I hope the task continues to lessen in intimidation. Apparently, other Americans are having the same attitude. The rate of people participating in a half-marathon has been growing by about 10%, every year, since 2006. Pretty amazing! Marathons are also increasing in popularity, but with the average female finishing in 5 hours, 6 minutes, and 8 seconds, I’ll leave that for the natural-born runners…at least for now.