In just 11 weeks, I will strike one more goal off of my bucket list. I will run a half marathon. I actually made this decision back in the summer, but considering that I was running two miles at the most, I decided to give myself a trial period before I actually declared my intent to run.
Three months later, and I'm halfway through the training and halfway to my goal of 13.1 miles. So, here is my public declaration: On January 19, I will be running the Louisiana Half Marathon.
No backing out now.
Experienced runners will laugh at this, but training for the half has been an eye opening experience to say the least. Not only are runners apart of a cultish, competitive group bound by blood, sweat and blisters, excessive running leads to all sorts of interesting challenges.
For example, I've learned just how many brands of tennis shoes there are and how, indeed, the right shoe can make or break your knees. I've also learned terms like respiratory alkalosis, just how many muscles are located in your knees, feet and ankles and the various ways one can damage, tear and twist those muscles. Also, did you know not eating enough carbohydrates while running long distances will cause your body to basically sweat ammonia as it breaks down protein to use as energy? Three months ago, I didn't either.
Had I known this, I would have bought stock in Ibuprofen and pasta.
The funny thing is, I am not a graceful runner. When I began seriously running, I envisioned myself loping along the streets like a graceful gazelle. Sadly, I have caught my reflection in windows as I limp by. If I were a gazelle, I would be the one stalked and eaten by lions.
I was not built to run long distances. The muscle build I inherited from my father lends itself to short sprints, not long endurance. When I hit mile four my leg muscles are enflamed, my breath is as jagged as a dog having an asthma attack and I am sweating worse than a sinner in church.
Each week when I join my running club for a 5K through town, I'm amazed at the pure athletic stamina of some of these runners. Guys and girls who run like Apollo and Diana through the woods finish in half my time. By the time I finally joint their ranks, they are happily enjoying their second beer.
But, overcoming these challenges, oddly, make running all the more fun for me. Running was never something I thought I could do, let alone sign up for a half marathon. I have found that even after a bad run, I feel better.
Running is an excellent cardiovascular exercise, not to mention a great way to boost mood improving endorphins. As an article by Amy Van Deusen in Woman's Health magazine explained, "When your legs hit their stride they squeeze blood toward your heart, which in turn forces it to pump the blood right back. The faster you run, the harder your heart works and the stronger it gets."
Also, several studies have shown that regular exercise can help prevent various diseases and cancers, including diabetes, breast and colon cancer.
Finally, and least scientifically, it's an equally great exercise to do with a friend or on your own. I enjoy my weekend runs by myself, but I also look forward to my group run every week because my competitive nature usually improves my time. And, the running group is made up of all levels of runners- from the super runner who finishes in a new record time each week, to the beginners who are just getting started.
My running app even allows me to keep up a friendly competition with a friend up north who is also training for the same race. That same app allows me to post my runs on social media, so I apologize to my friends for my ceaseless mileage updates.
Running works for me, but as always, before you start any serious exercise, check with your doctor to make sure your body can handle it.
You can also seek advice from some local experts. Here is a great website that lists several running clubs and shops around Baton Rouge compiled by local fitness guru Denver Benton:
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