Staying fit: First fitness challenge a success


        A couple of months ago, I told you of a personal fitness challenge:  Entering and finishing a half marathon.
                I did enter the Athens Half Marathon, which was convenient since I did not have to travel anywhere to run in it. Also I registered early, which saved some money on the fee (and in these economic times, that is a consideration).
                We ran on a chilly Sunday morning at the end of October, me and 2,000 runners of varying ages, sizes, and ability. Based on my training and what I knew about my running pace, I planted myself toward the back of the pack. There was a time I set in my head that I wanted to finish in, and if I hit that time, I would count it as a “successful” race. Moreover, I would count it a success if I finished and didn’t vomit at the end. Inspiring goals I set for myself.
                I started out fast and learned by the end of the race that I should have just kept a steady pace and not gotten caught up in the excitement of the start. Based on research and some test runs in training, I knew that I needed to keep a steady fuel pouring through my body and the basic rule of thumb for someone of my running ability was to fuel up about every three miles or every 30 minutes.  I stayed true to that and had continual energy throughout the whole race—I never felt tired or fatigued.
                What I did not do well in training for were the hills. They killed my calves.  By around mile 10 (of a 13.1-mile race) I couldn’t feel my calves much. That numbness continued to the end, unfortunately.  Thankfully, the massage therapist at the end of the race alleviated that condition quickly enough!
                The good news is that I would have placed second in my age group—had I been running in the over-70 men’s division.  I knew before I signed up that I was slow and I wasn’t going to win any medals for anything.  That wasn’t why I entered. It was to challenge myself to do something I hadn’t done before, to run farther than I had ever run before (even if some of it was walking). I met the challenge and felt pretty decent afterward.  I think the pizza and Gatorade at the end helped with that good feeling.
                For what it’s worth, I set a goal of finishing with an average of a 12-minute-per-mile pace.  I hit it right on and finished with an 11:52 pace.  I was quite happy with that.  Other people were much faster and I celebrate with them, but I met my goal and so I count it success (and there was no vomiting!). Oh, the winner, how fast did he win it in, you ask?  He ran 13.1 miles in 71 minutes.  Yep, for those slow on the calculator, that’s about a 5:30 minute pace, mile after mile, consistently. I couldn’t run a mile in five and a half minutes if I had to run only one mile. Oh well!
                I share my fitness pursuits with you so you can see that each of us can pursue new things in the health and fitness parts of our lives. I hope you are encouraged to set your own challenges that fit you and where you are. I hope you also will step out further than you have before.  Who knows, maybe you’ll run a marathon with me in the coming year, which is my next big goal.
Please e-mail me at the address below with a topic you’d like to see in Staying Fit and I’ll do my best to get it in this column.  Let’s keep moving together!
Coming next month:  Do goals help with our fitness and health?
     Dr. John A. Page is an associate pastor at Athens First UMC. Go to for his book, “The Almighty in the Ordinary.” E-mail John at