Running My First Mini-Marathon

This story was submitted by Terry Henderson, who runs in Kentucky.

Ever since a friend of mine asked if I wanted to go for a run with her last year, the running bug has stayed with me. I made running a part of my weekly workout routine, being able to lose a pants size, lose body fat, gain tone and muscle. I ran my first races, being the 5K and 10K of the Triple Crown of Running in Louisville in 2010. I missed out on the 10-miler, because of a knee injury. Click here to read how I dealt with that issue. In 2011 I ran all three races in the Louisville Triple Crown of Running. I ran the 5K , 10K, and the10-miler, which I completed in 1:41. I was very happy with that.

people running mini marathon

My running friends, who are encouraging, supportive, and run full marathons themselves, asked if I was going to run the mini-marathon in Louisville following the 10-miler. Honestly, I hadn’t really considered running the mini-marathon, but thought about what my friends had said about “it’s only three more miles – you can do that.” A few days later I came to a decision: I would run the mini-marathon.

The next couple of weeks I ran outside as much as possible, tackling hills and trying to build up distance. I never ran 13 miles during training and before I knew it race day eve had arrived. Would that impact my race, I wondered?

The morning of the mini-marathon arrived and I arose at 5:30 a.m. to prepare myself for my longest run ever. It is chilly on spring mornings before the sun comes up (around 50 degrees) so I looked through three different running outfits because later in the day it was going to be 80 degrees and sunny. Nerves and excitement also followed me through the morning. Breakfast, running bib, my iPod,GU packets, and cell phone were all taken care of as I made my way to Louisville with friends.

As we walked to the start line of the mini-marathon, which is also the start for the marathon at the same time, the energy in downtown Louisville was amazing. Thousands of runners were congregating, along with family and friends to support and cheer them on. My friends were in corral B, which meant they were close to the start line and I was in corral G, which meant I had to walk further back in the sea of people. I found a pacer holding a sign for 10:34 miles and I got in that crowd.

After having a surreal hush come over a crowd of 15,000+ people standing in complete silence as the National Anthem was played, the race gun went off, and so began the mini and full marathons. It took me 10 minutes to get herded across the start line and begin the mini-marathon.

It was a perfect day for running, being a cool morning with the sun coming up over the horizon and not a cloud in the sky. My iPod was playing my favorite tunes as I navigated my way through the course, around runners slowing, and walkers. About half-way through, my iPod battery died and I was not happy. I tucked my earphones in my pocket while running and was pleasantly surprised. I saw lots of people with constant cheering for runners for the entire 7 miles of the race I still had to go. There were people cheering on runners with enthusiasm and encouragement the whole time, which is amazing, and I am thankful to all of them.

The route took runners into Churchhill Downs behind the horse race track, which was a neat experience. Race horses were being ridden on the track in the cool morning air, with trainers and owners dotting the fence line. I have been to Churchhill Downs for the Oaks and for general race days, so it was neat to see it from a different perspective.

Upon reaching mile 11, my body started to feel tired and I wanted to walk so badly. I had taken advantage of the water being handed out by countless volunteers along the route, taken my GU packets every 3 or so miles. I then realized my allergies I had been suffering from the week prior were starting to kick my butt. Then I did it – I slowed to a walk at around mile 11.5. And it did not feel good for my entire body. So after about 10 steps I kicked back into running again. To my surprise getting and staying in a running motion was easier than I though. I would be alright.

The crowds in downtown Louisville in the last mile of the course were bigger and their cheers pushed racers on. I hit mile 12 and I had renewed energy, knowing the finish line was so close. I easily ran the last part of 13.1 miles to cross the finish line and receive my first medal for completing my first mini-marathon! What a great feeling! My time was 2:22:41, which I am completely happy with.

My family was there to greet me and my kids were in awe of my medal, thinking I won the race (grin). I told them, no, a lady much faster than I won the race and we should be happy for her. I told them I still won because I accomplished a goal I had set for myself. I also told them I needed some ibuprofen and a nap. We went home soon thereafter and that’s exactly what I had. After resting the whole afternoon, we went out to dinner because I had the most amazing hunger.

So check that off my list of things to do during my lifetime: run a mini-marathon. Do I feel the quest to train for a full marathon? I can say this confidently (as of right now anyway) — no. I am happy with conquering 13.1 miles of the great city of Louisville, Kentucky.

