Succeeding at Completing a Half-Marathon at Middle Age

Dorian Martin Health Guide

    Some people are born to run – and some just want to learn how to do it well. And some people want to learn how to run long distances. Which brings me to two friends,  Jan and Pat. Together, these middle-age women trained and completed the White Rock Half-Marathon in late 2010.

     The pair’s exercise partnership started since they were neighbors who would walk most mornings together. “We both enjoy walking so my exercise got a jump start because of her commitment to meet and walk every morning before work for her at 5:30 a.m.,” Pat said. “I thought that was too early for me truthfully. It worked perfectly however.” That’s because having a routine as well as having a loyal training partner helped Pat, age 67, run her first half-marathon and Jan, age 59, get back into running.

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    Jan had always enjoyed running when she was younger. “From the age of 35 to 51, I ran on a weekly basis. I ran numerous half-marathons, trained for several marathons, yet only ran one: The Honolulu Marathon in 1999,” she said. “In my early 50s I suffered back pain and other problems. I stopped running temporarily but that ‘temporary stop’ lasted for seven years.”

    So how did they do it? Jan initially heard about and tried the Couch to 5K program, which is available online. This program sets up a training plan for beginning runners and provides a free runJeff Gning log. But soon Jan heard about a new regiment, the Jeff Galloway training program, and recruited Pat to join in May 2010. “The goal of the training program was to run a half-marathon in Dallas during the first of December,” Jan recounted.  “That made my decision (about running a half-marathon) for me.”

    The Galloway program takes individual ability into consideration. “The program was designed for individuals who had been running or walking for a few weeks,” Jan said. Pat concurred, “The whole concept fit my needs and Jan’s needs  perfectly.”

    So what did the program consist of? Jan explained, “We initially ran what Jeff Galloway calls ‘the magic mile. That is, we are timed for one mile as we run around a track. Based on that information, we are placed into run/walk categories. My placement was walk one minute, then run one minute. It is called ‘1:1.’ Faster and younger participants were placed in ‘2:1’ (run two minutes, walk one) or ‘4:1’ (run four minutes, walk one). Slower runners were placed in a 30-second run, followed by a 30-second walk. We were asked to run at least three times a week – two shorter runs of 30-40 minutes and one long run, which gradually progressed in endurance. While walking, the participant’s running muscles are rested and while running, the walking muscles are rested. It’s a jewel of a program.”

    On Saturdays, the pair would meet with the Galloway running group to train for the mini-marathon. “We would run in different locations every Saturday with our group, increasing our miles until we achieved our needed minimum 13.6 miles or even more,” Pat said. “We actually did reach 18 miles in that training effort. We decided the 26-miles plus (that they’d need to run for a marathon) was not going to be fun and it was half-marathon only this year.”


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    Both women saw changes in their bodies due to the training program.  Noting that she dropped 21 pounds, Pat said, “More importantly, I feel healthy and great and try to eat well.”  Jan didn’t lose weight (although she believed she would have if she had changed her diet), but her body proportions changed a bit.

    And both women are staying the course. “We all continue to meet and run together now to maintain our commitments to good healthy living,” Pat said. And guess what? Jan has actually signed up for two more half-marathons!

Published On: January 21, 2011