Landry first expressed interest in running a half marathon in the fall of 2017, just after I had run my first marathon. He had been running 5k races for a year and half, and I knew if he was willing to do the training, he could easily complete the half marathon distance. The problem was, Landry loved running races, but didn’t exactly like training for them. With 5Ks, training isn’t all the important for an active 10-year-old. But 13.1 miles would be a different story. I told him if he had the discipline to do the training, I’d sign him up for a half and run it with him. And so the journey began.
He started joining me once or twice a week for some longer runs. I told him he needed to do a weekly long run, and needed to work up to being able to do 10 mile runs on three consecutive weeks. Once he could do that, we’d be ready. We were a bit short on time. In my area, the last half marathons of the season are typically held by the middle of December, and then there aren’t any more scheduled until March. But we found a race in early December that looked exciting, and got Landry on a training schedule. We were doing well until we were about a month from race day. Landry had run 10 mile training runs on two consecutive weeks, and he started to have some knee pain and IT band trouble. We hoped it would last only a day or two, but it persisted for more than a week, and there wasn’t adequate time to recover and test his readiness before the race. I didn’t want to risk giving a person of his age a chronic injury, so we decided to wait until spring.
By the time spring came, Landry had lost some interest in the half marathon and decided to stick to shorter races for a while. After running a number of 5Ks throughout the summer and fall, he ran the 10k Santa Run in December. He continued to add distance throughout the winter, and by March of 2019, he had completed several training runs of around 10 miles. After much consideration, we decided on the Boston Trail Half Marathon near Pittsburgh, PA. It had everything we wanted: a flat course, a soft running surface, and it was on a Saturday so it wouldn’t interfere with church attendance.
By this time, Landry’s 5K time was under 24 minutes, so in theory, he could possibly finish a half marathon in around 2 hours. However, in our training we had learned an unfortunate truth: When Landry would bonk, he would bonk hard. He could go from loving a run and feeling great, to miserable and completely wiped out minutes later. I didn’t want to risk a miserable ending to his first half marathon, so we elected to start the race at a conservative pace, and then speed up later in the race if all went well. There was a pacing team at the race, so we lined up with the 2:30 pacer and decided to stick with that group for a few miles.
About 5 miles in we started to slowly leave the 2:30 paced group behind. As we neared the turn-around (halfway point), I told Landry if he was feeling good, he could speed up and set whatever pace he thought he could handle. Before long we were cruising at about 9 to 9:30 per mile. Before long, we caught up with the 2:20 pacer. I thought we might run with that group a while, but Landry had other plans. We blew past them and continued to pass other runners until crossing the finish line in 2:13. I hindsight, perhaps I was too conservative with the starting pace, but the strategy paid off by allowing us to thoroughly enjoy every minute of the race and finish strong. For me, it was a race that ranks as one of the most enjoyable I’ve been a part of. I managed to capture some of action in the video below, and there are also links below to the gear we used.
Landry’s Shoes: Altra Instinct 3.5
Landry’s GPS Tracking Watch: Garmin Forerunner 15
Eldon’s Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 3.0
Eldon’s Tracking Watch: Soleus GPS Fly
Eldon’s Running Backpack: Triwonder 5.5L Hydration Backpack