The unspoken truths of training for your first half marathon

On the eve of my first half marathon...

Tim Strong's Motivational Quote for Half Marathon Training

I sit here on the eve of my first half marathon, butterflies in stomach, thinking of what got me here.  The short answer is, a few months back I decided “Why not?” and started training. It was far deeper than that though. I didn’t sign up for the race right away. I also didn’t tell people right away. Why?  Accountability. I wanted the ability to bail on this venture (I have before shortly after the start) without feeling overly disappointed in myself.

I think back to 5 years ago when I took up running. First a 5k, then a 10k, and within a year a 13k. Each new distance had me a little nervous and a great feeling of accomplishment after, but none of them were a half marathon. None were close to 13.1 miles.  Was my body even capable of that?

Tim Strong being goofy while cheering during a half marathon

I remember Beth running her half marathon and how I felt through it as a spectator. This was long before my running started, but I remember the feeling of longing to be part of it and proud of her for completing it.  The minute I started really thinking about it, though, an over arching fear came over me that I couldn’t do it.  This was the same combination of feelings that stirred within me each year at the Bridge Run where I’d participate in the 5k. I was pleased to run the 5k, but longed for the feeling of accomplishment that came with the half marathon- followed by fear that it wasn’t possible for me.

Tim Strong's Binghamton Bridge Run Half Marathon Training Plan

I was a pretty big fan of that! So back to February 1, 2019. Something inside me decided that this was the time I’d do it. I printed a popular training program, marked it up for what would work best for me, and put it on the bulletin board. Most of my running came at 5:30am on the treadmill at Synergy Athletics.  4 days a week I’d be there bright and early getting my run in. My long run days mostly took place outside over the weekend, in some less than ideal weather.  Each day when I got home from the gym, I’d cross that day out on my calendar. At first there was so much time between then and the race, but soon the chart started to get more slashes.  It became half full. Eventually it was almost entirely filled. I found crossing that day off extremely gratifying.  Not only were weeks going by, but my distance was increasing too.

Tim Strong's Binghamton Bridge Run Half Marathon Bib

What other things were happening due to these early morning runs?  I was sleeping way better, and falling asleep earlier too. I used to be awake until after 11 but now I was dragging and ready for bed by 9.  I was eating better too. Knowing whatever I had for dinner (or late night) the night before, would effect how I felt the next morning, I really started to pay attention to what my body was saying and I cleaned up my diet quite a bit. Lastly, I drank a lot less beer. I was never a heavy drinker but wouldn’t have a problem finishing a 6 pack over a weekend on top of weeknight work events with cocktail hours. I pretty much cut all that out for the same reason as my diet- I didn’t like how it made me feel on my run.  I ended up using 1-2 beers as my Saturday night reward for completing that week’s long run. The results?  Not only was a running better- I was losing weight too. 

Tim Strong of Visions Federal Credit Union Running his first half marathon the Binghamton Bridge Run

Tim at Mile 6.2 | Washington Street Bridge

I have to say I went 10 weeks without missing a day- something I was incredibly proud of. Then on the eve of my final long run, I went to the walk-in with a scratchy throat to find out I had strep throat. I was devastated. That long run was going to be my first run in double digits and the last before my race. Confidence crushed, I had to put faith into the training I’ve put in.  Thanks to plenty of fluids and antibiotics, I was able to put in a couple short runs earlier this week in preparation for the race.

Timothy Strong, Visions Federal Credit Union Development Manager takes on his first Binghamton Bridge Run Half Marathon

Tim at Mile 12 of the Binghamton Bridge Run

So here I sit. Butterflies in stomach. Thinking about what’s next. Of course I’ll give my body the proper recovery time, but I don’t want to lose this momentum.  I have this feeling once I complete this race, I’m going to need some other goal to work toward from a fitness standpoint. Something keeping me motivated to get out of bed at 5am, in bed by 10pm, and eating healthier. I can’t tell you what it will be at this point but it will have to be something. I don’t want to lose this.

Although my motivation has come largely from within- my support came from all around me.  I owe Thank You’s to a number of people. First and foremost is my wife, Beth. The early runs and long runs would not have been possible without her keeping things going at home with the girls. I don’t know if you’re aware, but a 9 mile run takes some time for a slow person to complete! Haha I’m also excited that this is a half marathon we’ll be competing in together- a number of years a two wonderful little girls after the first!  Second is Lisa N and Ken B, my more experienced running coworkers. They were both also training for races of their own and offered my a ton a guidance and support- keeping me on track and accountable by asking each Monday how my run went and also answering any questions I had about nutrition, routes, etc. Third is the Binghamton running community. I continue to be amazed how welcoming and helpful this group is. From being chosen to be a brand ambassador for my favorite running shop- Confluence Running, to getting to know various race directors through running my own race, 4 on the 4th, I’ve gotten to know a bunch of you and the words of support in person or online have meant so much.  Thank you all, and I’ll see you at the finish! 

Join us in congratulating Tim on his 2:06:37 Half Marathon Finish!