The American Home Fitness Detroit Women’s Half Marathon & 5K is just around the corner — less than two weeks away now! — and as race day nears, these two runner stories are sure to inspire. Dot McMahan, a mom living in Oakland Township, was the overall winner of last year’s half marathon. She talks about her running journey — she now runs with the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project — as well as offers training and race day tips. Also featured in this post: insight from Mona Shand, a Brighton, Mich. runner who has run numerous races throughout the state and is gearing up for the Detroit Women’s Half Marathon (13.1 is her favorite race distance).

For those of you not yet signed up the half marathon or 5K, be sure to read to the end of this post to get your race discount code. (I hope to see many of you there!)

Dot at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, where she ran her 1:11:48 PR in June of 2014.

Dot McMahan, 38, Oakland Township, Mich.
Married and mom of a 6-year-old daughter
While she’s not running this year’s event, she came in first in the half marathon last year. Dot runs with the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project.
“It’s going to be hard,” she says of running the half. “If it was easy, everyone would run a half marathon. Enjoy that satisfaction.”
How I became a runner: I started running at the age of eight. I entered my local Hershey Track meet. I wasn’t very good but my friend was a standout. Her mom asked my mom if I could help her daughter train. We did a few workouts on the track. All I remember is eating ice cream afterwards. Not much has changed since then. I still train with other people and enjoy a treat after hard workouts.

Collegiate running: I’ve been racing for 30 years but I started training hard during college. I played every sport offered in high school so my fitness came from being a multi-sport athlete. I only trained for track during track season. I was a state champion at 400, 800 meters and the 4×400 relay. My senior year was the first year they allowed us to qualify in a fourth event. I made it in long jump and placed 4th at the state meet. I went on to run at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. My coach suggested that the 400 meter runners train with the cross country team to get fit for track. I ended up making the cross country team my freshman year and ran on the team for 4 years. I focused on the 800 meters during indoor and outdoor track through most of college. I tried a few other distances but my love was for the 800. I continued racing the 800 after college but I also started running longer road races during the summer and fall. Within 5 years I fully converted myself to road racing. I asked the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project if I could join the team with a goal of making the Olympic Marathon Trials. I never ran more than 70 miles a week nor had I raced longer than a half marathon. I feel very fortunate that the Hanson brothers accepted me on the team.

Running in the Mitten State: I’ve been here in Michigan for 10 years. I’ve run so many races that I can’t remember all of them! Crim, Detroit Turkey Trot, Reeds Lake, Irish Jig, Detroit Woman’s Half, Crystal Lake relays, Riverbank Run and Winterfest 4 miler, to name a few.

Best Training Tips: Always practice your plan –
1.) Pace
2.) Clothing
3.) Fuel during the race
4.) Take a few runs on a similar course
5.) Shoes
6.) Pre-race breakfast
7.) Night before race dinner

I like to mentally run through race day scenarios so I’m prepared for anything. Traffic, bathroom stops, bad weather, no sleep, tummy troubles can all hamper your race plan. I believe thinking about your reaction to less-than-ideal conditions can significantly help you stay mentally positive. However, practicing is the best preparation. Don’t be afraid to try multiple outfits before race day. Be ready for cold, rain, wind, heat, etc. If you need fuel during the race, make sure practice using it on long runs. Get your race day shoes weeks before the race. Run in them before race day! If you are able, get out to the course and run it.

Mona and her three kids at last year's Mackinac 8 Mile Race.
Mona and her three kids at last year’s Mackinac 8 Mile Race.

Mona Shand, 42, Brighton, Mich.
Mom to three (ages 4, 6 & 8) and Public News Service correspondent and blogger at
“The half marathon is by far my favorite distance. Unlike training for a full, which can feel like a part-time job, I find that training for a half fits really nicely into the fold of my life, and still gives me a sense of having accomplished something big.”

How I became a runner: I started running in grad school, around 1996, because I didn’t have the time or resources to go to a gym, and I was living in one of the most scenic places in the world (Monterey, CA), so it seemed to just make sense to be outside! I was not the least bit athletic growing up. I remember almost failing gym class in elementary school because I couldn’t run the mile, and by the time I finished high school I was quite overweight. After college I really started taking control of my health and became a bit of a fitness fanatic. Running was the missing piece of the puzzle. I ran my first marathon (Chicago) in 1999, and haven’t looked back since!

Running in the Mitten State: I moved back to Michigan in 2001, and one of the first things I did was to run the Turkey Trot in Detroit. I do that one every year with some friends, I’ve done the Free Press Half Marathon 6 times (and will do it again this year), the Dexter-Ann Arbor Half, the Crim several times (although we missed it this year due to vacation), and lots of local races in Brighton since we’ve been there the past 8 years. We also go up to Mackinac the weekend after Labor Day for the 8 Mile Run- this will be our third year for that. And the past 2 years our New Year’s Eve tradition has been to run the Belle Isle family 5K. My kids now love to run races as well (my 3rd grader is on his school’s cross country team), and my husband does triathlons. (Here’s a piece I wrote a few years back about my running journey.)

How I train: I’m pretty casual when it comes to training. I don’t follow any set program, but I typically run 3-4 days/week, doing shorter runs during the week (I have to be back home by 6:30 a.m. when my husband leaves for work, so I can typically only get in a max of 4 miles), and a longer run on the weekend, anywhere from 8-10 miles. I try to keep that up all year, and I’ve found that it is more than enough to get me through the half. I don’t really pay attention to times — I’m just in it for the fun, fitness, and camaraderie. I don’t even run with a watch — ever! I like to use other races as part of my training, scheduling 10Ks and more in the months and weeks leading up to the half (another reason I was bummed to miss the Crim this year!)

Running your best half marathon: Consistency is key. Sure, there are people who barely train and then go out and run a half marathon, but I’m guessing that’s not a very enjoyable experience…particularly the day after! If you try to always keep yourself in “training mode,” then it’s much easier on your mind and your body. Another tip would be to not leave things to chance. As women, we tend to fill up our calendars and say yes to a thousand commitments — this is one you have to make with yourself. If running a half marathon is your goal, then logging those miles needs to be as important to you as the rest of the items on your calendar. You wouldn’t decide not to take your kids to school because you didn’t feel like it that day! So keep your commitments to your running life as well. I know many people say you need to train with a friend, or a group, and if that works for you, then go for it. Personally, I’m more of a solitary runner and while I enjoy occasionally running with friends, it rarely works for my schedule and sometimes gives me a bit of performance anxiety. Do what works best for you!

How to have the best race day: For me, the best race days start the night before. It doesn’t matter too much how well I sleep, but getting enough water and proper nutrition play a big role. On race mornings, I like to give myself enough time to not be stressed about anything, and to be able to use the bathroom once…twice…or more! I always say a prayer before the race starts, thanking God for carrying me to that point, and putting my trust in Him to bring me safely through the finish line, and also giving thanks to all those who organized, staffed, and volunteered for the race.

Haven’t yet signed up for this month’s Detroit Women’s Half Marathon & 5K on Sunday, Sept. 20? There’s still time to get registered! And, when you use the following code, you’ll receive 10% off your race entry: MRG201510 

Register here »


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