I registered for the Long Beach Half Marathon with zero expectations. My running and fitness hit the skids a while back, and although I've been trying to get back on track, I have been bedeviled by a nagging, compelling, overwhelming desire to lie on the couch and watch TV instead of working out. I also had a painful foot injury. I used it all as an excuse to take months and months off. Ugh.
But I've rallied back by trying to follow Dr. Phil Maffetone's fitness plan. You can read more details here, but, briefly put, Maffetone bucks conventional wisdom by opposing the "no-pain, no-gain" philosophy that has been so ingrained in me and others. Instead, he focuses on improving aerobic conditioning -- and fat burning -- by slowing down and keeping your heart rate in check. He has urged me repeatedly to enjoy working out and not to focus on the clock. And although I have been skeptical about it at times -- it feels so easy, I can't believe I'm actually getting a "good workout" -- I'm here to say that it has worked for me in a big, big way.
The proof came Sunday, when I took part in the Long Beach Half Marathon simply as a training run. The cool temperatures and overcast skies made for perfect running weather for the roughly 24,000 people who took part in the day's events. Jason Gutierrez, 26, of Bogota, Colombia, came in first among the men, with a time of 2 hours, 19 minutes and 41 seconds. Lindsay Nelson, 25, of Chico, Calif., won the women's division with a time of 2 hours, 45 minutes and 8 seconds, a time that qualifies her for the 2012 Olympic trials.
For me, it was, by far, the easiest, most enjoyable, relaxed race I've ever run. (I've competed in a total of about 10 half marathons and marathons.) I felt like the gun went off, and next thing I knew, I was at Mile 11. I felt so great that when the race split off for the marathoners, I ever-so-briefly considered trying to do the whole thing.
And then I came to my senses and stuck to the half-marathon course.