Shape's new race-training writer shares how she got into running, and how she plans on training for the Brooklyn Half Marathon
I was never “a runner.” I grew up dancing competitively—and finding ways to avoid running the mile in gym class. Running was the punishment for when you did something bad, like talking while Mr. Martin was explaining the rules for kickball for the 16th time, right?
But after graduating from college and moving to New York City to pursue my magazine editor dreams, I somehow found myself trading in my pointe shoes for a pair of Brooks Adrenalines. I had moved in with a roommate I found on Craigslist and her walls were adorned with medals. Forever a lover of shiny things, I inquired, “What’s the deal with those medals? What did you win?” This very patient new friend of mine explained that they were running medals for completing—not winning—races of various distances, mostly half-marathons in her case. That only led to more questions on my end: “What’s a half-marathon?” “What’s a race?” “How do you run?”
Not only did this roommate put up with my questions, she also took me to get fitted for my first pair of real running shoes. And then she pointed me in the direction of the East River running path and basically said, “Go.” And so I did.
I successfully ran four blocks that evening before collapsing, completely out of breath. Turns out, my “dancer endurance”—the ability to perform a 3-minute routine—didn’t translate to running. But there was something intriguing about running. So the next day I went back out. I ran one block further. Soon, I was setting goals to make it to “just one more lamppost.” Eventually, I made it all the way to the dog park (a huge feat!), where I took a hard-earned break to watch strangers’ puppies, debating which ones I wanted to casually borrow (I didn’t, don’t worry). For the first time, I felt that runner’s high I had heard about. (Curious? Science is Trying to Decode the Runner's High.)
A few months later, I ran my first race: a four-miler in Central Park. I cried at the start line because I was so excited, and almost barfed at the finish line because I was so tired. (Pacing was not my specialty; it still isn’t.) Within a week, I had committed to upping the ante and running a half-marathon. With my roommate, of course.
That was seven years ago, and sometimes I still question my “runner” status. My times aren’t the fastest and my weekly mileage sure isn’t the highest, but I’ve run five marathons and 11 half-marathons, and I’m confident I could run the full 6-mile loop of Central Park blindfolded, I know those roads, hills, and turns so well. (Fittingly, I’ll be getting married in Central Park this fall!) (What Makes You a Runner? Hint: it's about more than speed or distance.)
For my next challenge, I’ll be training for the Brooklyn Half Marathon on May 16. My half-marathon personal record is an outdated 1:44:48 that I ran in a very determined and rage-filled post-breakup state in 2011. While I’m not necessarily shooting to break my own record at this race, I am hoping to run the half in less than 1 hour and 50 minutes. I’ll be following a training plan from John Honerkamp, who creates the training programs for the New York Road Runners. Follow along—it’s going to get sweaty around here!
Alison Feller is a writer and editor in New York City. She has completed five marathons, 11 half-marathons, and many shorter distance races. When she’s not writing or on the run, Alison can be found in the yoga studio, on a spin bike, or (on very rare occasions) cycling outdoors with her fiancé. Keep up with Alison on her blog, Ali On The Run, or on Instagram and Twitter @AliOnTheRun1.