In my last post, I described the ins and outs of our training program. I mentioned that because we're novice runners, each training run is done at a comfortable base pace. Intermediate and pro runners incorporate tempo runs (where the pace increases over time, then tapers down throughout the run) and race-pace runs (which can help runners practice their pace for the marathon and predict their marathon time.)

While our training program doesn't prescribe doing races, we certainly do them. Imagine following a schedule and looking out to the intimidating week 15 of the 18 week program. Right there on the Saturday of week 15 lies the daunting task of a 20 mile training run. You may be thinking, "Isn't the marathon more daunting than a 20 mile training run?" Well, yes AND the marathon is an organized event with water stops, friends and strangers to cheer you along and celebrate with you at the finish line. 

A 20 mile training run alone (i.e. not as part of a race) is probably the toughest thing you have to do to prepare for a marathon. In past years, Michael and I have done the Bear Water 20 mile run  this is the perfect race for gearing up for the Twin Cities Marathon  it lines up with week 15, and it's close to Minneapolis, well organized, and takes you through the lakeside and neighborhoods of the quaint White Bear Lake community. 

But there's no convenient 20 mile race out there that lines up with training programs for Grandma's Marathon. When I trained for Grandma's Marathon two years ago, I did my training run by myself. We live near the river in the Longfellow neighborhood in Minneapolis. My run took me to Minnehaha falls, where I followed the Minnehaha creek past Lake Nokomis to Lake Harriet, around the lake and back the way I came. It was tough -- I took my time, took bathroom breaks and water breaks as much as I needed, and arrived back home about four hours after I started. What a way to spend a Saturday!

My point is, races are a great, organized way to get yourself out the door and finished with a race before you might typically be out of bed on a weekend. And it gives you a chance to practice running without stopping (i.e. to walk, take bathroom breaks, or extended water breaks)  because who wants to dawdle when a giant red digital timer is looming at the finish line? It IS a race after all — and for those of us who are novices, it means racing against our own personal records (the elusive PR) rather than our fellow racers. 

So, what's on our racing agenda?  Well  our program includes several races that are at or around half marathon distances (we round up or down depending on what races are most convenient.)

We're both doing the Get In Gear Half Marathon at Minnehaha Falls on April 25th. This one will require us to get a sitter. The next two races we decided to split up for child care purposes.

On May 3rd, Michael will be running the Minnetonka Half Marathon and on June 6th, I'll be doing Lola's Half Marathon in Waconia. 

For these races, we'll push our paces a bit, refrain from taking walking breaks, and dig deep in preparation for Marathon day, where "dig deep" will be our mantra. 

We've still got several long runs we'll have to do on our own — without the support and structure of a race — including a 20-mile run scheduled for the same weekend we're to attend a wedding in St. Louis. Running 20 miles in an unfamiliar city with a baby? Challenge accepted. (Honestly, we have no idea how it's going to turn out.)

It was tempting to register for more races, but we figured one together and two split up was a good compromise since adding the logistics of child care makes things more complicated. I'm sure I speak for Michael too  we're looking forward to running outdoors with a few hundred fellow runners.  Runners  (you know who you are) we'll see you out there!

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Rands on the Run: Favorite marathon training routes

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Alisha Perkins on what it means to be a 'runner'