The importance of training

Over the past year and a half I have trained for three half marathons. Through each race, I have learned so much from my training.

Half Marathon #1 – STWM

I followed the training schedule with respect to mileage, but when the program called for hills or speed work, I didn’t do it. The race I was training for was flat. There was no need to do hills. And I was slow, a back of the packer. Increasing speed wasn’t important to me. Sure, I had a race goal in mind – 2:30:00, but that was mainly because that was the pace group I was running with. My realistic goal was just to finish the race. Two weeks before the race, during the last long run of my training, I started to feel a pain in my right leg just below the knee. Over the next week, the pain continued to get increasingly worse until it prevented me from running all together. The week before the race, I stayed off my feet entirely. I was hoping to rest it enough to get me through the race. I didn’t see a doctor. I had worked too hard to drop out of the race and I didn’t want to hear what I knew a doctor would tell me.

Pushing through the pain with the finish line in sight.

On race day, I popped some Advil and hoped for the best. I ran the first 16k of the race until the pain was unbearable and walked the next 5k or so. I didn’t want to feel like I had failed so the last 500m or so, I pushed through the pain and ran across the finish line.

Official Time: 2:48:44.8

The next day, I went to the doctor and began a series of twice weekly physiotherapy sessions that lasted for 6 weeks where I addressed the cause of the pain in my lower leg. Upper leg strengthening was needed.

Half Marathon #2 – Ottawa

My training for Ottawa was spotty. I finished the physiotherapy for my right  leg and within a few weeks I was feeling the same pain again. But this time, it was my left leg. I immediately started doing the exercises I had learned in physiotherapy. I had to slow down my training considerably and concentrate on getting my upper legs strengthened. I was running a couple short runs a week and doing leg exercises on the off nights. I wasn’t strong enough to start training properly until about four weeks before the race. My training was not great, but I had done enough to get me up to the distance I needed to run the race. With the shoddy training I had done, my goal was to get a PB, to finish with a better time that the last race.

The race itself was incredible. I would recommend it to anyone. My performance was not so incredible. I started out strong but within about an hour or so I just died. I don’t know if it was due to the humidity or the fact that I may have started out to fast, or that I didn’t have the miles under my feet. It was probably a combination of all of those things. I did achieve my B goal of a new PB but I wasn’t happy with the way I ran the race. The A goal of 2:30:00 was still nowhere in sight.

Official Time: 2:44:57.7

Half Marathon #3 – STWM Redemption Race

I really wanted to achieve that 2:30:00 goal, so I came at the training with a whole different attitude. I followed the same program as I did for my first half, but this time, I followed it to the letter. I did all the runs and included the hills and speed work. I found out that I actually liked the hills training. In fact, I LOVED it! I learned that hills training doesn’t just help you run hills better, it helps in your overall performance. For the first time since I had started running, I could feel a difference. I was getting a little faster, my endurance was increasing and my legs weren’t feeling like lead after an 18k or 20k run. I was focused on the program, and enjoying every single run.

This race went exactly as planned. I had a small mental hiccup around the 18k mark, but seeing my running friends on the course at 19k to give me the encouragement I needed, right when I needed it, and then Mike with 200m to go, I finished strong. I even sprinted at the end. This time, the training paid off. I exceeded my A goal and took 20 minutes off my PB. Yes, this one was definitely a success!

Official Time: 2:24:48.5

It has taken me three attempts to run a half marathon that I’m happy with, proud of even. Through this part of my journey, I learned that proper training is absolutely vital. It can be the difference between finishing, and finishing strong. I’ll take these lessons with me as I move on to my next running adventure.

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