The Reebok SunTrust National Marathon and Half Marathon Training Program, powered by the DC Road Runners Club, is over. The race has been run and everyone was a winner in this first attempt.
I thought it was a little overpriced at $100, but I have been having second thoughts. It was overpriced for those persons who didn't avail themselves of the opportunities it offered. For the New Year's Resolution type of half-marathoners, who came once or twice and never again, it definitively wasn't worth signing up for. They should have applied the $100 towards the application fee for a gym membership instead, paid $1,000 on a yearly contract, and never gone there either. (Above, left: Sasha organized the pre-race dinner at an Italian Restaurant along the race course.)
But the program brought 16 weeks of gradually increasing, accompanied long runs. The running groups worked out to a maximum of eight runners per coach, but more usually two or three runners per coach.
Half a dozen free club races along the way were part of the package, to give the runners a feel for racing, from 3Ks to a 20K. Every Wednesday night there was a track workout, which a coach or two always attended. There is no faster way to get better than by doing track workouts. (Above, right: Matt on the right, ready to rock and roll before the race. Next to him is John, a club 10K Training Group coach with a terrible case of bed-head. John broke two hours in the half, and then won his age group in a sprint triathlon the next morning.)
The participants got a distinctive, technical long sleeve shirt. More importantly, they received three lectures, one by the ultimate race winner, Samia Akbar, another by local legend and double Marine Corps winner Jim Hage, and one by a respected local physical therapist.
The coaches created additional benefits for the runners. Sasha started Monday Night Footmall, a six mile run on the Mall every Monday evening. Matt ran Sunday club races with his group. Jeannie did extended weekend group runs, especially for those who didn't want to race the two times the schedule called for a race instead of a run. (Above, left: Sasha in the middle of her group after the race.)
That's actually a lot of value for $100. It was hard for the coaches to commit to 16 weeks of coaching less experienced runners (we all have our own personal goals that we try to achieve too) for free (we did receive some nominal Reebok merchandise). Our commitment stretched back into last year. I personally am tired and need a break. I'll get one in six more weeks, when the 10K Program is over.
I was worried that training slower with less experienced runners would severely impact my time in the half marathon. The other coaches must have felt the same way. Yet I had my second best time, and so did Matt. I don't know why.
The athletes who partook in everything the Program had to offer benefited greatly. Matt's two runners always did track. They also followed Matt's weekly plan for the long run, which reflected a lot of thought by this friendly, superior runner. Aside from Matt with his 1:21:54 (6:15 pace, 47/2640 in the race), this man and woman finished one-two in the Program at 1:31:40 (7:00, 121st) and 1:37:26 (7:26, 239th). These two worked hard and received real value. (Above, right: Samia Akbar, winner of the Half Marathon, addresses the Program at the Gotta Run Running Shop in South Arlington a week before the race. The two women in the middle had just run in another half-marathon race and met the qualifications for National. To the far left is Not Born To Run, who PRed.)
There were three runners who regularly ran with Sasha in the intermediate group and on Footmall runs. One got injured, but the other two finished in 1:58:38 (9:03) and 2:02:45 (9:22). Neither was an experienced runner with any real racing history when they started and they both did a fantastic job in their 16-week sprint to more-than-respectability. They received real value.
A couple of runners who feared the race's qualifying standard (2:30 for the half) followed Jeannie's plan and at a half-marathon in Virginia Beach shortly before the Suntrust National Half Marathon, they both smashed the qualifying standard at 2:10; 48 and 2:22:05. They received real value.
I guess the training program wasn't overpriced in the least for those who took advantage of it. This training program owes an incalculable amount to Jeannie, Matt and Sasha. Thanks, guys.