Running season has officially started in Austin. The Austin Distance Challenge presented by Austin Fit Magazine is in full swing, and two of Austin's most beloved races are just around the corner: the 3M Half Marathon (Jan. 25) and the Austin Half/Full Marathon, just a few weeks later on Feb. 15, 2015. If you're comfortable with 5K and 10K race distances, it might be time to consider increasing your distance goals. And for those who have raced longer distances, now may be the time for a challenge by setting new time goals at the half marathon distance.
Don’t worry; you're in good hands because I’m kicking off the first four weeks of a 12-week half marathon training plan that leads to either the 3M or the Austin Half. Are you ready to make the commitment?
What holds many of us back from achieving goals is a negative mindset: we're not good enough, not fast enough, we don't deserve it—all of the reasons we can't achieve a goal. Whether having doubts or needing additional encouragement for taking the half marathon plunge, here are 13.1 reasons why this distance leap might be good for you.
1. Tour Austin.
Both the 3M Half Marathon and the Austin Half Marathon take runners through some of the hippest and most scenic parts of town.
Shoal Creek, Hyde Park, the UT campus, Congress Avenue Bridge, First Street, and downtown Austin are all on the course, and there are plenty of fun photo-ops along the way for those inclined. Plus, as someone once told me, traffic only stops for you in two instances during your life—a race and your funeral procession. I don't know about you, but I want to take advantage of the race-day police patrol as much as I possibly can before my final parade!
2. Train in the Austin “winter.”
Kudos to those who can train through the Austin summer for a fall marathon, which often means being up and running long before the sun has risen. Training for either 3M or the Austin Half means temperatures and humidity levels are ideal and cool; chilly mornings give runners a chance to test speed and long runs without succumbing to the heat index and suffering performance drops.
3. Take the guesswork out of training.
Whether getting ready for 3M or the Austin Half, this twelve-week plan provides a mixture of tempo work, fun runs, and a safe long-run build with recovery weeks included that can get you to the finish line. Suitable for beginners, it’s also adaptable for experienced runners ready to step up their tempo and set new personal records. Following a plan created by a coach saves a tremendous amount of time and guesswork that comes with putting together a multi-week schedule.
4. It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.
Valentines Day weekend is also the same weekend as the Austin Half. Spend quality time with the one you love by running 13.1or 26.2 miles around the city together. Enjoy a romantic, celebratory dinner after the race and raise a glass to toast your teamwork in making it to the finish line. Bonus: chocolate and champagne just taste better when you've run that far.
5. You need electrical tape or Post-its.
Let's face it—beside the net downhill course, one of the biggest attractions to the 3M Half Marathon is the swag bag overflowing with stacks of Post-it notes, ankle braces, tape, and other products from Austin-based 3M. You'll never need to buy photo-hanging stickies and Christmas wrapping tape again (or at least until next year's packet).
6. A social life is still possible.
Your race starts at 7 a.m. and you can be drinking mimosas by 10 a.m. And you can get a killer afternoon nap before dinner. This isn’t to say that training for a half marathon doesn’t take time, but it does allow more freedom for fun and other social obligations on a weekly basis that don't include fartleks, tempo intervals, and long four-hour runs from North to South Austin. In other words, while you train hard for a half, you still get to play hard.
7. You’ll need less recovery time.
I'm not necessarily talking about that mimosa recovery time as much as I'm talking about having the ability to return to training. The half marathon can certainly make you sore, but a quick ice bath, some foam rolling, and stretching, you can be back in just a few days. And if the half marathon is a step along the way in training for a full marathon goal race, this ability to jump back into training quickly is especially important.
8. It’s great for picking up the pace.
People love marathons and ultras for a reason; it's meditative and therapeutic to be out there for hours on end, and it's easy to fall into the routine of long, slow, distance running. The half marathon, however, gives you a chance to take training and racing up a notch by working on speed and intensity. You'll get faster, more efficient, and your weekends won't be completely shot (refer to #6).
9. Test training progress prior to the marathon.
The 3M Half Marathon is three weeks before the Austin Marathon, making it perfectly placed for those running 26.2 in February. Running a half is the best dress rehearsal for practicing marathon nutrition, pacing, gear, and any important strategies that you'll want to perfect. Plus, there’s simply nothing to replicate the adrenaline of a race morning with thousands of others than, well, a race morning with thousands of others.
10. Mama needs a new pair of shoes.
While many view a race as a great reason to update the wardrobe, never try anything new on race day. However, you'll definitely want to purchase a new race shoes and break them in on a few runs, especially if you've been wearing your old ones for several months or hundreds of miles. It's important to put some air in the tires, so to speak; plus, new shoes just make you feel faster, right?
11. Enjoy those health benefits.
When properly executed, training can vastly improve quality of health. Moderate training leads to an increase in cardiovascular strength and a decrease in blood pressure, stress, and weight. Running multiple times a week also produces some serious calorie burn, which can help with shedding some unnecessary weight as well as bad habits.
12. Make new friends.
There’s a training group for everyone in Austin. The best of friends know and understand what it takes to go to bed early, set the alarm for 5 a.m., and hit the road by 5:30 a.m. for a training run. A group provides the opportunity to share your passion for running with others; even a lone-ranger runner can still connect with new friends via social media outlets. Reach out, join a group, and become an integral part of this community of self-motivated people who are empowered to accomplish great things.
13. Support a good cause.
Run to raise awareness and money for multiple charitable causes. The Austin Marathon developed a philanthropic program (Austin Gives Miles,) that allows participants to run for a variety of causes. The 2015 3M Half Marathon will contribute money to support Girlstart, a year-round, intensive science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education program for girls in grades K–12.
13.1 It's freakin' fun!
There's something so rewarding and invigorating about pushing the body for 13.1 miles around this gorgeous town. Whether running alone or with a group, know that charities will benefit from your entry. Friends and family will be influenced and inspired by your efforts to set goals and accomplish amazing things. Most importantly, your body, mind, and soul will thank you. It doesn't get much better than that! What other reasons do you need? Start today, and happy running to you.