Hilary's Steamtown Marathon blog
Sunday, March 21, 2004
About me: I will turn 40 in December. I started running in the fall of 1999, after seeing the list of Steamtown Marathon runners in the Forest City paper. At that time, running a marathon seemed like an impossible feat, but an amazingly cool thing to be able to do: for a person to carry themselves that far, just on their own legs! I had previously fantasized about running the 5K race on the 4th of July in Montrose, PA (where I work), and I decided to aim for that in 2000. At first, even a quarter of a mile was as much as I could do without stopping, and uphill--forget it. I didn't stick with it very consistently, but I did get better.

The 5K course in Montrose includes some long, steep hills. My first 5K (7/4/00) I walked big chunks of the hills and finished in 36:40. Since my stated goals were a) to finish, and b) to not be dead last (next-to-last would have been fine, just not dead last), I was pleased. The following year I trained a little more seriously, and my time was 32:39 with no walking. I began to realize that I will probably never be very fast--I am not built that way--but that there was lots of room for improvement.

In 2002, I had a hysterectomy in March. I spent lots and lots of time walking to recuperate, set myself a real training schedule including intervals and long runs, and by July I was probably in the best shape I've ever been. During my training I ran 8 miles without stopping and finally felt that a marathon was *possible*. I told myself if I beat 30 minutes, I would run Steamtown within the next 2 years. However, it was an extremly hot and humid morning, and my time was 30:07. It was frustrating to get that close and miss my goal...

We were out of town on the 4th in 2003. Instead I ran the Chris Thater 5K (Binghamton, NY) in August, a mostly flat course, and finally broke 30 minutes, if not by much: 29:56. So here I am, preparing for Steamtown. My bible has been The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer (NRMT), which I must have read 3 or 4 times at this point. (I've accumulated a pile of other books, of which my next favorite is Marathon Training for Dummies. I also find John "The Penguin" Bingham extremely inspiring, since I AM a penguin (someone who loves to run but is just very, very slow)).

My goals: average 10 miles a week until May, then work up to 15 miles by mid-June, at which point I will start the NRMT 16-week training schedule. It's a very light schedule, which works for me as a not-very-good, not-a-lot-of-time, my-only-goal-is-to-finish-and-I-don't-even-care-if-I-AM-last-this-time runner. The only problem is that the Steamtown course closes in 6 hours and I'll be extremely disappointed if I don't get the medal for finishing! But all I need is a 13-minute pace, and I should be able to do that...I think...I hope. Steamtown is mostly downhill, with some punishing uphills at the end, and since everything around here is hills, I should be prepared for that. My current long slow distance (LSD) pace is about 12:30 (with very steep hills), and that should get a little better.

I've been running about 5 miles on Sunday, and it's not even a big deal anymore. Getting in another 5 during the week is tougher, especially as it's still snowing.

My healthy weight is between 110 and 120, but I'd like to be at the lower end when I start serious training--the lighter I am, the easier it will be to run. I'll need to focus on adequate sleep, a good diet, all that stuff. Self-discipline has always been a problem for me, but I am very goal-oriented. One of the main attractions of training for a marathon, as depicted in NRMT, is developing mental toughness--they keep saying that anyone can run 20 miles, but the last 6.2 (the "second half" of the marathon) is all about focus and determination, mind over body. Yikes! I know I have the ability to do this, but it's still scary... I have already accomplished 2 things in my life (one relatively trivial, one more important) after which I told myself, "If I can do that, I can do anything." I look forward to having that feeling even more strongly after running a marathon. I can do this!

Benchmarks as of today:
Weight: 120
Resting heart rate: 51
"Fitness test" (on my Polar heart rate monitor): 39
5 miles LSD: 1:00:24, average HR 161

My "5 mile" course is actually closer to 4.8 miles, but it's a perfect run: a loop around beautiful Stanley Lake, mostly quiet dirt road, through fields and woods. Includes cows, friendly dogs, lots of birds, sometimes deer, and once, a bear!

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