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How to Make the Most of Running in Hot Weather

There are many adjustments that you will want to make when you are running in hot weather. One of the most important aspects of hot weather running is to keep your body as cool as possible. You will have to think well ahead of time what your running goals will be in hot weather running. Where are you going to run? How far are you going to run? You will also have to learn to listen to your body.

Sweating after run in heat

When running in hot weather, avoid running during midday. The first thing you should do is start running in the early morning, usually just around day break. This time of the day is cool and it will help you keep cool. Cannot run in the morning? Well, try running at dusk, while not as cool as the early morning, it is better than running in the heat of the day, which you should avoid at the best of times.

Your hot weather running goals will have to change as well. Lower them. There is no way that you will be running in hot weather as fast as in the cool weather. Do not run as fast as in the cooler weather. Maybe you could break up your hot weather running with a little walking. Try walking a lap or two (I usually ran around a sports track) and then run 6 or 7 laps and walk a lap or two. This is especially effective if you have to run in the middle of the day.

In hot weather running wear light clothing, and avoid wearing cotton. Cotton will absorb the sweat, and it could cause chafing of the skin, or worse yet, bleeding of the nipples in men. You should also wear light colored clothing, this helps to reflect the sun, rather than absorbing the sun. There are many good runner’s clothing out there, especially for running in hot weather, check them out!

Remember when running in hot weather to start your run with the wind to your back. When your start running back you will be running into a head wind, which will help you cool off, yes use every little advantage when running in hot weather.

Take a drink before you start out. This will help your body to cool down, before you even start. Make sure you drink lots of water. Drink at least a cup every 10 to 15 minutes. Pour some over your head to keep cool. When running in hot weather, the runner’s body is pumping blood to the skin to keep the runner cool, if you can help your body keep cool, the less your body has to work.

I would often put a wet towel over my head your liquids are exiting your body through your sweat and a wet towel was like putting on a cold wet hat. This helps slow down the body’s heating process, and gives you a few minutes when running in the hot weather, before the sweating process starts up.

When running in the heat make sure you wear some sun block if you are going to be running longer than 15 minutes.

If you can find a place to run in the shade, like the woods, go for it. When you run in the open, you are getting heat from above and if you run on asphalt, you will also be getting heat from the asphalt as well.

If you are running around a park in the heat, learn where the fountains are, these can be a life saver. Drink no less than a cup at a time, and pour as much over your head as possible.

Running is very much a solitary endeavor, but you should find a running buddy. To many runners, to quit because of hot weather running, is a sign of weakness, and many athletes will not succumb until the body has completely shuts down. This is when need some one to tell you to slow down, walk or even to quit running in hot weather. There is nothing worse than going through the phases of heat exhaustion by yourself. You could be so delirious, that you will not recognize the start of a heat stroke. Make sure you take a cell phone, when running in hot weather, in case you need to call for medical help. Do not be stubborn. If your body wants you to slow down, slow down. I know how hard it is walk rather than run, but your body can easily cramp up, and then you will be lucky if you can walk. Once the cramping starts up, you actually might have entered into the first stage of heat stroke, which can result in death. So, if your body tells you it has had enough hot weather running, quit running!

Running Advice for Beginners: Finding Your Running Style

Man running in city park

The great thing about running is that it is a sport for everyone. Running doesn’t require you to invest in a lot of gear (golf and skiing come to mind) and it can be done almost anywhere. The fun thing about running is finding your niche and developing your fitness to truly do well at a specific type of running whether it is distance or terrain.

You may be a sprinter, a middle distance, a long distance or even a marathoner or ultra-distance trail runner. By taking running from just a workout to a hobby or even a competitive sport finding your inherent abilities is essential to not only success but having fun with the sport.

What type of running is right for me?

Running has tons of benefits, and finding your running style is important.

After personally running every sort of race over the course of 7 years from the 100m dash to the 5k all the way to a 140.6 mile Ironman distance triathlon I can safely say finding the distance that works for you is vital to enjoying the sport over a great length of time. Finding your distance and terrain can all be worked out by training first off for easily the most popular race in America; the 5k. This race not only sets a good base fitness for those just starting their running career but it gives a good sampling of both speed and distance as well as variable types of terrain. Most 5k races held throughout communities are done on trails or roads. However, while training for your 5k it’d be good to do some workouts at your local track to get a feel for what the distance feels like. Also in preparation for your 5k you’ll want to have a good digital watch in order to track your pace at various distances. As the 5k is both an Olympic track event and a launching point for almost every beginning runner the 5k is definitely the best sampling of both worlds and is the right step in finding out your strengths as a runner.

