Help Me Run a Half-Marathon!
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Help Me Run a Half-Marathon!

When Katie Cooper decided to run a half-marathon and drop the endless loop of circuit classes, FITNESS gave her the push she needed and the training plan to go the distance.

"Help Me Run a Half-Marathon!"

The Goal

I'm no stranger to the gym: I have a desk job at one of the best and biggest in New York City. Making it to circuit training class two times a week or hitting the indoor track for short runs was never a problem, but after a while my routine began to feel more like a rut. As I did my typical three-mile jog one day, I began fantasizing about completing a half-marathon. It had been more than 10 years since I'd run track in high school, and those were only 100- and 200-meter races. Still, I figured, why not give it a shot?

The Game Plan

At the start of last year, I signed up for the April 2009 MORE | FITNESS Women's Half-Marathon in Central Park. I stuck the FITNESS two-month race-training guide to my fridge, and with some expert support, I was off and running.

My Training Plan

Compile miles. I picked the FITNESS training plan designed by running coach Matt for newbies who log less than 15 miles a week. The first weeks were a breeze, but by week five I had to get my mind around exercising longer than 60 minutes to reach 6.5 miles. Thankfully my friend Alisha signed up for the race and did some runs with me, including a 10-miler. I thought, Whew, will I be able to go three miles more?


Put your back into it. The plan called for cross-training twice a week. I did one of those strength sessions with Ben, a trainer at my gym. He told me I hunch when I run, so we worked on improving my posture with shoulder-, back-, and butt-strengthening moves plus core and chest toners like slow, eight-second pushups. I was soon running with my shoulders back and chest out, stronger than ever.

Eat for energy. I learned that healthy carbs would help fuel my workouts. So I traded my usual grab-and-go coffee and granola-bar breakfast (or even worse, leftover pizza!) for the whole wheat bagel with peanut butter recommended by sports nutritionist Nancy in the training plan. After a four- to seven-mile lunchtime run outdoors, I'd eat tuna salad on whole wheat bread back at my desk to replenish my muscles with a good mix of protein and carbs.

The Results

I crossed the finish line in two hours 10 minutes, slightly longer than my goal of less than two hours. Still, I had a huge smile on my face. I slowed down at every water station to drink -- who knew it would be 92 degrees in April? -- and my knees ached by mile 12, but having Alisha by my side spurred me to keep going. I call myself a runner these days, and I have the medal to prove it!

Me, By the Numbers

  Start     Now
Weight 143 lbs. 135 lbs.
Height  5'8" 5'8"
Chest   35 1/2"


Waist   26 1/4" 25"
Hips    38" 37"
Body fat 19%      16.5%

Training Tips from Our Experts

Avoid Injury

Matt Fitzgerald, creator of the FITNESS half-marathon plan and author of Brain Training for Runners: "To avoid injury, include one rest day per week. That day off should follow your longest run."

Do More Than Cardio

Benjamin Hendrickson, trainer at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in New York City: "There's more to race training than just running. Strengthen your upper body to shift some of the work from your legs to your core and shoulders."

What to Eat

Nancy Clark, RD, author of Nancy Clark's Food Guide for Marathoners: "Before you run, experiment with different combinations of carbs and protein -- such as oatmeal with milk, or toast and eggs -- to see which is easiest to digest. If your stomach starts talking to you mid-run with bloating, gassiness, cramps, or heaviness, you may have eaten too much."

Run for It!

Originally published in FITNESS Magazine, February 2010.