13.1

I know most of you are not runners, but some of you might be curious about my whole half marathon thing. The Cowtown half marathon is February 26, four weeks from yesterday.

The Race

Here are some facts:

  • A half marathon is 13.1 miles, roughly the straight-line distance between DFW International Airport and Love Field.
  • The current world record is 58:23, an astounding 4:27/mile or 13.48 mph. I don’t average much faster than that on my bike. That pace is more than 2 minutes/mile faster than my best time for a single mile. The Cowtown course record is 1:10:24.
  • Last year nearly 6000 runners finished the Cowtown half marathon. The crowd is so big that if you’re in the back of the pack when the starting horn sounds, it might take a couple of minutes before you even reach the starting line. That’s why most races use chip timing, which places an electronic sensor mat across the start and finish lines to scan a chip that’s attached to your shoe.
  • An aid station is available every 1.5 miles along the course with water, electrolytes, port-a-potties, and medical personnel in case anyone gets in trouble.
  • The route starts at Will Rogers Memorial Center and takes us near the Stockyards, up the big hill on Main Street, and through downtown Fort Worth.

I’ve done Cowtown twice at the 10K distance, and it’s a great race with good support and a fun atmosphere.

Training

I’ve been training for this race for months now using a customized plan I created on RunnersWorld.com. My training consists of three runs per week:

  • One shorter run (currently 4 miles)
  • One medium-length run (currently 5 miles)
  • One long run at a gentle pace with some walking (10 miles this week)
  • One or two bike rides to strengthen my legs (10-20 miles per week)

On most weeks, my total weekly mileage increases by one. Once a month, I get a “rest week” that cuts my total mileage by about 20 percent. By strictly limiting the increase in workload, I’m supposedly reducing my risk of injury. The longest long run I’ll do before the race will be 11 miles.

So how is it going? Good news and bad news. The bad news is that my right knee isn’t cooperating very well despite all my efforts to strengthen my legs and to avoid increasing my mileage too quickly. I hope that the cause relates to the good news: my body is growing significantly stronger and fitter. My legs have never been stronger. In fact, I might have strengthened them disproportionately and allowed my hip muscles to become relatively weak, a possible cause of my knee pain. So I’ve brought out some of my old hip exercises to see if they help.

But otherwise I feel great. I’ve set personal records (PRs) in a few distances over the last few months as my running improves. I’ve lost fat and gained muscle. My heart and lungs are doing very well and becoming more efficient. My resting heart rate is under 60 now. My lungs don’t freak out when I run in cold air like they did in my younger years. If you’d told me at age 8, when my asthma forced me to sit out some days during PE, that I would be training for a half marathon 25 years later, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. But I am. With the possible exception of my time on the MacArthur tennis team, I’m probably in the best shape of my life at 33 years old.

I feel good – partly because I’m healthy and happy and have energy, partly because I’m using the body God gave me to do something special, something most people never choose to do. It’s not because I’m a great runner. It’s not because my endurance or discipline is unusually high. I simply chose a goal and started doing what it takes to reach it. You can do the same thing in whatever you are pursuing – pick a worthy goal and go after it. There is great joy in achieving something you didn’t think you could achieve. On February 26, I hope to experience that joy more fully.

This race is a big deal to me. It might be my only half marathon ever. It all depends on how my knee holds up. I might need to walk more than I would like so that my knee can rest. I’ll run as much as I can. If I can finish in two hours, I’ll be really happy. But even if I don’t, whether I run, walk, crawl, or ride in a gurney, I will cross that finish line.

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