Runners gearing up for half marathon, 5K

By Ginny Wray

Area runners are in high gear, training for the ninth Martinsville Half Marathon and 5K on March 30.

The 13.1-mile half marathon and 3.1-mile 5K are part of the seven-race Miles in Martinsville series that raises funds for Martinsville-Henry County Family YMCA scholarships and other items.

The event typically attracts several hundred runners, and it has drawn as many as 500 competitors in the past, according to Joe Philpott of the local YMCA who has been running, on and off, since 1958.

The 5K usually attracts more runners than the half marathon, and it includes both running and walking divisions. The latter is named the Sheree Poe Memorial 5K Walk for the late co-pastor of Mercy Crossing Church.

People can sign up to run or walk up as late as the morning of the runs, Philpott said.
Runners come from throughout the region, with most entries from within an hour’s drive of Martinsville, and Miles in Martinsville also tries to promote the event across Virginia and adjoining states. Philpott said that as of early January, 70 percent of the people who had signed up for the March races were from outside Martinsville and Henry County. He attributed that to the fact that out-of-towners often make decisions on which races to enter earlier than local residents, he said.

Both the March 30 runs start and finish at the YMCA on Starling Avenue. Half marathon runners will wind through uptown Martinsville before entering the Uptown Connector Trail that leads to the Dick & Willie Passage rail trail. They will run the length of the trail and then retrace their steps.

The 5K participants will run and walk through uptown Martinsville.

Philpott said anyone who is just getting started in running should consider the 5K rather than the half marathon. He called the half marathon’s 13.1 miles an “epic distance.”

For a dedicated runner who already has a good level of fitness, training for a full 26.2-mile marathon takes four to five months, he said. While a half marathon “is still a big distance and takes a lot of training and effort, it is doable for the average person,” he added.

Typically, a casual jogger would take 10 to 12 weeks of increasing training mileage to be ready to run the half marathon, he added.

For casual joggers, those who run 2-3 times a week, 2-3 miles around their neighborhood, Philpott suggests a training plan which includes slowly increasing their mileage each week to acclimate them to the stresses of running the full 13.1 miles.

He added that there are different training plans available, ranging from those for novices to advanced runners. Many are free; some are for sale. By surfing the Internet or talking with an experienced runner, the right plan can be determined.

A typical training plan for a novice runner might include the following elements:
Weeks 1 and 2: One day a week, run 4 miles and then take a shorter run/jog 2-3 miles three times that week. Cross train rather than running on one of the days by riding an exercise bike or elliptical machine, swimming or some other exercise. Rest 2-3 days.
Week 3-4: Extend the long run to 4.5 or 5 miles, adding half a mile each week. Weekly short jogs should grow to 3.5 miles.

Week 5: Extend the long run to 6 miles and shorter runs from to 4 miles. Continue to cross train and rest 2-3 days a week.

Week 6: This is similar to Week 5 but rather than the long run, if possible take part in a 5K run. Philpott said a 5K may be shorter than a half marathon but it involves more cardiovascular effort. “It’s kind of good to blow out the soot, so to speak,” he added.

Week 7: Take a 7-mile run with three days of 4.5-mile run/jogs.

Week 8: Extend the long run to 8 miles.

Week 9: Try to back up and run a shorter distance but run harder, possibly in a 10K race.

Or substitute the weekly long run with a 5- or 6-mile run at a pace a bit faster than your typical long run. Increase the shorter runs by half a mile.

Week 10: Long run should be 9 miles; short runs are 5 miles.

Week 11: Long run should be 10 miles.

Week 12: Do an easy 3-mile run on Monday, 2 miles on Tuesday, 1 mile on Thursday, rest on Friday and take part in the half marathon Saturday.

Philpott said most coaches would suggest that runners not increase their long run or weekly mileage by more than 10 percent in any week. Too much too soon may result in injury, illness or burnout.

Philpott added that runners do not have to work up to a training run of 13.1 miles to race 13.1 miles.

‘If one can run 10 or 11 miles in training, they can go out on race day and run 13.1 miles,” he said. “Adrenaline and the excitement of competition take over. … It won’t be easy for the last few miles but they can do it.”

For more advanced runners, there are many types of training that can be mixed in to any program, Philpott said, citing tempo, interval and long runs. At the end of the day, advanced training plans and those for the novice runner are similar in that they all build up and increase both the long runs and shorter efforts each week, he said.

After taking part in a half marathon, Philpott advises taking some time off to recover. “My recommendation is a couple of weeks,” he said. “Maybe jog but no long runs or hard runs. You need a couple of weeks to get your legs back under you. It takes a toll on the muscles, no question.”

Locally, the Martinsville Half Marathon and 5K offer a training team program to help runners prepare. It began in January and February for the March race. The program offers training plans, friendship and support from fellow runners as well as lots of information on running.

“If you’ve never done anything like this, it’s nice to have friends to share the challenge with,” Philpott said. “Training for and completing a long race such as the half marathon is quite emotionally meaningful to people who go through it,” he said.

Running — even a half marathon — changes people’s lives, he said. “Many times I’ve seen runners cross the finish line of a half marathon or marathon and simply break down and cry. A 5K can be meaningful too. However, people who step up to a longer race are shocked at what they can do” when properly trained, said Philpott, who wrote a book on running based on his experiences.

For more information on the Martinsville Half Marathon and 5K and other local races as well as the training programs and more, visit the website

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