Dapeng Li

Hungry, foolish and passionate – yet another software developer.

Half-marathon, the first 10 months

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On Nov 25, 2012 I finished my first half-marathon in Beijing, in about 2 hours and 30 minutes.

This is the first part of two posts reviewing my experience of preparing a half-marathon race as a novice runner in the span of 10 months (Jan 31 to Nov 25, 2012).


In the year of 2012 I will turn 30, back in January, these words hang out in my mind:

  • Frustration: I was somewhat disappointed at what I had achieved in 2011
  • Challenge: I would like to do something not so easy, not so ordinary
  • Proof: to prove that I can do better
  • Time: before Nov 2

But why marathon?

I ran in 2011 (from couch to 5K) but didn’t stick long after reaching 5K, however the C25K experience was very good. So there’s continuity in doing this. During a dinner with friends, one of my friends told us his experience of running a marathon in Hong Kong, it struck me.

For me, there had not been many candidates, and once I thought about running marathon, I know I don’t have to look elsewhere, this is it. I want to run a marathon this year.

Another reason: I was afraid of running distance longer than 1,000 meters when I was at school, how can anything be more meaningful than overcoming one of my fears, in the year I’m turning 30?

I started with a full marathon as my goal, how it turns out to be a half-marathon and happens after my birthday will be explained later.

Validation & Plan

Question #1: Is it possible for me to finish a marathon?
I had a little doubt about the health of my heart (did felt a little uncomfortable occasionally), but what I read suggests consulting a doctor before running, which I decided to do sometime.

Question #2: Is there any race that’s before Nov 2, and allows me to prepare decently?
Beijing Marathon – Oct 14 (originally planned date), sounds like a good fit.

Question #3: How long would it take to prepare a marathon as a novice like me?
I found a popular program by Hal Higdon for first-time marathoners which takes 18 weeks, but that program also assumes your fitness of running 5K 3 to 4 times per week. So I decided to start from 5K (train at least 8 weeks), then 10K (at least 6 weeks), last the marathon (at least 18 weeks).

I also purchased a book by Hal Higdon on marathon which received many good reviews.

Knowing there’s enough time and there will be plans, I started with the 5K training and was prepared to make changes as time progresses.

Believe or not, I was prepared to quit my job and prepare for the full marathon for 18 weeks. I considered using that time to train extensively and learn technologies I’m interested in and prepare for my next job.


5K (10 weeks, Jan 31 to Apr 7), with Ease into 5K app

I started with the C25K program again, and added two additional weeks after the regular 8-week program. In the last two weeks, I run 30 minutes each time, 3 times per week.

10K (15 weeks with 3 weeks off, Apr 10 to Jul 19), with Bridge to 10K app

I continued with the bridge to 10K program, which usually takes 6 weeks and I initially planned for 9 weeks.

But I caught a cold and fever on the week of May 6, which took me off the road for 3 weeks (I continued to go to work, but stopped running).

The sickness prolonged my training of 10K to 15 weeks.

Quit and run full, or stay and run half?

In mid-June (when I’m approaching the end of my 10K training) I was assigned to a new project at work, I was informed that the project would be important, challenging, demanding and was asked for commitment for the upcoming 6 months.

After thinking for some time, I decided to stay with my job and commit to the new project, at the same time train for half-marathon rather than a full marathon. Several factors were considered, and I chose a less radical path comparing to the original quit-and-run-full-marathon plan.

The half-marathon for novice 2 would take 12 weeks instead 18 weeks for a full-marathon, but still requires 4 runs per week with 3 runs on weekdays, so I need a plan to allow me to stick with the training plan and does not impact the quality of hours I can put into my work.

The answer is: early morning runs.

Half (12 weeks, Jul 23 to Oct 14), with Hal Higdon 1/2 Marathon Training Program – Novice 2 app

Most of my runs in 5K and 10K programs were evening runs between 8 and 10 PM. I considered myself not an early runner for that I felt empty and tired in the morning.

With a demanding work schedule and an equally demanding training schedule, I thought I should give early runs a try. The most obvious reason is early runs are less likely to collide with my working time.

My day job starts at 8 AM, without early runs I usually get up at 6 AM. With early runs, I rise at 4 AM.

I searched on the Internet and found that rising as early as 4 AM will not harm one’s health and many people do that.

On those “early run” days, after rising up at 4 AM, I give myself some time for my body to “wake up”, bathroom business, preparing the gears and I usually go downstairs at about 4:50 AM.

The half-marathon program requires 3 runs during weekdays per week, 1 of them being sorta-long runs, the other 2 being easy runs. Even the sorta-long run usually won’t last longer than 1 hour so it fits my schedule in the morning.

On Saturday, I would rise up at 4 AM and do my weekly long run.

I found Subway’s sandwiches to be a good treat for myself after every run – it’s delicious and provides good balance of meat, vegetables and grains. I usually bought a sandwich the night before my run. it would be ideal to eat the freshly-made sandwich in the shop instead of microwave it at home, unfortunately Subway starts at 7 AM and an errand there in the morning would make me late for work,

During the weeks when overtime to 8 or 9 PM was common, Wednesdays were tough – on which would be an early sorta-long run, work overtime, then another early run the next day. Fortunately most of the time on Wednesdays I could go home before 9 PM and sleep right away, to ensure my 7-hour sleep.

The Routines

So here are my routines of a week in the half-marathon training for the last 18 weeks…

  • Monday: up at 6 AM, work, buy sandwich on the way home, sleep at 9 PM
  • Tuesday: up at 4 AM, easy run at 5 AM, work, buy sandwich on the way home, sleep at 9 PM
  • Wednesday: up at 4 AM, sorta-long run at 5 AM, work, buy sandwich on the way home, sleep at 9 PM
  • Thursday: up at 4 AM, easy run at 5 AM, work, sleep at 9 PM
  • Friday: up at 6 AM, work, buy sandwich on the way home, sleep at 9 PM
  • Saturday: up at 4 AM, long run at 5 AM, rest at home
  • Sunday: rest at home

Half-continued (6 weeks, Oct 15 to Nov 24)

When I was about to finish my 12-week extensive half-marathon training, something unexpected happened, the race date would be postponed. Actually for several weeks I didn’t know how long it would be postponed or even be held at all.

It posed several problems: training plan, disappointment, and cold weather.

Luckily the project at work started to be less demanding after Oct 1, so I can put more energy on my half-marathon training.

I repeated the last 6 week’s training plan of the program.

Then I learned that the race date would be Nov 25, 6 weeks later than the original planned date.


To be continued…

Written by Dapeng

December 7th, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Running

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