Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Crawl before you walk…5K before a marathon

I recently read an article about the risks involved in putting on a marathon. It looks into marathons that take place in hot/unsafe conditions and who is responsible if a runner is hurt or gets sick during the event.  The article also goes into discussions about the levels and types of runners that toe the line; many participants are beginning runners who are ill-prepared regardless of race day conditions.

Now more than ever, EVERYONE wants to run a marathon.  It used to be that only the serious, well-prepared runners signed up for a marathon. Today, people who have never ran a mile or participated in sports decide to sign up for marathon to cross that item off their “bucket list.”  Running a marathon is the thing to do!

Although it is commendable that people want to run a marathon, sometimes these new “runners” bite off more than they can chew.  This decision can be dangerous to their health and also to their views on running. 
It got me thinking about my own start into distance running and how I went about things all wrong.  Granted, I had an athletic background in which I played every sport under the moon growing up and went onto college for soccer, but I had never ran more than 2 miles before signing up for a half marathon.  And that first half marathon was a TERRIBLE experience.

I was ill-prepared; only running a maximum of 6 miles before the half marathon and only “training” for a few months (I don’t even think I knew what a training plan was).  I was absolutely clueless; not knowing how long a half marathon was (seriously, I didn’t know it was 13.1 miles).  And I paid for it.  I got to mile 8 and wanted to die.  I hated every 2 hours and 7 minutes of that first half marathon and I couldn’t walk for days following the event.  I vowed NEVER to run a full marathon and even quit running for 2 years.

Then 2 years later I forgot about how terrible that half marathon was and stupidly signed up for and ran an ill-prepared FULL marathon.  It was again the most awful 4 hours and 47 minutes of my life (it was also during the Chicago heat wave of 2007).

Why did I skip past the little stuff and sign up for these long distances?  Why didn’t I start with running a 5K, then a 10K, then a 10 miler… why didn’t I gradually build my endurance until I was fit and ready to run the half and then eventually the full marathon?? 

The answer: I was clueless.

I didn’t fully understand what it takes to run 26.2 miles or how long I needed to train to be adequately prepared.  I think it is safe to say that a lot of other beginning runners have found themselves in this same situation.  I have seen these people during races; they are the ones at mile 10 of a half marathon miserably walking.  I have been there too and it sucks.

How do we get beginning runners, like I was, to GET it??

Have them PROVE it.  The article proposes a qualifying standard for marathons.  And not necessarily a specific time, but that they have participated in a 5K, 10K, and half marathon.  I honestly wish this would have been the case before I was able to sign up for that first half marathon I “ran.”  Maybe I would have had a better idea of what it took, performed better and actually enjoyed the experience. 

After 6 years I finally enjoy running.  For probably the first 3 years of that time I didn’t particularly enjoy running and at times dreaded lacing up my shoes and hitting the road.  Most likely it was because of my rough start.  But I kept with it and now I look forward to each run and I keep improving.  I have learned many lessons and am constantly figuring out what works best for me. 

If you are beginning runner, learn from my mistake…crawl before you walk…gradually build up your endurance…run a few 5Ks, 10Ks, and 10 milers…then sign up for that half marathon and eventually that marathon.  You will find the whole experience to be much more pleasant that way!

(Well that certainly was a rambling of running thoughts, thanks for hanging in there!)

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