Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Training for the Richmond Marathon - 2009

It has been fun, at 71, being the oldest member out of more than 1,200 people on the Marathon Training Team! We first met at the SportsBackers Stadium in Richmond the first week in June, and the first group run seemed intimidating. It was a total of 4 miles, and by the time I had completed it near the back of the group of about 50 I was running with, I was huffing and puffing.
The following week we were to run on our own 3 miles on Tuesday, 3 miles on Wednesday, and 3 miles on Thursday, getting together with my small training group, the Orange Team, on Saturday to run 5 miles together. Although there were more advanced intermediate groups and I was with the novice group, I discovered on each run that some would take off from the beginning at a brisk pace that they maintained throughout the run. Others like me would start out more slowly, and the Orange Team would rapidly be spread out over great distances, finishing with widely variant times.
Early in the training I attempted to keep up with the fast runners. I discovered quickly that I wasn't able to do that, so I would start out with the fast runners, and cut back to a slower pace partway into the run. I really was paying attention to the time it took me to run a mile, and trying each week to improve the time. For me, that was the wrong approach.
Each week the total mileage increased, and the Saturday group runs became longer too. Each time a longer distance was scheduled, I saw it looming as a goal that I might now be able to achieve.As I look back at the log I kept, I see that the Saturday long runs increased up to 10 miles, then back a bit to 7 the following week, jumping to 12 miles the week after that. Back to 10 miles the next week, and then in mid-July the first half-marathon distance of 13.1 miles. Each time I finished a longer distance I felt elated that I had been able to complete it, but dreaded the next mileage increase.
I was very nervous as I started the official Patrick Henry Half Marathon in Ashland, Virginia in July. I pushed hard for that, and finished the race second in my age group of 70-74 in 2 hours, 38 minutes, and 5 seconds, only about a half hour behind another man in his 70's!
As August, September, and October slid past the running progressed to longer and longer distances, both on the weekday runs and the group runs on Saturdays, building up to a 20 mile run three weeks before the date of the Richmond Marathon.
I finally realized that the average time I took to run a mile was not particularly significant, being that my goal was only to finish the marathon, not to beat anybody. I began to do a better job of setting a deliberately slow pace of not any faster than 13 minutes per mile. I was better able to sustain that pace without "bonking", completely running out of energy near the end of a long run.
The last two weeks before the November 14th Richmond Marathon were planned to taper off on the running intensity to allow muscles and body to recuperate a bit before the big event.

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