Runner’s Math Just Doesn’t Add Up

Youth has to do with the spirit, not age. – Henry Miller

The first math problem we learn to solve when we are children is 1 + 1 = 2, which becomes the foundation of everything we learn thereafter involving numbers. Use the same logic for endurance running and you’re in big trouble, because runner’s math isn’t so simple.

I ran a half-marathon in August and another one today, and I was reminded that two halves don’t equal a whole when it comes to running. I did well, felt fresh and ran strong the second half of the race, but I certainly didn’t have another thirteen miles left in me when I crossed the finish line. I realized I’m not ready for the marathon I signed up for in November.

The half-marathon is a popular race for runners who want to test their endurance. It’s a little further the distance of two 10Ks (6.1 miles x 2)—no picnic, but manageable. The same logic doesn’t work for a marathon. A traveler might take a break to reenergize at the halfway point of a two-hundred-mile-drive, but taking a break at the thirteen mile mark of a marathon won’t propel a runner to the finish line—only training will. The only way to prepare the body to endure the pounding and the mind to bear the torment of the grueling endurance feat is to train long, either by distance or by time. Building to an 18-20 mile or three-hour training run will help you overcome that invisible barrier known as “hitting the wall” or “bonking,” which lurks in the late miles of a marathon.

I’ve written a number of posts recently about options to traditional marathon training programs, but today’s half-marathon was a reminder not to take the race lightly. Any way you look at it, 26.2 miles is a tough challenge. If you plan a marathon this year, find a 30K to run between now and the race, but leave time to recuperate. Other posts with advice and perspective on the marathon can be viewed at this link.

Multitude of runners heading east on Benjamin Franklin Parkway toward City Hall in Philadelphia.


About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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