Last weekend I ran my very first half marathon. I wanted to take a couple of days to really let it all settle in before I posted about it. It was a physical, mental, and emotional challenge for me and I wanted to make sure that I absorbed it all before sharing my thoughts on it with you.
First of all, let me say that this was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. The time commitment it took to train for this race was insane – at least for me seeing as how I work full time, go to school full time, and have a family. I do not honestly know how I had enough hours in the day (ok well sleep suffered a bit) to make sure everything was taken care of while training – but it was so important to me that I completed this race that I made it happen. That is one of the biggest lessons I learned throughout this process too – that truly if you want something bad enough – you will find a way to fight for it and work hard to achieve it. Nothing is impossible.
There were a few things I learned along the way and a few things I would do the same and some I would do differently – so I thought I would share them with you.
1. Find a race and sign up for it. This goes for any thing you want to train for. The moment you commit to the race/event – you are tied to it financially (and most races these days are NOT cheap) – so you feel more of a commitment to it then if you just talk about it. SIGN UP and GET MOVING!!!
2. Find a training plan that works for you and allow yourself enough time to train. I luckily know someone who is an avid runner and has been instrumental in getting me ready for my races. He is an old friend from a previous job in North Carolina and he is someone who lives to run. It’s all he can think about – so I am very lucky I was able to learn so much from him. He has created numerous training plans for me – and they have all been amazingly successful in getting me ready in really short amounts of time without getting injured. If you are unsure of how to train, reach out to a buddy who is a runner for support – read up on running/training – find a great training website. I have personally never used it – but I hear a lot of people have success with Hal Higdon’s training programs. You can find his website here: http://www.halhigdon.com. You can also check out runners magazines and websites for more information.
3. Buy 2 pairs of shoes to train in – they can be the same ones but just make sure you have two pairs. The reason for this is that I had one pair that I was training in and expecting to run my race in. Well, 1 week before the race – they went down the drain. There was no more support, cushion, shock absorption – NOTHING left in them but the skeleton basically. I was out on a long training run when almost instantly I felt the shock starting to go through my feet, up my shins, and into my knees. The most uncomfortable thing ever. So I had no choice but to get a new pair of shoes 7 days before the longest race of my life. Not enough time to break them in. If I would have had two pairs, I could have alternated them and they would not have gotten as much wear and tear and one of them would be ready for race day. Worst. Mistake. Ever.
4. Get support from those around you. Find someone you can share your success with as well as ask questions. Make sure this person is supportive and willing to be your cheerleader and motivator. There will be days (if you are like me) where you want NOTHING to do with the roads. The last thing you want to do is step on the treadmill for a run. All you want to do is get on the elliptical, bike, take a group fitness class – ANYTHING but that 10 mile training run you had scheduled for today. This is when the person who motivates you most will step in and get your mind back on the right track, talk you through your roller coaster of feelings, and help you put one foot in front of the other. Keep in mind that some of these days were my most productive because they were not only training me physically but mentally as well – I had to overcome a mental obstacle and you tend to overcome a lot of those on race day.
5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I can not say this enough. So important. SO important. Start hydrating your body extra well and be mindful of the foods and drinks you put into your body 4-5 days prior to the race. A dehydrated body is not a good machine to run with. Drink up and stay safe. Listen to your body. Get to know your body and what it needs. The day before the race still hydrate but start to taper off. I personally (this does not go for everyone) can not have anything to drink the morning of the race or I will be spending precious seconds in the bathroom when I could be out getting a PR on the course. I also listen to my body when I am on the course and if I need water, I grab some and go. Honestly though, I am usually good with a piece of gum until I am done running – or at least not until the last couple of miles. But – like I said before – this is so personal – its not the same for everyone so LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
6. Pack a race-day bag the night before. Lay out your running outfit too – complete with your bib and safety pins. Make sure your outfit is weather appropriate. You don’t want to be too hot or too cold. If it’s cold out dress in layers – make sure top layers are ones you don’t mind tossing or losing on the course or ones that you can throw around your waist. The last thing you want on the morning of your race is to be running late because you can’t find something you need or you can’t decide what to wear. Figure this out the night before and you will save yourself stress, anxiety, and a headache. I prepped by packing a bag with the following items.
– chapstick, sunscreen, and baby wipes (to wipe down my hands and face after)
– an extra set of comfortable clothes to change into for the car ride home (I can’t stand being all sweaty nasty after running and stuck in the car)
– extra socks and an extra set of shoes (you can never be too safe)
– a water bottle and a little snack (they usually have stuff post race but just incase you need something before)
– extra headbands/hair-ties/bandanas (whatever you use to put your hair back – bring extra)
– a foam roller to roll out those tight muscles after your run
– cash (you never know when they will be selling super cute clothes/running gear especially if its a race like the Color Run)
– running accessories (headphones, ipod/phone holder, running belt, gloves, hat, ear warmers, etc)
**Make sure to have your name somewhere on your bag if they allow gear check at the race. You want to make sure if somehow their tagging system gets removed from your bag, that they are still able to identify it as yours!!!
7. Have directions and a map to the race location printed and put INSIDE your race bag.
8. Trust in your training. When you get to that starting line – its you and the road ahead. There is nothing left but to put your trust in your training, know that God will be by your side, and trust in yourself that you are strong enough to finish. Right before I started my race and to be honest about 6 times throughout the run I almost started crying. Emotional overload hit me like a sack of bricks and I had to say a little prayer to calm me down and get me through. I think all of the training and excitement and pressure just came to a head and I was ready to burst. If that happens, just stay calm, refocus, and know you can do it.
9. Pace yourself – don’t go out too hard. I am usually comfortable running at a 10 mile pace. Slow for some – perfect for me. I put myself behind the 9:55 pacers and stayed there the first two miles. Once I got warmed up, I was able to push a bit harder the rest of the race and finished in a time much faster than I anticipated and kept a steady 9:30 pace overall. Do not go out hard – you will regret it – just take your time getting warmed up and push yourself hard at the end. The last 1/4-1/2 mile leave it all out on the course and push to the finish line. The best is sprinting through the finish line when you thought you were totally out of steam.
10. See if you can recruit someone to come cheer you on. Seeing a familiar face on the course is sooooo motivating. Or knowing that someone is waiting for you at the finish line makes it that much sweeter to come through the shoot at the end. This was the first time my husband had been to a race – let alone see me run one – and I have never seen him so proud of me – I was proud of myself too but it was a great feeling to see him so excited/happy for me because he knew how hard I worked for it.
11. Read the signs along the course that people are holding up – and enjoy high 5’s from the little kids along the course too. Even though they are not there for you – they love cheering you on and you can usually find some pretty funny signs that will give you a good laugh.
11. Lastly, have fun. Love yourself. Love yourself for the fact that you decided to do something that some people only talk about. You are pushing yourself to achieve something you never thought possible – yet it is. Push hard, train hard, and get rewarded. Having them put that medal around your neck is the best feeling in the world.
If you have any questions or any other suggestions – feel free to post….I’d love to hear other tips from runners!!