Thursday, December 31, 2009

In My Words

I wrote this "In My Words" story for the River Region Runners newsletter, Second Wind, back in December of 2009.


A few months ago fellow runner and friend, Kym Klass, asked me if I'd be interested in training with her. At that time she was specifically interested in doing intervals together, which was new for both of us. I'd never trained with anyone before, but agreed and we started meeting at the Prattville YMCA at 5:30 AM on Wednesdays to run circles as fast as we could. Truth be told, neither of us really knew what we were doing. We knew we were supposed to alternate high intensity running with low-intensity rest periods, but that was about it. We quickly learned the YMCA track wasn't a quarter mile long, so we figured out how to compensate. After a while we also realized we probably shouldn't have been walking in between each interval, so we began jogging instead. It truly was a learning process, where we drew upon the knowledge of other runners, print and Internet resources.

As the weeks passed we decided to expand our training regimen to prepare for a half marathon. We set the Chickamauga Battlefield Half Marathon on November 14th as our goal and met more often to fill the pacing and long run prescriptions issued by Hal Higdon, an icon in running circles known for his running and writing achievements. We adhered to his 12-week intermediate half marathon training plan, finding it to be both challenging and flexible. As the weeks passed and the intensity increased I found myself getting faster and feeling stronger. Where I once lagged behind my partner, I was now able to keep up.

Finally, race day arrived and we were ready for the final exam. Kym's week-long bout with laryngitis had subsided, we were both injury free, and we were blessed with a perfect day. The weather was clear and cool and the course was rumored to be beautiful. We set our Garmin GPS watches to the average pace needed to achieve our goal and set off when the starter's cannon blasted. After the first couple of miles we settled into a groove and were surprised at how quickly the miles seemed to pass by. Of course, the miles felt longer the farther we went, but all our preparation ultimately paid off. We crossed the finish line a measly 3 seconds over our goal time, but I didn't care a bit. I felt good, knocked almost 8 minutes off my previous half marathon, and, most importantly, had a great time.

Lately I've been asked by some new runners if I think they should join a running group or find a partner to train with. As you might guess, I always answer in the affirmative. When I trained on my own I had accepted what I thought were my limits. Through training with Kym, however, I came to realize I was capable of a lot more. She inspired and motivated me when she pulled away on training runs, and I'd like to think that as I got better I was able to return the favor. We also were able to draw upon each others' strengths. She taught me to attack the hills instead of laying back, and I helped her with pacing over the longer distances. But most importantly we encouraged each other when doubt was present, and heaped on the praise when we found success. That's something you just don't get when you're running down the road alone.

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