Going the Distance

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A beginner’s training guide for the Virginia 10 Miler

This is the year. You’ve told yourself over and over that you want to finish the Virginia 10 Miler, but the cold weather or that second disappointing jog derailed your goals. Well, it’s not too late. With about half a year before the big race, some sound advice from a local health professional and a hobbyist who has been there, done that can help you get from zero to 10 Miler in six months.

The following is intended to be a starting point. Of course, there are plenty of apps and online resources to help keep you accountable day by day. If you are looking to start out with a 5K, or the 4 Miler, or even if you’re looking to tackle a half marathon, this plan is scalable. (For anything longer, take what you can from this but seek other sources.)

GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME

Kathy Thomas, Director of Healthy Living for the Downtown YMCA, said that to start, beginning runners should:

“Set a realistic goal and challenge yourself.”

Often, people take themselves out of the race before they even lace up their shoes and step outside. It can be overwhelming when you first start out, but it is important to keep in mind that you are working toward a goal—don’t expect to finish the race on Day 1.

“When I first started running, I absolutely hated it and never thought that I would actually enjoy it,” Ashley Reich, Secretary of the Lynchburg Road Runners Club (LRRC), said. “For some of you, it will take a while to get to a point where you feel like you are making progress and looking forward to the next run. For others, it will come naturally and you will be the ones running down the sidewalk with a huge smile on your face and making running look effortless.”

When it feels like you can’t make it, remember those who have gone before you, and be encouraged.

“I have been running for only a few years consistently,” Reich said. “With a lot of hard work and consistent training over several years, I have been able to run America’s Toughest Road Marathon (The Blue Ridge Marathon), several half marathons, 5Ks and many other distances in between.”

So, when setting goals, Reich recommends to make sure they are your goals. The goal could be as simple as finishing a certain distance, or doing so within a certain timeframe. Adding milestones along the way can help make the end goal feel more achievable as time goes on. Just remember, the second part of the step is to challenge yourself. You don’t have to try to run a marathon in your first year of running, but don’t settle for a mile if you know you can work your way up to two.

EQUIP FOR SUCCESS

If you are going to take your training seriously, Thomas said, then:

“Invest in a good pair of running shoes.”

She added most stores will help you with a fitting and that “you want your running shoe to be a half
size bigger.”

While outfitting is important, fueling your body is critical. Reich said:

“Make sure you are maintaining a healthy diet and hydrating properly throughout your training.”

“Carry a water bottle with you on your longer runs to keep from getting dehydrated,” she said. “Some runners also like to utilize gels or other energy supplements during a run.”

“Always make sure you are hydrated and fuel your body,” Thomas emphasized. “This is really important if you are training for a long-distance race. Your body needs carbs for fuel.”

In the summer months, hydration is all the more important.

STEP OUT

Before pounding the pavement, be sure to stretch properly, as well as after running, to minimize injury. Thomas recommends five minutes of warm-up exercises and five minutes to cool down and stretch.

Plan your route. If you are not running with somebody, tell a friend or loved one where you are going.

“Training for a race should consist of 3-4 days per week,” Thomas said. “You can use one of these days to cross-train—swimming, elliptical, biking, etc.”

Plan on running for about half an hour each training day for the first month or two.

“Beginner runners should alternate with running and walking,” Thomas said. “For example, jog 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds. If you feel like you can go a little longer than that, aim for 40 seconds. Or, if you feel like 30 seconds is too much, run for 15 seconds and walk 30 seconds.”

As you are able, start adding time and distance to your runs.

Over the next two-month period, start working from 45-minute to one-hour runs.

Again, take everything in stride; it is OK to alternate jogging and walking. But as you get used to training days, begin to challenge yourself. Go harder for the first half hour and ease up for the last half.

After about a month of training consistently for one hour, begin to add 15 minutes per week.

Depending upon your progress, you may need to work up to two hours of running at a moderate pace.

There are a number of online resources for runners of all levels, as well as apps that can track progress. Utilize these resources if they help. But whatever you choose, stick with it. Some days are going to be difficult. And remember, you should be giving yourself rest days each week.

“Once you have chosen the plan that is right for you, consistency will be the key to meeting your goals for the Virginia 10 Miler,” Reich said.

On race day, runners at all levels will be competing; don’t feel overwhelmed. It is a very fun race atmosphere and people are extremely encouraging to one another. By this point, you should be comfortable enough with the time and distance requirements. Knowing what to expect can help ease some of the pressure, and you should have a general idea of where you are, for example:

8-minute per mile pace = 1 hour and 20-minute finish
10 minutes per mile = 1 hour and 40 minutes
15 minutes per mile = 2 hours and 30 minutes

SUPPORT

Some runners find solace in going solo. For others, a group can change the game.

“I used to run alone and thought people that ran in groups were strange,” Reich said. “One of the best things I could have ever done for my running goals was to find a running partner or group to train with throughout each week leading up to my next race. A group provides accountability and many times lifelong friendships will develop.”

There are several groups available locally, including weekly Fun Runs hosted at 6 p.m. by LRRC on Tuesdays starting at Riverside Runners and Thursdays at The Water Dog.

The YMCA of Central Virginia partners with Riverside Runners to offer free Virginia 10- and 4-Miler training July to September for all levels, open to members and non-members.

“We meet Saturday mornings at the Downtown Y and Thursday evenings at the Jamerson,” Thomas said.

One last bit of advice. Have fun.

“Running continually challenges me and gives me the opportunity to clear my head and be shut out from the world around me for a period of time,” Reich said. “For me, no other activity compares to the joy and freedom of running.”


To sign up for the race and get your motivation started go to www.virginiatenmiler.com.
Learn more about YMCA Central Virginia at YMCACVA.org.
Learn more about the Lynchburg Road Runners Club at LynchburgRoadRunners.org or connect on Facebook.com/LynchburgRoadRunners.

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About Author

Drew Menard is a passionate storyteller, currently content to call Central Virginia home, along with his wife and three active boys, as he works to complete his first novel. In his professional career, Drew has written articles and other pieces for a number of publications, websites and organizations and he’s an award-winning columnist. His creative journey has included editing screenplays, consulting on stories, helping construct speeches and even producing videos. Drew holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in strategic communication, which enabled him to publish a thesis on the emergent trend of transmedia storytelling.

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