Photo by Cade Schmidt

Western student Justin Huerter always had a love affair with running; he calls it his passion.

“Your mindset really triggers when you get there, this is a race. You keep telling yourself ‘you got this, it’ll all come together,’” he said.

On Oct. 22, Huerter finished his first half marathon, a 13.1 miles course, at the Lake Padden Trail Classic.

Huerter and his two roommates, Jake Brog and Eric Holgate, ran for a water bottle company called Miir. The company donates a dollar for every water bottle sold to an undeveloped country for clean water.

Huerter said the support of his roommates running with him and that he was running for a good cause helped motivate him to finish.

Even then, the run was a struggle filled with many hills, Huerter said.

The next step for Huerter will be to run a full marathon, which is 26.2 miles, he said. Huerter and his roommates may run Mary’s Last Chance marathon on Dec. 31 in Bellingham and if not, they may run the Birch Bay Marathon on Feb. 19, 2012. However, Huerter said nothing is officially planned.

Joel Pearson coordinates the Birch Bay Marathon, which offers half marathon, full marathon and 10k course races. He also ran the Birch Bay Marathon in 2005.

“The marathon course [at Birch Bay] is very challenging,” Pearson said. “When you hit a hill at mile 17.5 it really sucks.”

The Birch Bay Marathon is the longest continuously-run marathon west of the Mississippi River, Pearson said. His father, Jim, originally created the course in 1968. Since then the race is held annually.

The half marathon course is relatively easy, Pearson said. With only a few hills, people tend to finish the course quickly.

But even an easy course requires training. Without training for a half marathon, an average runner would still be in pain during the end of the race, cross country and track and field head coach Pee Wee Halsell said.

 “Recovery time for my half marathon was about three days,” Huerter said. “But if you don’t train, recovery can take up to three weeks.”

Huerter and his roommates ran four to five times a week, running one long run and the other runs around three to six miles. The longest they ran during training was 11.5 miles, never making it to the full 13.1.

“After you get to that marker of an eight miler, you’re going,” Huerter said. “That’s how we felt at the race. The first miles are a struggle once you start to adapt your pace and get into motion. The rest is easier from there.”

Pearson and Halsell both suggest running every day when training.

“It’s the simplest program on the planet: I run ever day no matter the distance,” Pearson said. “If you only have time to run for 20 minutes, that’s fine. Try to run longer on Sundays.”

“It’s an aerobic event, so you have to run as many miles as you can without being injured,” Halsell said. “[When training for a marathon] beginning runners should expect to run between 50 to 60 miles a week.”

Before reaching 50 to 60 miles per week, Halsell encourages runners to start with smaller distances to build their endurance. Eating a balanced diet helps to develop strength, and runners should get all the nutrients necessary, Halsell said.

Training schedules for beginners or advance runners are available online such as where specific training schedules are outlined.

“You are not just training [for the race], you are training for life,” Pearson said. “I’ve always believed that everyone who breathes is an athlete in their own way.”