Running With Tink

By Anica Wong

November 14, 2012 4 min read

It's in our nature to try to conquer the next thing. We're looking for the next job. We want to write the next bestselling novel. We need the next hot toy. As I crossed the finish line of my second 10K race, my sights were set on the half-marathon. I felt like it was within my reach but enough of a stretch to force me to train for it. It was to be my next big race.

It seemed as if I wasn't the only one thinking about conquering 13.3 miles. According to Running USA, the half-marathon is the fastest growing road-race distance in the United States, with 1.6 million people finishing a half-marathon in 2011.

My journey to the starting line of the 13.1-mile Los Angeles half-marathon was short. I felt confident in my base mileage and decided to sign up for the race two months prior to the start. While I thought my body could take an increase in workouts, I ramped up too quickly and injured my foot three weeks before the race. My big, bold plan for a big, bold race was exactly the opposite of what I should have done my first time out.

"First-time half-marathon runners should be sure to start out with lower mileage and gradually work into longer runs," says Stephanie Greer, co-coordinator of the National Institute for Fitness and Sport Mini-Marathon Training program. She suggests following a beginners training plan, which I hadn't even considered. I'd been running for more than 10 years and thought I knew what I was doing. I didn't.

I was disappointed in myself for missing the signs that pointed straight to a potential injury. After pulling out of the race, I went through a phase in which I felt a weird sense of relief that I wasn't running. The pressure was gone. The worry about whether I was going to run in pain vanished. To be honest, it was a little scary how OK I was with not running.

After taking some time off, I realized I couldn't get away from the pull of my next big challenge, although I wasn't ready to commit to a race fee quite yet. I started slowly and was truly enjoying running. When my sister asked a few months later whether I wanted to run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon with her, I jumped at the opportunity and set about creating the 2.0 version of my training plan: stronger, faster, smarter. This was going to be her first half-marathon, too, so that gave me some relief that I wasn't going to be doing this alone.

The Tinker Bell Half Marathon is a women-specific race that caters to the female crowd. This is one of several women-only or women-specific races around the country, including the Nike Women's Marathon and Half-Marathon and the Indianapolis Women's Half Marathon. Organizing these races makes sense: Fifty-nine percent of half-marathoners are women, and according to Running USA, this number has been on the rise since 2004.

"Having women-only endurance events provides a safe haven for women to get their feet wet in an event that they may have stayed away from in the past," says Greer. While I wasn't necessarily worried about who I was going to be running with (male or female), there was some reassurance in knowing I'd be running with my "own kind."

And that brings us to the present. I have a few more months before the big race and more confidence in my training than ever before. I added some weightlifting to make me stronger, and I keep tabs on how my body is feeling after each run and in between, as well.

Half-marathons are doable, and Greer agrees with me: Many people cannot imagine doing a 20-mile run to train for a full marathon -- nor do they have the desire. Running 10 miles to train for a half takes less time and still gives people that feeling of accomplishment when they finish. Even now, I know that feeling -- and I can't wait to feel it as I cross the finish line of my first half-marathon.

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