The idea of running a half marathon—13.1 miles—or a 10-mile race can be quite daunting to a new runner. But the hardest part, 2001 Quince Orchard graduate Chris Sloane said, is simply getting started.
“A little advice on what I do: I keep my running clothes next to my bed or sleep in them, just to be ready to go in the morning,” Sloane said.
As the former Virginia Tech cross country and track star trains for the 2018 Boston Marathon with his long-term sights set on the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, Sloane is lending his expertise to Fleet Feet Sports’ half marathon/10-miler training program.
The 12-week program kicked off Jan. 31—four-week bridge program participants started Jan. 3—with runners aiming to compete at the Pittsburgh Half Marathon on May 6, or the Cherry Blossom 10-miler scheduled for April 8. The group meets for hill or speed workouts on Wednesday evenings and longer runs around the county on Saturdays—with homework runs/exercises in between.
The half marathon/10-miler training program, while styled to lead beginning runners through a healthy progression in preparation for their first long-distance race, remains beneficial for runners of all levels. On Saturdays, pacers at a variety of speeds accompany participants and especially during hills and speed training sessions; anyone can get out of the program what they want to, said Robyn Gault, who owns Fleet Feet Sports, Gaithersburg with husband Chris. This is at least the 10th year of their training program, Robyn added, and they enjoy seeing familiar faces year after year.
“It’s a community; I’ve made friends during this program that even if I never ran again, we would be friends forever,” said Dina Rasavage, who joined four years ago as a 10-miler before moving up to half marathon. “We always joke around that one benefit is it makes us accountable. We pay to join, so if (a training day) comes around and it’s raining and cold, it’s ‘Oh, I have to go meet my group.’
“And then there’s the coaching. They tell you if you’re doing something wrong, and they teach you as you go, when you hit certain miles, what are the things you need to consider and know about.”
Aside from the obvious health benefits, both mental and physical, running is one of the most rewarding sports, Sloane said. There is tangible proof of improvement—the more you put into it, the more you gain. But there is no denying that a beginner’s body will certainly take some convincing—and that even the most serious runners need to be having fun, Sloane said.
“Your body will be in rebellion, it’s like ‘What are you doing? Why are you doing this to me?’ But your body is already adapting, it’s amazing how it adapts,” Sloane added. “If you stick with it, you can get pretty darn good. I never thought I’d be as good as I am now and that is what I try to communicate with beginners, even those who might not be competitive runners, you can find out a lot about how much you can push your limits and it is very rewarding.”
Sloane, who has competed in more than 10 USA National Championship road races and was ranked D.C.’s No. 2 male road racer in 2017 by the Run Washington Runner Rankings, is also a certified USA Track and Field Level 1 and Road Runners Club of America coach. He is currently working with 2017 Baltimore Marathon women’s champion Silvia Baage—who also won the 2017 Parks Half Marathon—and is an assistant coach with the Montgomery College men’s track and field team.
In addition to offering advice while working around the Fleet Feet Sports shop, Sloane meets with the group to share his wisdom and experience and covers a variety of topics, from nutrition to injury prevention, to ways of making running fun and the importance of recovery.
“You get sucked in and you meet all these people and you have fun,” Rasavage said. “And then you start running more because you’re having fun, so it starts to get easier. You start achieving your goals, so you make new ones. It really becomes a way of life kind of thing.”
Note: Fleet Feet Sports offers a summer half marathon/10-miler training program scheduled to begin in June.