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Training for a race is easy, with a little knowledge

Runners in Central Park. (Nov. 1, 2006)

Runners in Central Park. (Nov. 1, 2006) (Credit: AP)

Running is the one sport we're born knowing how to do, that comes naturally. The facts that it can be done outdoors and requires just one technology -- decent shoes (for those of us who prefer not to go barefoot) -- are just icing.

But while jogging is essentially inherent, and therefore pretty close to free of charge, that doesn't mean knowledge is anathema to runners. It's one thing to compete in an impromptu race at the elementary school bus stop and quite another to set toe to the starting line at an organized event. For the latter, knowledge means 1) crossing the finish line and 2) trying to remain inquiry free.

Preparing for the Brooklyn Half Marathon, which begins in Prospect Park May 18, I knew I needed a training program. A 13.1-mile race wouldn't be overwhelming if I shifted focus  from the sad, short runs I'd done during the heart of wintertime to a plan, and I ended up going back to an old favorite, Hal Higdon (halhigdon.com). The author and longtime Runner's World contributor helped me through my first half in Tucson about a decade ago, and his programs provide a clear guide.


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Higdon, like other authors (Olympian and author Jeff Galloway, jeffgalloway.com, is another good one) offers various training schedules depending upon fitness level and goals. And because running science is always changing, with opinions on rest days and tapering and shoes, etc., ever in flux, it's nice to have a  schooled trainer out there in the ether. Higdon's current half-marathon program, for instance, has me adding miles up until the week before race day; in the past, the common thinking was to do a 10-miler a couple of weeks before the race and then only complete short ones until the big day. This time around, I'll be doing 12 miles on May 11 or so, then 13.1 on race day.

It's all relaxed, with Higdon's mileage chart (stuck to my fridge) a skeletal guide that, on lazy weeks, at least lets me know what my long run should be. This is the appeal of running for me: Its ease. Training is something to do, not fret about, and a simple training program ensures I can just lace up and go.

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