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Published: Sunday, January 1, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

A half-marathon is a challenge even beginning runners can handle

  • A running group led by Jennifer (front left) and Rod MacLean (front right) powers up a hill during a short training run in December.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    A running group led by Jennifer (front left) and Rod MacLean (front right) powers up a hill during a short training run in December.

  • Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald 
Lead by Jennifer (front left) and Rod MacLean (front right) the running group heads down the road on a short training ...

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald Lead by Jennifer (front left) and Rod MacLean (front right) the running group heads down the road on a short training run in December. Photo taken 121711 Features - Good Health - running group

  • Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald 
Runners wear shoes. 
Photo taken 121711 
Features - Good Health - running group

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald Runners wear shoes. Photo taken 121711 Features - Good Health - running group

Half marathons quickly are becoming the most popular endurance race in America.
Many people, especially beginners, find the 13.1-mile distance a physical and mental challenge that is more attainable than the full 26.2-mile marathon.
Even people who have never run before can cross the finish line with only a few months of training, experts say.
"The half marathon has sort of emerged as the big race distance of this decade," said Hal Higdon, a national running guru and author of "Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide."
"It's right for people who have never run a step in their life. It's a good starter distance."
The Heroes Half and 10K is a local race scheduled for April 29 in Everett. The course is an out-and-back that begins and ends by the Navy base. It follows the waterfront, crossing the sloughs before returning.
Sign up and kick-start a year of good fitness by beginning a training regimen now.
People who are in shape may be able to train and finish the half with about 12 weeks of preparation. If you are starting a fitness program from scratch, you may want to start with the 10K, which is a little longer than 6 miles.
Running is as simple as putting one foot in the front of the other and stepping outside, but running distances takes planning, training and preparation.
To start, people should set aside time goals and instead embrace the personal reward of completing the course.
"For first-timers, we always tell people it's all about finishing," said Shelby Schenck, a running coach and owner of Run 26, a specialty running store in Mill Creek. "It's hard to set a time goal when you haven't done the distance."
First-timers have the added benefit of setting a "PR," or personal record, just by starting.
The Heroes Half started in Seattle in 2009, then moved to Everett in 2010, said Lynne Hoskins, the race organizer. She hopes to attract 1,500 runners this year and expects about a 50/50-split between the two distances.
The race benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
"We want this race to become a major half marathon," Hoskins said. "We want to bring people to Everett and we love the course."
To start training for a half marathon, buy good running shoes.
"It's amazing how many people train in the wrong shoes," Schenck said.
Visit a specialty running store where experts will analyze your gait and suggest the most appropriate shoes. They typically are sold to accommodate various levels of stability, motion control and comfort. Running in badly fitting shoes can cause injuries.
Next, find a coach You can try online programs including Higdon's, or local charity programs like the Mukilteo team raising money for Beads for Education, a group that's working to improve the status of Kenyan women through education and business development.
"I've done enough races and I have a passion," said Jennifer MacLean, 49, who is organizing the Mukilteo group.
In exchange for a commitment to raise $300 for the charity, MacLean organizes team runs and develops a training plan.
The plan tells you how frequently to run and how far. Typically, training requires two to four shorter runs and one long run on a week, Schenck said.
The Mukilteo group has weekly team practices around Snohomish County.
"It's important to get people together," MacLean said. "It's a way to get inspired and it's a way to get in shape."
Running with other people can help you stay motivated during long training weeks, Higdon said.
Stick to the training plan, but be flexible in allowing for days off and slight changes. It's OK to do your long run on Saturday if the plan says Sunday.
Equally important is rest, especially for beginners, he said. Listen to your body, eat well and enjoy.
Take walk breaks and slow down if that's what your body is telling you to do, Higdon said.
In fact, MacLean said she often walks the entire course. That doesn't slow her down.
"I love the endurance portion of it because it can be social, for one, and it keeps you in good shape," she said. "It's fun to have a goal to strive for."
Register for the Heroes Half
The Heroes Half Marathon and 10K are scheduled to start at 8 a.m. on April 29 at Marina Village next to the Navy base entrance.
It costs $30 to register for the 10K and $50 for the half marathon prior to Jan. 15. Rates increase twice before race day. Discounts for active military.
Register at www.heroeshalf.com or in person with cash or check at Run26, 15603 Main St., Mill Creek.
To learn more about the Beads for Education training team, go to www.beadsforeducationraces.blogspot.com.

Story tags » HealthRunningFitness

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