Monday, December 27, 2010

Half or Full?

OK, I know this is my second post in the same number of days, but I needed to get this one out there. I need help!

So last Tuesday, while I was lurking around the fully occupied treadmills at the rec center, I started chatting with another runner who was also waiting. Lean and rangy, one of those old-school 70s Boulder guys who has been running since before I was born and will be running until he keels over, he told me he was training for the Colorado Marathon in nearby Fort Collins on May 1.

Guys like him usually know what they're talking about when it comes to local races. So I looked this one up online when I got home. The course starts high in Cache La Poudre Canyon west of Fort Collins, finishing in town after a net elevation drop of more than 1100 feet. In the eight years of its existence, it has qualified a relatively high 16-18% of its finishers for Boston. And the scenery is apparently amazing.

Immediately, I began toying with changing my plan.

That plan, currently, is to run the Boulder Spring Half on March 27 with the goal of breaking 2 hours, and then to use the results to determine my next step, which hopefully would be a full marathon in the summer or fall (fall being more likely given my aversion to hot weather). Changing to the May 1 race would mean switching to the FIRST program's marathon plan starting in January, and hoping that I have enough of an endurance base to hit my intermediate marathon goal of breaking four hours.

I can't run both races well, so I can choose only one. Both have pros and cons. I laid them out as follows:

The Half-Marathon

  • Builds my endurance base more gradually and probably more thoroughly
  • Race date is sooner and therefore more motivating
  • Easier to recover if sickness hits me or my family over the remaining winter months
  • Shorter training distances easier on my nagging sore foot
  • Familiar course

  • Delays a true test of my marathon prowess for almost a year
  • Kind of ho-hum--I've done this course before

The Marathon

  • New and scenic course--exciting!
  • The most appealing local marathon I've studied--I wasn't planning to do any local marathons, but this one might be the ticket despite the altitude (which I'm used to anyway)--and it means my family could come watch
  • I wouldn't have to buy a plane ticket or stay several nights in a hotel, as I will have to do for any other marathon that appeals to me down the road
  • High Boston potential--it's too much to hope that I would qualify for Boston as soon as this coming May, but doing a marathon so soon would allow me to test the course out and get an idea of how far I really have to go

  • May be too soon for me to do a full marathon; my right foot is still bothering me, and it definitely bugs me more the longer I run
  • Spring Half is already paid for, and non-refundable; the Colorado Marathon would set me back another $125

I'm on the fence. On the one hand, I know I shouldn't rush this. On the other hand, I'd like to get a move on, and a good time in a half-marathon, while it would be nice, isn't my larger aim. Each day brings the big four-oh closer for me.

What do you think I should do? Please leave a comment here or on Facebook with your opinion. I need all the help I can get!


  1. In my completely un-training educated opinion, I'd stick with the half for the reasons that 1) you know the course, which is a major plus for something you are using as a stepping stone to something greater; 2) having run a mere 5-miler along that area, I can tell you that the course is potentially rather brutal, esp with a large ascent just before a very large descent out of the canyon. Coupled with May's uncertain weather (a larger factor for the shadowy canyon area) and a longer race, I think you'd be setting yourself up for a disappointing finish if you opt for the marathon. This'd be beside the point if you were looking for something fun, but not so good if you're looking at it as a tool for the BQ.

  2. I have run this before - but just the 1/2 marathon. It is beautiful and I would definitely consider running it again. Here's my opinion/pros/cons: its a lot of downhill thru the canyon (which can be a pro & a con) - it give you speed for "most" of the race, but killer on the knees; once you come down from the canyon, there are some uphills and then it gets flat - which seems like an uphill after running down for so long - this part actually slowed us down more than I expected; it can be cold & very, very windy in May - just something to keep in mind; in the past it has been on mother's day - so depending on how you want to spend your day - that could be good or bad. Just some things to consider. Hopefully this helps - Elizabeth has also run this a couple times, so maybe she will chime in.

  3. I shared your post with my ex-runner husband, and his first comment was that the full marathon would likely be a lot harder on the affected foot, so the half might be better. He has also had a bunion and wondered if you had a diagnosis. I’ve found that the folks at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine understand that you don't want to stop running (or cycling, in my case) when you’re having issues. You've got some time yet before your goal, so it may be helpful to get a medical perspective for the long term. My two cents!

  4. bunion? I heard recent news about it being arthritis. Can you have it removed?

  5. Hadn't heard the news about bunions being a form of arthritis. I'll have to Google that later. It's not actually the bunion itself that's bothering me--it's a circular area of pain in the ball of my foot (too high for it to be plantar fascitis) between my second and third toes. I definitely need to get that foot looked at, as Donna suggests. Getting that done in January will be a good New Year resolution.

    Right now the advice has all been overwhelmingly on the side of sticking w/ the half, so that's probably what I will do. Gives me some time to deal with the foot thing, too. After that, I may switch back to some speedier training (5 and 10Ks) for the early part of the summer. Then, beating 4 hours in the full will be an autumn goal--if I can do that, the second year of this will be pretty obvious.

  6. Terzah, I think the half is a wise choice. The foot was the deciding factor for me; I can tell by your words the overwhelming motivation and excitement to do the marathon. I'm worried that with the extra mileage and training well for your marathon will leave you with no races. Spring is the season of change and the weather is unpredictable. This often means wind. If I were you, I'd go for the well-trained half and then springboard that into a perfect Fall marathon. Happy New Year! --Alex

  7. Thanks, Alex! I think the people have spoken. The half it is! If only it all works out as gloriously as the visions your comment conjured up.