Only months after finishing Cross Country with an injury, sophomore Sarah Donovan placed second for her gender and age group in the 7th Annual Portage Winter Blast Half Marathon on February 24. The reasoning behind Donovan’s sign up was “just to prove myself that I could,” she said.
The Portage Winter Blast includes a 5k, 10k and Half Marathon organized by the Kalamazoo Area Runners (KAR), the City of Portage and Komen in Michigan. The proceeds go to the Susan G. Komen Michigan Organization. Its goal is to reduce the number of breast cancer deaths down to 50 percent in the U.S. by 2026.
[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Cross Country definitely gave me more confidence as a runner.”[/perfectpullquote]
“I hoped to get in better shape,” Donovan said, “but towards the end of the season my left hip rolled forward, which made my bounce uneven and my legs easily fatigued.”
“After that,” Donovan said, “I took time off and rested and then I decided instead of running for speed like we do at races, and I started running for distance. Taking it slow to see how far I could go.”
Training for Half Marathons is a discipline in itself. According to Kiera Carter, at Runner’s World, runners “either commit to their half-marathon training plan too much (ignoring their bodies and escalating an injury that could have been avoided) or they don’t commit enough.”
Luckily, Donovan found a point of equilibrium that best suited her body and stayed within a three month training period.
“On days that I didn’t feel like running I just didn’t run,” she said. “I listened to my body more, unlike cross country where it was just daily running. I started running an easy three miles a day and slowly increased my mileage.”
Mark Coogan, team New Balance coach and former Olympic marathoner, also suggests Donovan’s training time in his interview at Runner’s World: “The ideal plan is three to four months long, which gives you a buffer if you get sick, injured, or slammed at work.”
While it is suggested through the article to run a high mileage, Donovan refrained from this, saying “I never went more
than 10 miles a day, that way the actually marathon would be more of an accomplishment. It would be something that I haven’t done before.”
Donovan first started thinking about running a half marathon during Cross Country.
“My mom works with a ton of runners,” Donovan said, “and I would come home after cross country and tell my mom that ‘Oh I ran seven miles’, and she told me that her friends said ‘If you can run seven miles then you have the endurance to run a half marathon.’”
Then the pieces fell into place.
“I saw the advertisement, and I decided I wanted to do one (a half marathon) after Cross Country, but I didn’t want it to conflict with Track season,” Donovan said. “The winter was my off season. I wouldn’t have to worry about it being too hot, and I could rest before track season, so it really was just perfect timing.”
The day of the big race was a Sunday. The wind was raging up to 60 mph and the temperature up in the thirties.
“But the actual race was really nice,” Donovan said. “The trail was paved and plowed, and went over streams and through a forest, and it was really pretty.”
One of Donovan’s favorite parts while running the race was the people that would cheer you on at every water stop.
“My mom was my biggest supporter,” Donovan said, “she always told me I could do it, because sometimes I became dissuaded and she would always cheer me on, and she pushed my through.”
But Donovan said she didn’t think she’ll ever run a full marathon.
“That is a whole lifestyle change,” she said.
Still, she plans on running half marathons.
“They are not as intense, and I’d like to do one again.”