Heading into Week 8: Surprise Lessons from Training

I finally felt better this week (YAY!) and hopped back into my training for the Half Marathon with full enthusiasm (and full lung capacity). I had missed running when I was sick, and my renewed enthusiasm when I returned carried me through my first 10 mile run! Hurrah!

A perfect overcast run down the Three Rivers Heritage Trail!

A few moments from a 3-mile fabulous overcast run down the Three Rivers Heritage Trail!

Since I’m just over the halfway point in my training, I wanted to take this post to reflect on what’s surprised me thus far when it comes to training. But first, I’ll report on last week and my plan for the week to come.

Last Week In Review

Planned Schedule
Monday: 5:15 Boot Camp
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: 5:15 Boot Camp
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Day of Rest
Saturday: 2 miles
Sunday: 8 miles

Actual Schedule
Monday: 5:15 Boot Camp
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: Day of Rest
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: Day of Rest
Saturday: 3 miles
Sunday: 10 miles

Though I missed a boot camp, I completed more milage than I anticipated this week! And for perhaps the first time ever, I actually completed the runs on the days I had planned. Even when it meant running in the rain (as evidenced below).

Running in the rain. Like Singing in the Rain ... without the musical numbers.

Running in the rain. Like Singing in the Rain … without the musical numbers.

The 10-mile run, which I completed with my trusty running partner (my dad), exhausted me (probably due to the fact that I’ve missed my last two long runs due to illness) but also inspired me considering I had never run four miles before this training began.

Next Week’s Schedule

Monday: Boot Camp
Tuesday: 3 miles
Wednesday: Boot Camp
Thursday: 3 miles
Friday: 8 miles in Chicago?
Saturday: Traveling in Chicago
Sunday: Traveling in Chicago

This is the first week where my training — specifically my long run — will be logistically challenged. I am visiting friends in Chicago Thursday through Sunday. I don’t know how I will find the time or the place to complete my vital long run. Do any of you have training and traveling suggestions? (Please keep in mind that I will be staying with friends and not in a hotel with any sort of work out facility.)

My dad and I after 10 miles! Looking nice and sweaty.

My dad and I after 10 miles! Looking nice and sweaty.

Topic of the Week: What I Had All Wrong About Training

I had a lot of assumptions going in about what it would be like to train for the half, how it would go, and how I would feel. Here’s what I never expected:

1. Finding shoes is the hardest part (outside of the actual running). I always knew shoes were important, sure, but I never anticipated the sheer amount of time I would devote to finding the right pair, trying them out, adding inserts, and then returning everything and starting again.

I’m now on my third pair of shoes during this training cycle alone! I don’t know if a shoe saga is the case for every runner, but due to my recurring ankle pain, I’ve gone to both Fleet Feet and True Runner to talk to experts about what shoes I should be wearing given that I’m a heel-striking, knock-kneed gal. (I’ve also learned fun shoe jargon like “heel-striking.”) So for all new runners out there, my advice is this: don’t to be afraid of searching for shoes, because the right pair makes a huge difference.

My newest shoe, the Brooks GTS Adrenaline 14. Very fancy and fabulous.

My newest shoe, the Brooks GTS Adrenaline 14. Very fancy and fabulous.

2. There is no need to follow a training plan that works for someone else, but just isn’t for you. (AKA, there is no need to follow a strict 12-week schedule that only increases milage, but doesn’t account for cross-training.) There are a lot of schools of thought when it comes to training for a half marathon, and originally, I planned to follow the “old school” approach of running five days a week and increasing my milage each week. See my original plan detailed here.

While this may work for some, I quickly found that it would never work for me. Given my love for boot camp and yoga ,my non-running background, and consistent ankle pain, I formulated my own training plan (with my dad’s experienced guidance): 2 days of high-intensity boot camp, 2-3 days of short runs, 1 day with a long run.

Who's that? Just a happy runner who didn't feel tied to her original training schedule.

Who’s that? Just a happy runner (in the rain) who doesn’t feel tied to her original training schedule.

3. You must set aside time for running — it won’t just fit politely into your schedule. But don’t be surprised when you don’t complete your planned schedule from week to week. While it may seem obvious, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is just how much time and energy it takes to stick to a training program. I feel like I started out training with a laissez faire attitude, and quickly realized that it’s a bit more serious to run at this level. I’ve had to prioritize, rearrange, and make sacrifices to train, but so far, it’s all been worth it.

I also learned to forgive myself for never quite reaching my weekly goals. It’s nice to have a plan, but it’s also nice to know that as long as I hit the key points (for me) — one boot camp, one short run, one long run — I’ll be fine. I was even more surprised to learn I could take off a week and a half due to asthma and actually find myself reinvigorated when I jumped back into my training. (Perhaps a short break in the middle of training could actually be encouraged?)

I've taken to running right after work to save time. The view isn't half bad!

I’ve taken to running right after work to save time. The view isn’t half bad!

4. You can take pride in being a slow runner, because running a fast mile has nothing to do with running a solid long run. I knew from the beginning I was a slow runner. But clocking myself on early long runs, I deduced that I was running an 11 minute mile or so, which was way slower than even I had anticipated. At first I worked really hard to be faster, but (as any smart person would expect) I wound up burning out quickly. I began embracing my slow runner-ness and wound up running at a comfortable, sustainable pace. (I remain only slightly embarrassed when scores of other runners pass me on the street/path/trail.)

Ironically, when I stopped worrying about my speed, I found myself growing faster throughout my training, and this week I ran an 8:40 mile randomly in the middle of a 3-mile run. But don’t worry, during the long run, I slowed back down to a nice 10:30 or 10:40 pace. Moral of the story? Rock on, slow runners! You are my people!


Just some slow-running feet of mine.

Just some slow-running feet of mine.

5. Running can actually be fun. But I have still never experienced a runner’s high. If you are someone who reads this blog but hates to run, I assure you that I understand. You’re pounding your joints into the hard ground. You sweat. You’re most likely in some kind of mild pain. But there’s more to it, I swear! You find a groove. You spend more time outside. You find regular routes where you can look forward to beautiful sights. You wave to other runners and feel cool — like some sort of “insider.” You feel stronger and more confident. Or at least, that’s the case for me.

Overall, running has helped me reduce my personal anxiety. I now find it soothing to grab my gear and hit the ground running (pun totally intended). I think part of it was getting over that learning and confidence curve. Getting over the hump of “do I have the right clothes/shoes/mindset/music/route/partner/knowledge.” Once you feel confident in yourself, running can be downright delightful. And though the mythical runner’s high still deceives me, I know it’s out there. Perhaps it’s saving itself for race day.

I’ve learned much more, but I’ll save it for another day. Other runners, what have you learned from training that you didn’t expect? Non-runners, what have you always wondered about running?

Thanks for checking in on the blog!

Your partner in running,


2 thoughts on “Heading into Week 8: Surprise Lessons from Training

  1. Pete and I did the shoes thing this weekend (we actually both wound up in men’s Brooks Ghost 6s) and he’s going through the buy ’em-try ’em-return ’em cycle right now (we’re hoping that lacing his shoes differently will help). Having decent shoes made SUCH a big difference in how much my legs hurt!

    • Ah Jasmine, I’m so glad you can relate to my shoe struggles (and the right shoes totally make all the difference)! Tell Pete I said good luck in swapping pairs (I’ve done it so often I can’t even get attached to my new kicks). I can’t wait to hear more about your 5k training!

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