I will turn 40 in December. I started running in the fall of 1999, after seeing the list of Steamtown Marathon runners in the Forest City paper. At that time, running a marathon seemed like an impossible feat, but an amazingly cool thing to be able to do: for a person to carry themselves that far, just on their own legs! I had previously fantasized about running the 5K race on the 4th of July in Montrose, PA (where I work), and I decided to aim for that in 2000. At first, even a quarter of a mile was as much as I could do without stopping, and uphill–forget it. I didn’t stick with it very consistently, but I did get better.
The 5K course in Montrose includes some long, steep hills. My first 5K (7/4/00) I walked big chunks of the hills and finished in 36:40. Since my stated goals were a) to finish, and b) to not be dead last (next-to-last would have been fine, just not dead last), I was pleased. The following year I trained a little more seriously, and my time was 32:39 with no walking. I began to realize that I will probably never be very fast–I am not built that way–but that there was lots of room for improvement.
In 2002, I had a hysterectomy in March. I spent lots and lots of time walking to recuperate, set myself a real training schedule including intervals and long runs, and by July I was probably in the best shape I’ve ever been. During my training I ran 8 miles without stopping and finally felt that a marathon was *possible*. I told myself if I beat 30 minutes, I would run Steamtown within the next 2 years. However, it was an extremly hot and humid morning, and my time was 30:07. It was frustrating to get that close and miss my goal…
We were out of town on the 4th in 2003. Instead I ran the Chris Thater 5K (Binghamton, NY) in August, a mostly flat course, and finally broke 30 minutes, if not by much: 29:56. So here I am, preparing for Steamtown. My bible has been The Non-Runner’s Marathon Trainer (NRMT), which I must have read 3 or 4 times at this point. (I’ve accumulated a pile of other books, of which my next favorite is Marathon Training for Dummies. I also find John “The Penguin” Bingham extremely inspiring, since I AM a penguin (someone who loves to run but is just very, very slow)).
My goals: average 10 miles a week until May, then work up to 15 miles by mid-June, at which point I will start the NRMT 16-week training schedule. It’s a very light schedule, which works for me as a not-very-good, not-a-lot-of-time, my-only-goal-is-to-finish-and-I-don’t-even-care-if-I-AM-last-this-time runner. The only problem is that the Steamtown course closes in 6 hours and I’ll be extremely disappointed if I don’t get the medal for finishing! But all I need is a 13-minute pace, and I should be able to do that…I think…I hope. Steamtown is mostly downhill, with some punishing uphills at the end, and since everything around here is hills, I should be prepared for that. My current long slow distance (LSD) pace is about 12:30 (with very steep hills), and that should get a little better.
I’ve been running about 5 miles on Sunday, and it’s not even a big deal anymore. Getting in another 5 during the week is tougher, especially as it’s still snowing.
My healthy weight is between 110 and 120, but I’d like to be at the lower end when I start serious training–the lighter I am, the easier it will be to run. I’ll need to focus on adequate sleep, a good diet, all that stuff. Self-discipline has always been a problem for me, but I am very goal-oriented. One of the main attractions of training for a marathon, as depicted in NRMT, is developing mental toughness–they keep saying that anyone can run 20 miles, but the last 6.2 (the “second half” of the marathon) is all about focus and determination, mind over body. Yikes! I know I have the ability to do this, but it’s still scary… I have already accomplished 2 things in my life (one relatively trivial, one more important) after which I told myself, “If I can do that, I can do anything.” I look forward to having that feeling even more strongly after running a marathon. I can do this!
Benchmarks as of today:
Resting heart rate: 51
“Fitness test” (on my Polar heart rate monitor): 39
5 miles LSD: 1:00:24, average HR 161
My “5 mile” course is actually closer to 4.8 miles, but it’s a perfect run: a loop around beautiful Stanley Lake, mostly quiet dirt road, through fields and woods. Includes cows, friendly dogs, lots of birds, sometimes deer, and once, a bear!