Going (Half) the Distance

Going (Half) the DistanceThe 13.1 miles of a half-marathon are challenging, yet doable, for anyone wanting to take the next step in their running routine By Christine Sexton

By the time Panama City Beach mother-to-be Jamie Whaley was ready to deliver her son, Aiden James, in August 2009, she had gained about 100 pounds. Looking back, it’s no wonder, says Whaley, who slept up to 13 hours a day. She sheepishly admits that she treated her pregnancy like a vacation, eating whatever she wanted and not exercising.

“I was lazy,” says the 31-year-old Army wife. “I sat around and enjoyed being pregnant. Of course, I’m regretting it now.”

To help get the weight off, Whaley decided to run — something she had done off and on for years. She chose the Seaside School Half Marathon and 5K Run, held annually in March, as the race she was going to train for and enter. The course, which starts and finishes in downtown Seaside, is mostly flat — a great course for most beginning runners.

Training for the half-marathon has offered Whaley more than an opportunity to trim down, however; it also has given her a sense of achievement as she works to meet a difficult goal.

“Crossing that finish line was one of the biggest accomplishments for me,” says Whaley, who has previously run in 5Ks — friendly 3.1-mile races — and more challenging 10Ks, which are 6.2 miles long.

Whaley now knows what many others may not: Training for a half-marathon isn’t as daunting as it sounds. It’s possible to train just about anywhere, whether running in a neighborhood, on a high school track or even on a treadmill. For most people, the process is as much about mental as physical training.

To help with the physical aspects of her training regimen, Whaley tapped into the Internet, where there are limitless training programs and blogs offering free support.

The program that Whaley decided best fits her needs, which involve working around a baby’s demanding schedule, is a 16-week training regimen that has her running three times during the week and taking a longer run on Sundays. To augment those efforts, she joined the Panama City Health Club and Spa, which offers group-fitness exercise classes and weight machines. The spa also boasts 24-hour accessibility.

While Whaley chose a four-day-a-week schedule, there are myriad other possibilities. Websites like runnersworld.com, active.com and marathonrookie.com post training schedules that range from those for the experienced marathon runner, whose goal is to reduce the length of time it takes to finish a race, to the first-time marathoner who isn’t yet able to run a mile.

Regardless of what training program you choose, there is a generally accepted principle: A runner shouldn’t increase by more than 10 percent his or her weekly total mileage and time from week to week.

Another good rule for runners, regardless of whether you are a newbie or veteran, is to keep a journal. Write down every time you complete a run, and then watch the mileage add up.

In addition to the Seaside race, Whaley is looking at participating in the ING Marathon in New York, which is scheduled for November.

“I’m doing something that makes me feel good about myself,” she says. “Also, there’s the big reward at the end. There’s such a sense of accomplishment crossing the finish line.”

On your mark …

Six training tips for your 13.1

Select the right half-marathon for you. There are flat or hilly ones, some with hundreds of runners, some with tens of thousands.

Set realistic goals. If this is your first half-marathon, crossing the finish line might be the best goal. Finish your first one and then you’ll have a time to beat in future races.

Get a good pair of running shoes. They will be the most important piece of your running gear. Try on many pairs to find the best cushion and comfort for your feet. Once you run in them and like them, consider investing in another pair or two to rotate during your training period.

Keep a training journal. Whether you use a notebook, spreadsheet or something fancy, a journal is a fun way to document your training, monitor your progress and provide added motivation and confidence as you start racking up the mileage.

Stay hydrated every day. Replace those daily glasses of tea or soda with water and drink more of them.

Enjoy complex carbs. They provide your fuel and should account for 65 percent of your total calorie consumption during training and even more the week of and night before the half-marathon.

Courtesy marathonrookie.com

Websites offering advice, tips and a complete training schedule:
• runnersworld.com/personaltrainer
• halhigdon.com/halfmarathon
• coolrunning.com
• marathonrookie.com
For a list of local races, visit active.com. For race results and photos from the Seaside Half Marathon and 5K, visit seasidehalfmarathon.com.