From Couch to Half Marathon in 11 weeks

Yup, you heard right.  It is time for me to mix it up a little.

Just before my medicine retreat, I talked to my daughter and she mentioned signing up for a half-marathon in April and one in June.  This got me to thinking about the possibility.  Maybe it was because it was the last thing I heard before going into silence for three days, or maybe it was because I was thinking about moving back to Occidental – the place I last began training for a marathon 20 years earlier, or maybe it was because I was intrigued by the Access Bar, an exercise food that increases endurance, eliminates fatigue, and prevents lactic acid build-up.  In any case, I decided to challenge my daughter to the June 4th Half Sauer and Half Kraut Marathon.

Never mind that I haven’t done aerobic exercise in a year and haven’t run in decades.  I used to have an active lifestyle before I moved to Arizona and found that doing anything out in the sun was simply unbearable. Yet, it was cool enough still to start training and I figured by May I would be living back in the Bay Area.

I looked online for how to prepare as a beginner for a half marathon.  The first thing I learned was that beginners are considered people that have been running three to four miles a few times a week for a year.  I soon found that the proper search words were “from couch to half marathon”.  Unfortunately, what I wanted to do wasn’t a possibility.  I had 11 weeks and all sensible people took at least a month longer to get ready.  I did find one website willing to provide a couch to half-marathon in 10 weeks guide.  However, the plan did not seem robust enough for me.

Despite the lack of aerobic exercise and running experience, I thought I had adequate time to prepare.  It seemed possible to me that I would be able to run (not run-walk) a half-marathon in under 2 hours with less than 12 weeks training, contrary to the authorities.  Since I know that many internet blogs simply parrot information, I decided to critically evaluate why I thought training would be possible in 11 weeks and what I would need to do to be successful.

I take good care of my body and these are the things that I think contribute to a strong base from which I can build.

  • I do a daily chi gung and tai chi practice.  At least 15 minutes everyday.  Despite the belief that only aerobic exercise can tone the vascular system, this type of exercise actually tones both the heart muscle and arterial muscles.  In addition, I have more life energy (chi) now than I ever had in my life.
  • I spend at least 30 minutes each day in meditation.  My meditation for the past year is a chulen practice which is focused on building life force energy.  I have more reserves now and greater capacity than I ever had in my life.  Indeed, twenty years ago when I started to train for a marathon I initially had to slow down due to fatigue from over-training.  Then I had to stop my training due to the life stress of divorce.
  • My body is in good physical condition.  I eat a whole food diet and supplement with high quality multivitamins/multiminerals.  I take additional supplements to support my individual health susceptibilities. (This means I take specific supplements to prevent the diseases my parents have developed.)


When I consider the additional stress of rapid training for the marathon I have decided to use the following supports.

  • Additional supplements. I usually take a Peak Performance Nutrition Pack and I have decided to up that to the Heart Health Peak Performance Pack.  This is because the additional running will create strain on my heart and vascular system and my family tends towards cardiovascular events, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  I am also adding, a glucosamine/chondroiton/MSM supplement with additional anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric (Replenex® Extra Strength) to help with the additional strain on my joints.
  • I am using essential oils (Tea Tree, Lavender) on my legs to reduce post exercise inflammation, stimulate circulation into the area, and enhance recovery.  I also use arnica tincture on my legs and arnica 30c internally.
  • I am using hot epsom salt baths (with essential oils), my infared heating pad, and even my ultrasound to encourage faster recovery.  I know that some people go for ice after workouts.  This would be an option, but I would want to submerge my whole leg in an ice bucket, and that is just not practical. For me alternating ice water and hot water would be ideal.  I’ve done this on my arms after a long day of massage.  I may do this for my legs if it seems required to support my body.
  • I am using a foam roller to massage my calves, shins, hamstrings, IT band, quadriceps, and spine after each work-out.  My IT band is tight!  I have a couple lacrosse balls to work my gluts, piriformis, and gemellus.  A have a chronic problem with tightness on my right side, so I need to be proactive with keeping things loose.
  • Dynamic stretching is fabulous at ensuring my muscles stay limber.  I discovered the power of dynamic stretching a decade ago when I was recovering from a knee injury (impact).
  • A greater emphasis on longer walks or runs earlier in training.  Most plans seemed to focus on increasing distance gradually.  I thought it made more sense to start with a couple hours a day of walking and then increase speed gradually.  Maybe half-marathon training is different, but when I was training for a full marathon, the emphasis was on doing long, slow runs.  It seemed to me that I would be able to increase my moderate paced walking distance at the same time as beginning to do some running.
  • Training twice a day.  Despite my experience with over-training twenty years ago, I sensed that more frequent activity at a moderate pace in the first few weeks would create a base faster that I then could use to chisel away my time from.  With this in mind I intend to train morning and night unless my body tells me differently.
  • Using the Access® Bars fifteen minutes before my training activity on an empty stomach.  Finding out about the Access Bar actually made me consider the quick training for the half-marathon.  I do not think I could do it with out this tool.  This exercise bar is designed to switch the body’s metabolism away from using sugar for fuel and into fat-burning.  I was curious about how this could be possible given the bars simple ingredients.  Indeed, since the bar includes CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) I erroneously thought that was all there was to it.  Just a nice tastey chocolate bar with CLA.  Then I read a summary of the research papers.  What I learned was the bar was developed, researched and produced without CLA originally.  You can read for yourself if you’re interested.  The bottom line is that elite athletes use the bar to switch their bodies into fat-burning mode.  This means less fatigue, greater endurance, greater strength (press and lift more, can do more repetitions of any activity, can hold planks longer), and no lactic acid build up.  No sugar being burned means no lactic acid build up and that means no muscle soreness the next day.  The muscles recover faster and I can train twice a day.


All my ideas are interesting, but let’s put it to the test.  I did my first walk on March 14th – just 82 days from the June 4th half marathon.  What time is possible for the 13.1 miles of a half-marathon?  Can I beat my daughter straight out?  I’d like to…

Now, my daughter has been running for years – three to four miles a few times a week.  She is also half my age.  While I am competing against her it seemed to be reasonable that I would be given a handicap.  After looking at finishing race times in the different age classes for the top placers and considering her running experience versus my lack of we decided on a 25 minute handicap for me.  That means if she finishes the race in 110 minutes and I finish in 134 minutes I win by a minute!

I am ready to go!

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