Sometimes I just need a nudge. Maybe a push. Usually, it comes in the form of a goal to work toward.
There's something about having a firm, tangible goal that somehow makes it more achievable. That's why signing up for races before starting the training has always worked for me. Once I'm officially on the roster, I know I need to do what it takes to get to the Start Line. More importantly, I need to get to the Finish Line.
I realized with somewhat of a panic recently that the Hyannis Half Marathon is rapidly approaching. It's six weeks from Sunday, actually.
Only six weeks? Yikes. I better get training, I thought.
Sure, I put in a 10-miler last weekend (recall that 10 miles was the longest distance I did before my first half-marathon), so I know I could finish. But I don't want to just finish anymore. I want to continue to improve my performance - that means everything from my finishing time to how I feel along the course. Most importantly, I want to enjoy the experience.
And there's that pesky 2010 goal to finish a half-marathon in under two hours that's hanging over my head. (My current PR is 2:07 from the Maine Half last October.)
With that in mind, I consulted an online training calculator and printed out my training schedule - or at least what will serve as my rough guide for training - for the next six weeks.
At a glance, it's definitely do-able. Will it get me across the Finish Line in under two hours? Who knows. Probably not in this upcoming race, but maybe in another.
The key is to just stay focused and motivated.
I'd say that I'm generally pretty good at focusing on a goal and staying self-motivated. But sometimes it helps to have others motivating you, too. Sometimes motivation comes in strange ways.
During the past two weeks, I've found motivation from a couple of online challenges posted by fellow runners on Daily Mile. (If you're a runner and haven't checked out this site, you're really missing out. Not only does it allow you to log your training, it comes with a super-supportive community cheering you on.)
The comments (and the fact that you log your runs for all to see) are motivation in themselves. As an extra push, one DMer recently created some personalized "challenges" to join.
Pass up a challenge? No way.
The first challenge, which was posted last week, called upon DMers to run "The Andy" distance - 6.52 miles. (There is a story about why the distance is called The Andy, named for one of the DM runners, but I came in a little late in the game to know the details.)
Post after post of 6.52-mile runs were logged on the day of The Andy challenge, along with the usual congratulatory remarks and online high-fives. This community of strangers (really, most of them wouldn't know each other if they passed on the street) was doing pretty cool things. And doing them in a fun way.
I mean, no one sets out to run 6.52 miles (except "Andy," perhaps). But with this, a whole slew of runners throughout the country was doing just that.
I was inspired and motivated enough by The Andy challenge to work through lunch and skip out early to steal a mid-week, daytime run. That hardly ever happens in January. I ran a new route, which was a combination of a couple of regular routes for me, to get to the specified mileage. And I, too, logged my Andy on the site.
Not long after that, The Jeanne was created.
Jeanne, apparently, was the first to complete The Andy. The baton, so to speak, had been passed to her. When posted, the challenge called for 3.42 miles - signifying Jeanne's finishing time at the Boston Marathon last year: 3 hours and 42 minutes.
Keeping my half-marathon training schedule in mind, I wasn't sure I wanted to "only" do 3.42 miles that day. Instead, I decided to use that 3.42 miles as a challenge within a challenge.
I headed to the gym for a tempo run - something I'm terribly bad at doing but know I've got to make a habit if I want to get faster. (And something that comes up weekly in my training plan.)
My plan was to run a total of five miles - a mile warm-up, then 3.42 miles at a fast (for me) pace, then a cool-down. (Normally, I'd do 1 mile, then three, then 1 mile - but The Jeanne provided the chance for an extra .42-miles at the faster pace.)
I chugged through the warm-up mile, keeping the pace a little under 10-minute-miles and resisting the urge to speed up. When I hit the mile mark, I tapped on the treadmill until I was at 8:48-minute-miles (6.8mph).
I can usually keep that pace only briefly before I fall back into my comfort zone - typically between 9:30-9:50s - but with The Jeanne looking over my shoulder, I kept it up for three whole miles. Personal victory.
Now at the four-mile mark, I was ready to add just little bit more. I clicked the speed up a bit and ran the next .42 miles at a 8:29 pace.
I returned to a comfortable cool-down pace to round out my five miles - smiling like crazy on the inside and surely sweating and huffing and puffing on the outside.
As of this post, 95 people had completed The Jeanne - that's 3,249+ miles that were run as part of that challenge. I'm sure there are plenty more to come.
Thanks, DMers, for keeping running fun, encouraging each other - and getting an extra 9.94 good miles in my training.
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