Once you’ve gone through the fitness and training plans needed to do a 5k (there is a wealth of highly detailed information about 5k training out on the web) and you’ve run your first race you should now be at least a bit more knowledgeable and confident about the vast world of running. Now comes the fun part.

Analyzing your strengths and weaknesses

Depending on whether you’re a male or female there may be a few slight differences (mainly concerning time). A decent time for a first timer who is male would roughly be in the 22:00min — 27:00min range and 25:00min — 31:00min for females respectively. Granted these times are for the true beginner but also for one who followed a standard 5k prep program. If your times are better than those listed than that is a great start! If they are a bit slower than the maximum times listed then it is nothing to worry about, those times are just meant to be generalized times that most people would fall in.

Now if you are the far outlier for these time ranges then either this guide isn’t for you or you just need to wait and build up your fitness a bit more and try another 5k a different time, don’t worry though you’ll eventually get your running form! It is a bit too hard to tell what kind of running style you’ll excel at if you haven’t yet reached at least a moderate level of fitness.

You can break down your 5k results in three ways. The beginning, the middle and the end/finishing kick. For example let’s say you ran a 25:00min first time 5k. Now granted you used a digital watch and tracked your pace and you understood the mile marker or kilometer markers throughout the course you can breakdown your race. A 5k translates to a 3.1 miles. For simplicity we will round this down to 3 miles. You’ll want to look at each of your miles separately in order to see how you performed. Taking our 25:00min example time, let’s say mile 1 was 7:25min, mile 2 was 8:35min and the final mile was 9:00min. Now your results probably won’t be this evenly distributed but taking a look at the times you can notice a decline in the pace. Now this analysis is again meant to be broad but can offer a bit of insight into your individual performance. In noticing a pace decline we can suggest that either 1) Due to a lack of prior training your endurance level may not be at a high enough level to maintain a 7:25min pace for three miles 2) You ran out of the gates too early, this commonly happens due to excitement or excess energy/adrenaline and it just takes some self-control and adjusting of pace in order to fix this early “overly-quick” pace issue to slow down your first or second mile to create an even pace throughout the race 3) The 5k distance may be a too long for your running style and you’re better suited at attempting distances like the 1500m — 3k.

Now if you had a very fast 1st mile time and it gradually faded but perhaps you felt a little surge of energy at the end to give the final 100m a good kick then it might be wise to keep at the 5k distances or perhaps longer and just adjusting your pace accordingly and increasing your endurance threshold. If you felt fast in the beginning and by the end you were completely worn out then maybe your running style could really shine if you limited it to just focusing on say the 1500m or 1 mile race. Personally as an 800m runner I enjoyed 5k races but I always felt by around 2500m or half way through the race I would always fade back a bit and I just came to accept that I was meant to run lower distances because my speed was greater than my endurance. Now if you were an individual who maintained a steady pace throughout the race but you weren’t very fast perhaps half marathons and marathons could be your strong suite. A steady pace is often a good indicator of someone who can put down a lot of mileage even if it isn’t at a fast pace. As they say, slow and steady wins the race, but in the world of running slow and steady often gets you through those grueling 26.2 milers without too much damage.

Once you’ve looked at your times and seen whether you were either fast at certain parts, had an uneven pace or perhaps felt the distance wasn’t long enough to challenge you at least now you have a good understanding of what running you may enjoy.

Man running down rural road

I would recommend if you felt comfortable with the 5k and just want to improve it then go right ahead! If you felt the beginning and speed was more of your result perhaps going to the track and practicing some speed work will better cater to your style. If you were someone who finished the 5k and didn’t feel a bit of fatigue then setting your sights on upping your mileage will definitely appease your running style. Again, this guide was just to inform people that the 5k is in general regarded as a great launching pad for your running career and looking closely at the results may direct you into a world of running you didn’t know you would enjoy. Don’t take racing results for what they are, whether they were really fast or really slow, looking at your pace and remembering what you felt during certain parts of the race at certain distances may be a clue that you should be running a specific type of race and in figuring this out you’ll find the venue that you can truly excel at.