Guest Post – Harmon Half Marathoners

I’m sharing a great post from my amazing co-worker and friend, Jim & his wife Karen. On top of being both urban school teachers and parents of two busy kiddos, Jim & Karen were also training together for the Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon this spring. They wrote this post for me before Jim suffered a nasty hamstring injury. He is out for the next 6-8 weeks and will miss the Rite Aid race, but is still helping Karen train by riding his bike along side her on her long runs. Now, that’s the spirit of a fighter and the sign of a great partnership! I’m proud to call these two my friends & was lucky to be there to see them finish their first race together. I know they’ll cross the finish line of a half together as well!

Karen & Jim, Christmas Story Race 2013
Karen & Jim, Christmas Story Race 2013

Married for nearly 18 years, we are late-life runners. Now in our mid forties,

running came as a (re)solution when we saw the need get our bodies under control

as we aged. The older we get, the more it becomes obvious that we could not sustain

poor eating habits while not exercising and then expect to live a happy, healthy life.

We decided, two years ago, with seemingly so many other health-crazed

acquaintances, to begin running. We’d heard of the “couch to 5K” training plan and

the first half of the title certainly fit us. The 5K part was questionable; as we began

our “running” on the treadmill, we experienced the typical self-doubt of a beginner.

How were we going to be able to run more than a minute at a time, let alone a whole

mile at a time without our lungs on fire and our heart feeling like it was going to


Now we laugh when we think back to those moments, but we never forget them,

because the questions remain; running, for us, is all about answering the incessant

questions that creep into our minds as we plan for, warm up, and go out for a run.

“Can I do this?” and other variations of self-doubt are common interruptions for

those who like to pound the pavement. We’ve gotten a lot better about answering

the questions. It seems irrelevant that so many runners tell you 90% is mental

challenge until you actually experience the internal debate yourself.

(l to r) Friends Dylan, Jess, Alison, Jim & Karen at Lakewood Ambulance Chase 5K 2012
(l to r) Friends Dylan, Jess, Alison, Jim & Karen at Lakewood Ambulance Chase 5K 2012

Our training resulted in running our first 5K, The Lakewood Ambulance Chase, in

2012. We crossed the finish line holding hands around 37 minutes later, having

not stopped once! We were hooked. Since, we’ve run several 5Ks, and 10Ks. In the

interim, we learned that Karen has late-onset diabetes, which has made exercise

even more of a priority, but also a challenge when running longer distances.

That brings us to the present: training for the Cleveland Half, our very first

half marathon. A new year’s commitment to each other, and ourselves, we

began training in January using what is known as the Galloway Method.

The concept is pretty simple and – as far as we are concerned – it is genius. You alternate

running for three minutes, and walking one. It gives your legs a break, which allows

muscles to recover quickly before jumping into the next three minute round. There is

data to back this up, plus evidence that in using this method our finish time would at

least as good as, if not likely better, than had we run straight through, taking breaks

when fatigue sets in.


We use apps on our iPhones to both map/track our runs (Runtastic), and for the

timer that keeps on our three minute/one minute routine (Runner’s Interval Timer).

It’s a system that works fairly well for us.

As middle age runners, we listen raptly to our bodies, especially our knees. We both

have some minor IT band issues, and unforgiving flat feet. The Galloway Method

provides a model that just makes sense. If you can run three minutes at a time (WE

CAN!) then you can run long distances. We recently completed an eight-mile run,

the farthest distance we’ve ever run, in a little over 90 minutes. We were wiped out

afterwards, but we recovered easily, more so than after some 5Ks or 10Ks in which

we attempted to run straight through. We are averaging twelve-minute miles this

way, similar to our initial 5K pace, and the more we run outside, the quicker our

pace becomes.


There’s an obvious tangible benefit of training with your life partner. We push each

other, support each other, sympathize/commiserate with each other, and celebrate

each other. Our relationship, which was already solid to begin with, gets stronger

through reaching these goals together that just two years ago seemed little more

than fantastic. There are many pastimes we could complete together, but training

and running as partners has long-term benefits for us as individuals, and for us as

a couple. On our cross training days, we still maintain personal preferences – Karen

prefers spin classes, while Jim prefers yoga – yet we both remain focused on the

goal: not just running our first half marathon, but keeping control of our physical,

emotional, and mental well being by taking care of ourselves. Crossing the finish line

holding hands is just a bonus.