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Put down the bottle and pick up your running shoes. It’s half-marathon time

I said I wouldn't do it again: I crossed the finish line of my first 10k two years ago, and swore off organized racing. I had decided to run for fun, not for the, "so, what was your time?" insta-comparisons of hurtlingtorward a finish line with the masses.

But two weeks ago, after five days of fluorescent sugary drinks and hot beach gluttony, I had a change of heart in the sweaty airport. I hadn't exercised in weeks, and hadn't run 10 kilometres consecutively in two years. I had lost the passion to be a runner. Without a tangible goal to train toward, I had been running sporadically – once a week here, twice a week there – and I found myself getting bored before I got tired. An endless winter of family-friends-dog-boyfriend-must-watch-TV had given me plenty of excuses to slack.

Sipping my last pina colada before takeoff, I said it out loud: "I'm going to run a half marathon," before my rum-soaked brain could process the words.

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After landing back in cold reality, I make a call to Alan Chud, owner of Absolute Endurance, marathon coach and sage throughout my 10k effort. The race I'd like to do – Toronto Women's Half – is in 10 weeks. Where to begin? Is this even doable?

He agrees to be my guide throughout this process, and help develop, "a workable plan with achievable goals." I tell him, beaming: "I'm going to swear off alcohol until after the race."

"You have a tendency to draw these big lines in the sand," Chud says with a sigh. "I remember this about you. Sure – what you put into your body is your fuel and very important. But please don't make these big black-and-white choices like 'no more beer ever.' You'll want to eat at home more, buy more vegetables, eat smaller meals more often, and no – don't drink on nights before a run."

The strategy is simple, he says. You'll feel great after a run, after not drinking the night before, and you'll want to keep feeling great. The shift toward less booze/more run will be organic and gradual.

"I don't want you to feel like a prisoner to running. That's not the goal."

I was relieved, but the question remained: Can a random jogger be ready for a serious 21 km in 10 weeks?

The plan is, shockingly, not to plan at this point. "We'll aim for that run, and there's some big work ahead," Chud says. "We'll see where we get after a few weeks."

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He says he'll have me do three or four aerobic runs a week as building blocks. Simple runs that don't focus on tempo or speed. "That's where we'll start," he tells me, and his confidence is contagious.

And so it begins. Tonight, to celebrate St. Patrick, I'll dust off my running shoes, complete my first run of the week, and raise a glass – just one – of glorious green beer.

Getting started

  • Be prepared to run three to four times a week: Training takes commitment and hard work. Have a plan, but be prepared to be flexible.
  • Stop thinking about the finish line – or even the starting line at the outset of any training plan. Set small goals, like “complete my first run of training” or “make a homemade dinner from foods on the perimeter of a grocery store,” rather than big ones like “run eight times in two weeks and eat healthy.”
  • Be sure you’re running injury-free: Meet with a sports-medicine doctor, or talk to your family doctor, before you tie up those runners. And then go hard, but don’t over do it.

Share your running advice: What did you wish you knew before your first half marathon? Share your story with @globe_health and use #globeruns

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More

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