Why I Run: Training for Lexington’s Half Marathon

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I know you’re used to me talking about UK sports, mostly basketball at the moment as I’m on the verge of a “If you can’t say something nice…” stance on UK football—but as much as I love UK sports, they aren’t something I’m actually able to take part in (although I couldn’t possibly play worse than some of the guys against Alabama, could I?) The sport I do take part in is running. It has taken me awhile to transition from a guy who runs to a runner, but over the past couple of years I have found it is something that brings a lot of joy into my life. Yes, running outside in rain, sleet, snow at all kinds of various temperatures is…..a blast. It really is.

So, as a runner I was geared up for the Run The Bluegrass Half-Marathon that was going to take place at the Kentucky Horse Park on April 3rd. I ran last year’s race and was pretty proud of my time (1:55.14) and had already begun training for this year’s race. That’s when the bad news came via Twitter. Race canceled. Crap.

I was upset not because I wouldn’t be able to run a HM; there are plenty of quality HM races in nearby cities. I was upset because Lexington’s race had been canceled. Lexington has always sat on the edge between City and Town. We have so many qualities of both and that’s part of what makes us unique. Our races, such as the MidSummer Night’s Run, are incredible community events, part of our town, while a HM had a chance to be part of our city. Run The Bluegrass is the type of race that people travel to compete in, and to lose it meant, in my eyes, a step back from where Lexington should be headed. We could host the World Equestrian Games and accommodate visitors from all over the world, but we couldn’t hold on to a half-marathon?

And then, like Stefano DiMera from Days of Our Lives, Run The Bluegrass rose from the dead, with a new non-profit at the helm, LexEnomics.

As the new “Official RunTheBluegrass Blogger at Ace Weekly,” what I plan on doing is providing some updates on my personal training, reflections on running, information about the race, ways for you all to be involved, and maybe even seek some motivation from Readers.

When I talk to my friends and family about the Run The Bluegrass Half-Marathon, the response I get, more often than not, is why? Why do I want to run 13 miles? Why do I want to layer up in all sorts of cold weather running gear and do a long run in 20 degree weather? Why do I think they should take up take up the challenge?

The answer for me seems fairly simple. I have talked before about transitioning from a guy who runs into a runner, at least in my mind. The transition seemed to coincide with becoming a married man with a full time job who was taking Graduate School classes. As my responsibilities increased the free time I had to hit the gym or go for a run began to decrease. It became better for me to set long term goals and to look into a structured plan to stay in shape (round is a shape, right?).

That’s when I began to take races I had run for fun, like the Midsummer Night’s Run, a little more seriously. I used the Runner’s World website, and now the iPhone App, to create a training plan and found that when I had set days and set structure, it was much easier to plan for the run. I had toyed with the idea of a half-marathon but never really put forth the commitment. When Lexington announced their Half-Marathon last year, the predecessor to the bigger and better, and locally owned, Run The Bluegrass Half-Marathon, the opportunity could no longer be avoided. I had never run more than five miles before I began training, but the first day I ran double digits, ten miles, I knew I was hooked. I actually looked at my running watch, did a little dance, and high fived a tree (I may have been under the influence of the “runner’s high” at this time). From that point forward, there were no question marks about whether or not I could finish a half-marathon, only the drive to run it the best I could.

So, the why for me is because I love the structure of a long term running plan. It makes it easy to fit into my schedule of teacher, husband, father, and drinking buddy. It is a set time that I leave the stress of the work day and can retreat into my own personal reflections. It is an activity that makes me feel good about myself.

There is a reason you see a lot of running on The Biggest Loser—it is an activity that almost everyone is capable of doing and it helps you keep your body, and I believe your mind, healthy. No expensive equipment needed. The beauty of any race is that it is a community event and a rare athletic competition where everyone can win. Instead of competing against another runner, most runners compete against themselves and their own times. If you want to walk part of the race, you can walk part of the race. What matters is that you have begun to lay the groundwork for being a runner. Your next race, you will walk less, and when you do, you will feel victorious, regardless of your time.

I think nothing separates “runners” from “people who run”  more than running in bad weather. If you’re a guy who runs (or a girl), then you like to run because it’s nice out and a good day outside is a great way to exercise or change your gym routine. If you’re a runner, you look outside at the rain, snow, or freezing temps and feel a little sadistic thrill that you’re going out for a run.

I have to admit, running in bad weather makes me feel like a bad ass (Pardon my Coach Cal language). This morning, before I went out for my long run (7 miles) for the week I put on 14 pieces of clothing (2 socks, 2 shoes, 2 gloves, underwear, tights, pants, base layer, jacket, fleece, face cover [which I took off about half way through], cold gear hat). It takes more than a few minutes to get everything layered on, and it is extremely important that I go to the bathroom first, but it gets the job done. Plus, wearing tight clothes always makes me feel a little like a superhero.

The real bad ass feeling comes not when I’m admiring my legs in the running tights (ummmm….forget that last remark), but when someone drives by or is outside shoveling snow. I like to think they look at me and go “Wow! What a badass running in 20 degree weather!”, even though it is more likely they are just thinking “Wow! What an idiot!” Regardless, I love the feeling of knowing I’m going to run be it rain, sleet, or shine. I would much rather run outside in crappy weather then an extended run on a treadmill. So if you’re thinking about staying on the couch or running multiple laps around an indoor track, trust me when I say that the great feeling you receive from conquering the elements will last a lot longer than the cold you feel during the run.

As far as bad weather running advice during the winter, the biggest danger is ice. Cold and snow can be annoying, but ice can be dangerous. If you live close enough, I would recommend doing your run around UK’s campus. They do an amazing job of clearing off the sidewalks, which lessens the chance you slip and fall. I prefer to go layers with some Under Armour type base layers over a bulky coat, but the main goal is staying warm.

So if you want to run (and you do, trust me you do) then simply go to Runthebluegrass.org and register. Now that a 5K (3.1 miles) race has been added to the agenda, there is no reason sit on the sidelines. Together, we can make this one of the premier events in Central Kentucky. Now, I have to help my wife clean the bathroom and still fit in a 2 mile easy run. Run your race, Kentucky!

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