By Cindy Lapeña
You’re telling yourself it’s still six months away, or if you look at the counter on the PEI Marathon website, it’s 223 days and counting. That seems like a lot of time to prepare for a marathon if you want to run, even if it’s for the first time. Or is it? Most trainers and coaches – or at least, those who write about it – say you need between 12 to 20 weeks to prepare for a marathon. Let’s see now, that makes it about 84 to 140 before the actual day, or a good 3 to 4 months before, which means you can take it easy until May and really get seriously working at it by June.
Personally, I think that if you’ve never run before, or even walked on a regular basis—and I don’t mean from the couch to the fridge or the bathroom and back—3 to 4 months doesn’t seem like a whole lot of time to get into the habit of running. You see, 3 to 4 months doesn’t take into account your stopping and not wanting to get up after the first day, or the second, or the third, or maybe even a week after the first day. For the false starts and backing down, I’d probably give that an extra month. That means about five months away, which means by the end of this month, which really means about 3 weeks away. Holy moly. Where does time fly? Three weeks away actually means next week, because you’ll probably take all weekend to get the right pair of shoes and decide where to start running, which is probably going to be a walk at first—or forever, especially since wet and mushy or freezing and slippery aren’t the ideal road conditions for practicing.
There are several options for indoor training around PEI: the Stratford Town Hall, the Cari Complex, and the Summerside Credit Union Place. There’s also the sprawling Charlottetown Mall and the Confederation Court Mall, which has the extra challenge of steps. There are some buildings with really long corridors, such as the House of Sport Royalty Centre, and the Confederation Centre of the Arts has lots of floor space, not to mention, it connects to the Confederation Court Mall, so you can get quite a long circuit if you include the art galleries. I don’t think there’s anything stopping anyone from walking the corridors of the QEH either, unless you start walking into rooms. The good thing about walking there is, if you do collapse, you’re already in hospital! But don’t quote me on that. The Westisle Composite High School in Elmsdale, PEI has opened its doors to walkers during the lunch break in, so that’s another good half-hour walk up and down corridors (there are two tracks, one a quarter km long, the other half a km long), where you can look for old high school class photos of friends, as well. If you really can’t find anywhere else to go but do live in an apartment building, some of them do have long corridors, especially the ones with about 30 or more units in them, and even the smaller ones have those wonderful staircases you can climb up and down and around. It certainly beats pacing around in circles in front of your television set, not to mention the fridge is too near. Once all the snow and ice has thawed and the weather allows it, you can move your training outdoors just about anywhere there is a road or sidewalk. Just remember to do what you were always told growing up: walk or run against the traffic. Really, it’s common sense. You want to see what’s coming at you instead of having to keep on checking behind you. That’s a whole different issue really, but excellent advice when you’re on the road on foot.
Once you’ve found somewhere to train, have a go at it. It’s a good way to warm up your muscles and get them used to the (unusual) activity by just walking. You don’t even need a really long walk, nor do you need to walk fast. You don’t want to strain or pull or twist any of your muscles the first day out, do you? A nice, relaxed pace that still allows you to have a conversation, is all you need. Twenty minutes is all you need the first time. You can build that up by five minutes every day. By the end of the week, you’ll be up to half an hour. By the third week, you’ll be up to an hour! I think, once you’re up to an hour and you still haven’t hurt yourself, you can start pacing up then slowing down until you’re at a comfortable jog. Remember, you’re still supposed to be able to hold a conversation while doing it. What you’re developing is stamina and endurance, because that’s what you really need for a marathon.
At this point, it might be a good idea to keep a pedometer or something that measures how far you go. Google maps directions is a good way to get your distance from one point to another if you haven’t already found Map My Run. Another way you can calculate your distance is to use the average walking time for a person (I wouldn’t use myself as an example, because I’m a really slow walker, and I still blame it on the car accident I had a few years ago): it takes about 12 minutes to walk a kilometer, with the average walking rate at 5 km per hour. So if you walk an hour each time, you’re walking 5 km. If you’re jogging, you can easily double that rate, so you’d only take about 6 minutes to jog a kilometer and half an hour to jog 5 kilometers. If you jog an hour, you’re actually doing about 10 km, and if you’re running, you might be doing up to 15 or 20 km or more an hour.
Now back to training. All the experts (and doctors!) recommend you do everything to make sure you don’t injure yourself, and that includes not pushing yourself beyond what your body is capable of. You’ll know when you can’t do it—it starts with not being able to talk anymore, then you find yourself running out of breath, your heart starts pounding in your head, you can’t get enough oxygen in you and you’re gasping, then that starts your muscles cramping because they’re not getting enough oxygen either, then you start getting numb all over and before you know it, you’re tripping on your feet. I really wouldn’t wait until that happens. I’d slow down the moment I can’t talk and if I start gasping for breath, I’d stop. Yup. Don’t be a sucker for torture. Even if you hear all these quotes about torturing yourself, don’t follow them. I’m really all about pain avoidance.
So, back to training. If you can’t do the jog, stick to walking. There are walking categories in the PEI Marathon, after all, and the 10k walk means that’s a good 2 hour walk, so if you get up to walking 2 hours after a couple of months, you’re good for the 10k. If you can make it walking 1 hour each time at least 3 times a week, you’re nice and ready for the 5k. See? It’s not so impossible after all. Again, assuming you’re not a slow walker like me. I might actually need closer to 2 hours for the 5k, plus a couple of OTC painkillers on top of my regular pain pills. I guess that’s not too bad, all things considered. At the very least, you’re getting exercise!