“Were you singing when you went past us?” our friend Laura asked incredulously as she high-fived me on the other side of the finish line.
Yes, yes I was. As I recall it was this song.
I had just completed my first half marathon and Laura and my daughter Emily were there cheering at the sideline of Mile 12. I was really proud; this was no small feat. I had never run farther than 8 miles, and that happened only one time 6 months previously. The date of the half marathon was one week after my first figure competition, and I had been training intensely to get very lean while preserving my hard-earned muscle. That meant no distance running or other long duration cardiovascular activity. In the past four months, I had taken a few 3-5 mile jogs, but that was about it.
I had a theory, though. The high intensity resistance and interval training I was doing would be enough preparation to allow me to hop out of bed, lace up my tennies, and run 13.1 miles without much of a struggle.
I was right. I finished my first half marathon in 2 hours and 10 minutes. Not a speedy time, but I finished really strong – singing along the home stretch and feeling like I could go another few miles.
Recent articles by Tom Venuto and Rachel Cogrove have confirmed for me that I am on the right track in my approach to training. I am going to offer my own singular data point. Long duration cardio is not the best tool for achieving significant body recomposition.
My daily high intensity training had given me the endurance and cardiovascular fitness to jog for two hours straight. I also credit my strong finish to eating and drinking at 20 minute intervals during the race. I took in water and Gatorade at every aid stop, and I brought homemade power bars to nosh on along the way.
A huge factor for me in successful completion of any physically taxing undertaking is my mindset. With proper mental preparation, I can accomplish so much more than with an untrained mind. I can train my mind to associate any daunting activity with pleasure, rather than fear, anxiety or pain. I have found that it is true that whatever you focus on you will likely experience, so if I embarked on the half marathon thinking about how I would not complete it, or that I would experience massive discomfort, then that would likely happen. Instead, I visualized my strong finish, mentally walked through all the steps I would take during the run to keep my energy up, and decided to look enjoy everything about the journey, no matter what happened along the way.
I am preparing to do it again. In the past 4 months I have done even less running than I did in advance of my first half marathon. In fact, the last run I completed was a charity 8K on Thanksgiving Day, where I posted my second-best time in 9 years of participation. But I am in undoubtedly better shape than I was a year ago and I plan to beat my time on Sunday, May 1st.