Good Wednesday afternoon, my friends! Thanks so much for signing up for The Half Marathoner, whether you signed up for the first time this morning or have been a part of our group here for years. It’s awesome to have you here.
Because it’s the start of a new year and this is the first issue many of you are receiving, let me introduce myself and what I have planned for the months ahead.
My name is Terrell Johnson, and I’m an Atlanta, Ga.-based runner and writer. It’s almost hard to believe, but this month marks seven — yes, seven! — years of writing this newsletter every week. It’s evolved here and there over those years, but at its core is a group of wonderful, supportive, amazing people who are passionate about running, spread out across the U.S. and around the world.
Last year, I took the newsletter in a different direction, covering lots of different topics. Sometimes that meant running, sometimes topics far afield. This year, I’d like to bring it back to focus again on the reason you’ve probably signed up: running, becoming a better runner, and getting out into the world to run in amazing places and connect with one other.
(Okay, maybe that’s three things; but you get the idea 😀)
You might be saying to yourself about now, that’s all great — but what can I expect in the months ahead?
That’s a great question, and one that’s not so easy to answer. We’re all in different places with our running. We’re different ages, we have different bodies. Lots of us have had babies! 😀 Many more have been injured 😢 We run in different parts of the world, in wildly varying terrain and climates.
There is one thing that unites us all, though, I think: you wouldn’t be here unless you wanted to learn how to run better, and by extension how to feel better, mentally and physically. (And to find amazing places to run around the world.)
So that’s what we’re going to do together.
Don’t feel discouraged if you’re a beginner, or haven’t run in a long time. Thanks to a minor injury I experienced late last year, I’ve had to lay off running for a number of weeks, so I’m starting at square one myself.
Our goal? To run a half marathon distance (13.1 miles) by late spring, probably around early to mid-May. To do that, we’ll follow this 18-week training plan I put together a few years ago, one that has worked really well for me when I’ve trained by it in the past.
It starts slow — just 3 miles at a time, every other day for the first couple of weeks. After that, we’ll start increasing our weekly miles gradually each week. And before you know it, you’ll be running more than 20 miles a week.
If you’d like go ahead and get started, here are our runs for this week:
Thursday, Jan. 6 — 3 miles
Saturday, Jan. 8 — 3 miles
Sunday, Jan. 9 — 3 miles
Tuesday, Jan. 11 — 3 miles
Here every Wednesday, I’ll share with you our training plan for the week, broken out by days and miles. We’ll also learn from the best runners in the world, people who have become heroes to me over the years — like Kara Goucher, Eliud Kipchoge, Meb Keflezhighi, Deena Kastor, Mary Cain, Frank Shorter, Roger Bannister, and many, many others.
I’ll share with you the lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) from them, and together we’ll apply what they can teach us to our own running — which, when you think about it, really is about our dreams and aspirations, isn’t it?
Why we’re doing this
I know it’s been a tough couple of years for all of us. (And that’s obviously a subject that’s been more than well-covered elsewhere.)
But I’ve learned a couple of really big things from writing to you each week: every one of us needs something to look forward to, a dream or a goal to strive for. And, it’s a lot more fun to go after our dreams and goals when we have fellow travelers to share them with.
The biggest and most pleasant surprise for me since I started The Half Marathoner has been what happens here in the comments — the connections we make, the stories we share, the encouragement we give one another.
So that’s what I want to focus on, to help light a candle in the shadow that Covid has cast, and bring us all some light and something to look forward to.
What is your part?
First, it’s to run! Follow the training plan, as best you can. Reach out to me if you have any questions, or run into any obstacles getting your runs in.
Second, it’s to share your progress — how are you feeling each week, particularly as we increase our mileage? What are you learning? I’d love to hear back, especially if you want to share photos with the group here of amazing places you enjoy running.
Third, it’s to share what you know. Especially if you’ve been running for some time, share with the group here anything you’ve learned that has helped you get better.
Remember: you don’t have to be fast or a sub-2-hour marathoner, or anything like that, to be a part of this group. You just have to want to run.
How will each week go?
Here’s what we’ll talk about each week:
Our Wednesday issue will cover our training for the week, plus a lesson we can learn from the running greats (and great running coaches)
Our Friday live discussions will cover a running topic — feel free to suggest topics, by the way!
Our Sunday issue will feature great races around the U.S. and the world, and deeper dives with great running reads I find elsewhere
Our Wednesday issues will always be free. Our Friday discussions will be free for the next few weeks, while our Sunday issues are for paid subscribers.
Interested? I’d love to have you become a paid subscriber so you can get the most out of your subscription — just click this button to join:
If not, that’s okay. You’ll get plenty out of our free Wednesday issue each week — and, you can decide to become a full subscriber later, if you like.
I’m excited to get back to running, and to get started on this journey with you all. So before we go, I thought I’d share with you some thoughts by one of my favorite writers on running, the great John Bingham, from his 1999 book The Courage to Start.
In the book, he describes what it was like to finally begin paying attention to his body after years of neglecting it through overeating, excessive alcohol consumption, and a complete lack of exercise. Starting running helped him finally see the light, he says:
“The more I ran, the more I felt myself being freed from the shackles of a life of convenience, and the more I learned. I learned quickly that my body could be my friend or my enemy. When pushed gently, it rewarded me with pain and endurance. When pushed too hard, I suffered discomfort that, if ignored, became pain.
I learned how to be defeated, but not beaten. I learned how to admire those who were faster than me without allowing myself to believe that they were better than me. I learned that the real high was in finding your limitations and exceeding them.
How I felt about myself was no longer tied exclusively to the accomplishment of distant, arbitrary goals, but to hundreds of intermediate successes that I could experience every day. I was able to develop a dynamic definition of success that took into account the reality of the moment.
Because my definition of success was always changing, I was successful more often. On some days, I succeeded just by getting out the door for a run. On others, success was measured by how hard I pushed myself during a tempo run or track workout.
The side effect of focusing on what I was feeling was that words like ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ were replaced by words like ‘doing’ and ‘becoming’ in my vocabulary. All my old notions of failure were replaced by an evolving definition of success.
When I started to run for the feeling that running brought into my life, I discovered that today’s failures often lead to tomorrow’s success. Failing to meet today’s goal becomes less tragic if you believe that you may make it tomorrow. If you slip a little today, you do not need to give up forever.
I also learned that my spirit was not as broken as I thought. Through running I was rediscovering courage, in myself and in others. Running was awakening the very feelings I had tried so hard to bury. Running made me aware that the true difference between success and failure, between winning and losing, is often our willingness to be honest about what success means.”
I love, love, love that thought, which I think is an excellent one to start the year off with — going after goals that have real meaning for us, rather than simply aping what others are doing.
I’m excited to get started running again too — and I hope you’ll join me 😀