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"How I Plan to Tackle My First Big Race"

Marnie Soman Schwartz

Last fall, my husband and I hiked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu in Peru. When we signed up, I was totally pumped, but as the trip got closer, I started to get a little scared. We’d done some difficult day hikes, but this was four whole days… at a high elevation… carrying a pack. I called a personal trainer friend, and she designed some workouts to help me build strength and endurance in the muscles I’d need on the trail. And with that goal in mind—getting through the hike—I committed to my exercise sessions, rarely missing one in the months leading up to the trip. (And it worked—I felt strong the whole way through the trek.)

Until then, I was pretty inconsistent with exercise—I always worked out in some capacity, but I’d fluctuate from intense regimens to twice a week treadmill sessions depending on the time of year and how hectic my schedule was. Training for the trail reminded me just how much a concrete goal could motivate me. It was something I’d known as an athlete (I was a swimmer in high school), but hadn’t really pursued since hanging up my goggles. (Need motivation? Consider these 10 Running Goals You Should Make for 2015.)

When we returned from Peru, I really wanted to hold on to that motivation, so I started setting short-term goals for myself—like working up to a set number of pushups, or running a set distance without walking. And when my runs became more consistent, I started enjoying them more, pushing my distance goals from three miles to four and so on. I looked at the workout plans I made for myself and realized, this looks a lot like a race training plan! And for the first time ever, I considered doing a road race.

Since I already knew I could comfortably run four miles, I settled on a half marathon as a challenging target. And in early February, I registered for the Airbnb Brooklyn Half.

Truth time: I’m scared out of my mind. Last weekend, as I finished a four-mile run feeling pretty spent, I thought about how, in 12 short weeks, I’ll be running more than three times that amount. But it’s a good version of scared—I was scared before the Machu Picchu trek too, and it ended up being one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. So even though I’m nervous, I’m excited about the journey ahead—and excited to share it with you. I’ll be following Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Half Marathon Training Guide; check back each week to see how I’m doing!

Marnie Soman Schwartz is the nutrition editor at Shape. She lives and runs in New York City. Follow her training here, and on Instagram and Twitter @marnwrites.

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