Marathon tune-up: The Virginia Beach Half Marathon

Training for a marathon can be grueling. Most weeks, my training consists of four runs: speed-based workouts on Tuesday and Thursday, a shorter easy run on Saturday and a long run on Sunday. At the moment, I’m putting in just over 30 miles a week, and by the end of my Sunday long run, I’m worn out with only a day to recover before it starts all over on Tuesday. It’s a schedule that’s served me well for the past year — I followed a similar routine with modified mileage while training for each of my first three half marathons — but, as you can imagine, things tend to get a little repetitive and stale, especially in the heat and humidity of an Ohio summer when the race you’re training for is still months away. But this weekend, I get a break.

Granted, running the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon Sunday morning doesn’t seem like much of a break, but our friends at Dodge, one of the sponsors of the excellent Rock ‘n’ Roll series, are giving me a much needed and appreciated mental break from my training routine. After dropping our kids off with the grandparents Friday afternoon, my wife and I will load up a fully loaded 2011 Dodge Durango Citadel and head for Virginia Beach. It’s a long drive from Ohio — about nine hours, give or take — but we’ll be riding in style in the blackberry-colored Durango (pictured below) and, with no kids clamoring for snack stops and bathroom breaks, it’ll be the most peaceful nine-hour drive we have had in quite some time.

The unique circumstances of this particular trip aside, the race will serve as an excellent training barometer with the Chicago Marathon just over a month away (Oct. 9). I set my half marathon PR (personal record) of 1:32:51 in Cleveland a couple months ago while I was dealing with some knee pain and IT band tightness, but my body feels better now than it did in May and I’m in even better shape. My ultimate goal for Chicago is to qualify for the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:15 or better. A bit of a longshot, perhaps, particularly for my first marathon, but there’s nothing wrong with aiming high. And as I head into my final month of training, the race this weekend will give me a clearer idea of where I am in my training, with a time under 1:30 meaning that a 3:15 marathon may in fact be within reach.

If you’re training for a marathon, half marathon or any other longer race, don’t shy away from competition in the weeks and months leading up to the big day. Of course, races are much more taxing on your body than a standard training run, so don’t sign up for anything too close to your big race, but because you’ll likely run a race faster than any of your training runs, adding one or two shorter races to your schedule can serve as a useful warmup while giving you a mental break from the training grind to boot. So thanks again to Dodge for the opportunity to test my training in Virginia Beach this weekend and, after driving the 2011 Dodge Durango home Monday and picking the kids back up, I’ll check in next week to see if I broke that 1:30 mark.

Jamey, the editor-in-chief at, will be updating his Runner’s Journal a couple times a month as he trains for his next race. Currently, Jamey is training for the 2011 Chicago Marathon – his first full marathon – on October 9, and he plans on running the Tough Mudder next March. Email with comments, questions or your own thoughts on running.