Yesterday I did something I’ve never done before.
Not only that, I had never expected to even attempt it.
I ran 8 miles. Well, sort of.
It’s all Donna’s fault. Donna’s my friend who asked me back in April if I would sign up for the Army Ten-Miler race with her, scheduled for October 20, 2013.
Without hesitation, I said, “No way! Why would I want to do that?”
She knew I had run some 5Ks and even an 8K (about five miles) race earlier this year. But as exhilarating as that St. Paddy’s Day 8K was, when I crossed the finish line I said out loud, “That was fun, but I’m never going to run anything longer than that.”
I laughed in Donna’s face when she asked if I’d do the ten-miler with her.
But then I remembered. This was Donna asking. Donna was just finishing up chemo treatments after a recurrence of ovarian cancer. Donna still had a couple of months of radiation treatments to go through. Donna wanted to conquer the Army Ten-Miler this fall. And did I mention that Donna’s never run in a race before?
Right, Martha. Just say NO to the cancer patient. Nice.
“I just want to alternate running and walking,” she said.
“Oh,” I said. “Well, I guess I could do that.”
A Rocky Training Start
Donna stayed up until midnight on May 14th to sign us up for the race; it’s the second largest ten-miler in the country and always fills up within hours. Then we both forgot about it.
I hardly ran at all over the summer, since I’m a wimp in the Virginia heat. Donna didn’t finish radiation until July (I make that sound so easy, don’t I?), and then was on the road for much of the summer.
We didn’t actually run together until about a month ago, managing five miles that first time out, alternating running and walking.
As two not-really-runners–one just shy of her 50th birthday, the other a few years into her second half century–the goal we set for ourselves is to stay ahead of the race’s sweeper bus.
The sweeper bus picks up slow pokes so volunteers and organizers can go home. Donna figured out that, to meet this ambitious objective, we need to maintain at least a 15-minute-per-mile pace.
(Donna’s doing all the thinking for us in this process, by the way. I’m just along for the ride.)
Wrenched Hip, Wrenched Plan?
A couple of weeks ago, Donna pulled something in her hip on a shorter training run. We were only four weeks out from the race and I started to worry.
What if her hip didn’t get better and I ended up having to do this thing myself? How far could I actually go without Donna by my side? I had other serious runner friends who were signed up for the race, but I had no interest in trying to keep up with them.
I did a solo training session, pushing myself to run three-and-a-half miles out of town, realizing I had to make it back somehow. After about mile four, I alternated walking and running. I tried walking half a mile, then running a mile. But walking that long got really boring. And I still struggled with the last couple miles of running.
The uneven intervals were confusing and inefficient. I completed the seven miles, but I was moving so slowly by the end that I would have been sweeper bus fodder in the race.
My panic levels were rising.
How the Galloway Method Changed Everything
I whined to Joann, my boot camp instructor and 8K race buddy, that I was getting nervous. She knows better than anybody how un-ambitious I am.
“You should try the Galloway Method,” she said. “It’s a run/walk system that people use for all sorts of races, including marathons. You can use different ratios, but you could try alternating between running for four minutes, then walking for one. The key is to do it from the outset, and still walk even if you’re not tired to conserve your energy throughout the race.”
Wow. Permission to walk after just four minutes? I’m in!
To my great relief (and this is all about me), Donna’s hip healed up. I told her about the Galloway Method, and she tried it out before I did. She pumped out 6 miles using the system, and said it worked great for her.
So yesterday we met up for our longest run yet. In the meantime, I had done a little more research on Galloway (as in, 45 seconds worth of Google search and printing out a chart from the Galloway site).
It turns out that the 4:1 run/walk ratio is recommended for a 9-minute pace. 3:1 translates into a 10-minute mile, 2:1 into an 11-minute pace, and so on.
Always shooting for the lower bar, I suggested we try 3:1 for our 8 mile run, since this was farther than either of us had ever run and it would still keep us ahead of the sweeper bus pace.
Donna used the timer on her iPod, again doing the thinking for us. We trotted off.
We took a couple of breaks to stretch (wise old ladies that we are, taking care of Donna’s hip). I took a port-o-potty break. And I whined about the heat, which had risen to about 80 degrees by the end of our run.
But we rocked those 8 miles, and we did it in a little over 11 minutes per mile pace, even with walking every three minutes, stopping a few times, and in the heat.
And that was all without the benefit of the extra energy you take in from the crowd on race day, the rush of adrenalin from being one of thousands gathered in one spot to run. (Last year, over 22,000 runners completed the Army Ten-Miler.)
Since the Army is hosting this race, we’ll have the added inspiration of service men and women running in and volunteering at the race. I experienced the rush of having soldiers cheer you on in the Marine Corp’s Run Amuck mud run this spring. It’s awesome.
Even more inspiring will be having Donna at my side, a cancer survivor two-times over (and in circumstances much more grueling than my own four years ago)–challenging herself, challenging both of us–to prepare for this race so soon after her treatment. So thank you, my friend, for being the only person who could have convinced me to do this.
We’ll be able to crank out ten miles two weeks from today. No problem. We’re PSYCHED!
And I just double-checked–the race is still on, even if our lawmakers haven’t gotten their act together to re-open the government by October 20th. But don’t get me started on that…
If you have any tips for us in advance of our first ten-miler (and for Donna, her first race of any kind), please share in the comments! I’d love to hear your own training and/or race stories!
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