Gallowayed: How I Ran, No Walked, No Ran My First Half-Marathon
When I was a freshman in high school, I went out for track. I hadn't actually run at all before I did it. It was sort of a lark. The first day of practice, the coach told us to run an easy mile. All the other girls headed out, talking to each other as they went. I followed along as best as I could, but never having run a mile before except for the Presidential Physical Fitness Tests, I thought I might die and ended up back at the track gasping for air, my lungs on fire. Then, as I would almost every single practice until the weather warmed up, I coughed until phlegm came up, thoroughly embarrassing myself. So I quite shocked myself on Saturday when I ran my first half-marathon.
I decided to run a half-marathon back in July, when two of my close friends in Kansas City told me they were running one in October. Since the farthest I'd run in years was four miles at that point, I was pretty sure there was no way in hell I would ever be trained enough not to kill myself by October. The seed was planted, though—was it possible that I, the woman who hadn't run a 5k since her ten-year-old was in a stroller, work my way up to 13.1? I had to know.
I started talking about it, and I was shocked at the number of people I knew who had run at least that far. A few of the moms in my local mom's group. The woman I traded kids back and forth with during the Great Week of Snow Days of 2014. The guy whose mom used to live next door who sold artificial limbs for a living. One night at a book club meeting, my friend confided that she'd used the Galloway Method to get through her first half-marathon and swore by it. This is the basic premise: If you take walk breaks (even really short ones) while you run, you're less likely to hurt yourself and will actually net a faster time than you would by running continuously. I thought: Fabulous. I like to walk way more than I like to run. So I downloaded the training app and started doing officially what I had been doing naturally—walking for a half-block or so about once during every mile that I ran. (This is slightly bastardized version of the Galloway Method. You'd need the app to be truly doing it correctly.)
When I started, the farthest I'd run in recent history was four miles. Before I picked up the Galloway Method, I'd been increasing my distance by running a block or two farther each time I ran. A city block is usually around 1/10th of a mile, so in adding two blocks and then turning around and doubling back, I was adding almost a half mile each time without really feeling like I did. The Galloway app had a more structured training plan, so when I bought the app, I switched to that. Everything was all unicorn droppings and rainbows until two months ago, when I slipped on black ice during a three-mile run and wiped out. I thought I was fine until my next run, which I decided to do inside on a treadmill. I had eight miles to go and on that glorious flat surface I was feeling awesome and just killing it. I decided to go for some speed on the last few miles. The next day, I could barely walk, my feet hurt so bad. OH, NOES. PLANTAR FASCIITIS. I didn't even realize that's what it was for a while, because all the websites were talking about heel pain, and I had pain in my arch on my right foot (I have flat feet) and on the ball of my foot on my left.
After complaining to Coach Jenna and having her tell me if I wanted to run my race at all, I'd better get off those feet for a week, I was terrified. I researched (read: googled) all that night and decided to try the ice/golf ball rolling/foam rolling/cross training route. The first time I used a foam roller, I could barely stand the pain. Apparently my calves were so tight it's a wonder I got as far as I did without injuring myself. Rolling a golf ball across my feet was (and sometimes still is) equisite agony. Icing is a pain. But I did it, all of it, every night for the past two months because I was so worried about not being able to finish my race. (By the way, it worked. But I had to roll the golf ball for a full half hour on each foot every night in addition to the foam rolling and icing my feet for at least twenty minutes.) After a week of not running and doing the elliptical and bike at the gym instead, Coach Jenna redid my training plan and I abandoned the official Galloway schedule. At that point, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to run the five miles Jenna told me to run the weekend Jeff Galloway would've had me running ten. It was pretty depressing.