It all started to take shape when the first big lockdown/ quarantine measures were put in place. I saw so many people losing energy and motivation to train because there was nothing to train for. I am a pretty disciplined when it comes to self-motivation but I didn’t want to end up in that position. During lockdown I kept telling myself: You need to put in the work now, so you don’t regret it later when this is all over”. That’s the one thing I kept holding onto, but I figured that training with a specific goal in mind would keep me even more motivated.
I don’t really know how it all started but the long runs just creeped up out of nowhere in a way, I definitely didn’t plan on running a half-marathon from the start. It must have been the start of March when I started running longer distances, but every long-run was the exact same. A couple weeks later when I started changing up my routes, did I start to create this idea of setting a goal for myself. The first goal I set for myself was being able to run sub 7-minute miles for an hour straight. I held onto that for a while until that slowly but surely transformed into my ultimate goal of running a sub 1:30 half-marathon.
It’s pretty simple really. I started following this guy called Nick Bare (CEO & founder of BPN nutrition), his goal is to qualify for the Boston marathon. In order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, he needs to run a sub 3 hours marathon. I figured with the amount of running he does compared to me; it would be a great accomplishment to run a half marathon in half the time (1:30). When I started diving into this a little bit more, I found out that it meant running at an average pace of 6:50 per mile, an extra bonus since my original goal was to run sub 7 for an hour straight.
When I started off running longer distances (5 miles and over) I simply tried to run longer distances faster, rookie mistake. I was approaching it the same way we approach most lifting sessions, just trying to do more reps or more weight every single workout. That’s not how things work when it comes to long-distance running. As the weeks went by, my goals started to take shape and started diving into the science behind endurance style training. What I found out and should have realized was this: In order to run faster, you have to do more low-heart rate style training, that’s when our aerobic capacity improves. Without getting into the specifics of it, this is one of the most basic things I was taught back in college, but I simply forgot about it.
Once I figured out that running faster doesn’t necessarily make you faster over time (yes, you read that right), my sessions started looking completely different. Before I go any further let me just say that running this sub 1:30 half marathon was not my only goal during this time, I was not trying to improve my strength a lot but I was definitely looking to get a little bit stronger. Because I wasn’t all in on the running, I ran about 2-3 times a week. One high intensity interval session, one slow shorter recovery/easy pace run and one long easy pace run.
The different sessions
My high intensity sessions came from 2 different sources, Nick Bare (the guy I started following) or myself. Once I started getting into the whole running thing a little bit more, I was able to create better workouts for myself, like I am used to doing inside the gym. These sessions usually consisted of a 2-3-mile warm-up, some varied intervals at certain target paces and a 2-3 mile cool down at an easy pace. I really liked the set-up of a longer warm-up run before jumping into the interval because I felt that my body was more prepared when I did. I liked the cool down because it showed me if I could get my heart rate back down and keep a nice pace going after those intense intervals.
My shorter recovery/easy pace run took place on what would usually be a complete off day. Half way through my training I figured that adding in a couple easy miles could only benefit me and my recovery. A lot of people just sit still when they’re resting but getting the blood flow going is a good way to stimulate the recovery.
My longer easy pace runs were my favorite time of the week. I was confident that I was getting better without the usual effort I put in during my training sessions. Don’t get me wrong, I still put in effort, held my paces and burned through a lot of energy but they’re EASY pace runs for a reason. You’re not supposed to go fast, otherwise you’re missing the point (going back to my statement about getting faster by moving slower). This was my time to spend about 75-90 minutes outside, listening to podcasts and moving my body over longer distances simply by using my feet. During these sessions my focus was keeping my average heartrate below 150, looking back on it I probably should have gone for 140.
I was excited for the day to come; it had been a while since I have really focused and trained for something like this. When I got closer to the day itself, I was surprised by how calm I was, because I was fully aware how bad it was going to hurt (and boy did it ever!).
During the last couple weeks leading up to the day I tried out some carbohydrate-based gels to give me some needed energy. I started doing this after what was probably the toughest running workout of my life, during that run I just couldn’t find the extra gear although I beat my target time for the workouts. These gels gave me enough energy to sustain a good pace (I definitely noticed the difference once that hit my system) without my energy systems crashing down.
I definitely did not go into this with the best preparation because that day I had to start work at 9:30 in the morning. I like to get my running done in the morning so I decided to do this early on. I woke up around 04:45, went through my usual morning stuff and headed over to the gym. I hurried my warming up a little bit and set off around 07:15/07:30. The day before I was stupid enough to hit a double training session, like I said, not well-prepared at all. The only leg related stuff I did all day long was wallballs (a squat where you throw a 9kg ball to a 3-meter-high target on the wall). Usually wallballs don’t me that sore, but I could feel that my legs were heavy as soon as I woke up. Trying to ignore the fact, I took off and set a strong pace from the start. My first mile was around a 7:10 per mile pace, which I expected, from there I went on to run an average pace of 6:44 the remaining 12 miles. The wind was very rough that day so that did not help, but I welcomed the challenge, I figured that anything that could make it more difficult would only make it sweeter at the end. Regardless of my amateur preparation, my sore legs, the heavy wind, I ran a 1:27:32 half marathon. Mission accomplished!
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Congratulations! That was some prep and run.
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