The Time I Ran a Half Marathon (And What I Learned From It)
I ran a half marathon this past weekend. Me. Megan. The girl who could barely run 3 miles without her dog dragging her across the finish line. And guess what…I kind of kicked butt. Tackling this feat was not a game-time decision; I started training hard three months before the race. I learned a lot before, during and after the half marathon and the following is some tidbits of advice for new runners and those training for a big race. If you don’t care about the backstory and just want the advice (don’t blame you) scroll down a bit. You’ll get there, young one.
Have you ever scrolled across Facebook and seen people post pictures of their recent marathon experience and you’re just like…”Good for you. I’m proud of you. You’re a fit little woman (or man) and here I am eating Cheetos on my couch and watching reruns of Friends on Netflix.” In other words, having a mini self-hate session on your inability to be physically motivated or accomplish anything so substantial. This happened to me at least once a month, and I hated it. “I’m not a runner. I’m not capable of doing that. I’m not built like them.”
Enter: Terressa Dotson of Achieving Fit, a good friend of mine and personal trainer. I had already been working with Terressa for about a half of a month doing personal training to get my body a bit more toned. When I came to her with the idea of running a half marathon, she ran with it (pun intended) and training began.
I worked out 5 days a week, running 3 of those days and strength training and HIIT training the other 2 days. Terressa pushed me past limits I thought I couldn’t reach, and I slowly started to realize that my body could physically handle a lot more than I thought it could. Okay advice time. Here are 6 pieces of advice for anyone training for a half marathon or any other big race:
Listen to your body. (Ugh, so cliche, I know.) This goes two ways: push yourself if you feel the exercise is too easy and pull back a bit if the exercise is hurting you in a way it shouldn’t. You know your body more than anyone else, so listen to it! Exercise should feel good AND be a bit challenging. If it’s either too challenging or not challenging enough, make some adjustments.
Stay hydrated and energized. If you look at some of my race day pictures, you can see a pretty little beauty strapped around my waist: I call this my running fanny pack. On both sides of this fanny pack are 8oz water bottles and the front has a zipper area where you can put your phone, keys and gel packs. Ah, gel packs. They’re the best thing to ever happen to my training. Some flavors are not quite as good as others, but my ultimate favorite is this Peanut Butter Chocolate one. It tastes like straight up chocolate frosting. A gel pack is basically a very concentrated sports drink, so make sure you drink a good amount of water with it or your stomach may start to hurt. Also, if you have stomach troubles often (as I do) only take half of the gel pack at a time. So, if you’re having a gel pack at mile 4, only eat half of it and then eat the other half at mile 5. This reduces the possibility of stomach issues.
Spend the ridiculous amount of money on proper running shoes. Yes, $120 is a horrible amount of money on shoes you’re going to need to replace in 6 months, but the cost of health care bills will far exceed that if you hurt yourself because you didn’t have the proper support. Find a local running store near you and ask for their help in finding the right pair. The running store I went to near me had me run on a treadmill for 15 seconds while they videotaped my feet. They played it back in slow motion and saw that my feet pronated inward, helping them select a shoe that had more support on the inside of the foot to help reverse that pronation.
Switch up your running routes. Running (especially long distances) can get SUPER boring, no matter how poppin’ your running playlist is. When you switch your running route, you have new things to look at, new terrain to cover and a fresh change to your routine. It does wonders. Make sure to add routes that include hills (even if they’re mini). Although running hills sucks, it will help you be much more prepared for the course you’ll run at your race.
Pace yourself. When that horn blows and the race begins, you’re going to want to pass as many people as possible and just get moving already. DON’T. You may feel great running at a quicker pace in the beginning, but you’ll pay for it later on in the race. Stay at a pace you know you can keep. If you still feel good towards mile 10 (this is for those running a half marathon) then start to increase your pace. By then, there’s a slimmer chance that you’ll burn out.
Half of training and running a race is mental. Yes, half. I stand by that. It’s one thing to get your body physically prepared for a race, but it’s another to get it mentally prepared for the thoughts that are going to run through your mind (Think: “My feet are killing me. I’m going to pee my pants. Why is there another hill?! This sucks.” When thoughts like this cross my mind I do two things: 1. Jam out hardcore to whatever song is playing and 2. Take in the moment and allow myself to really appreciate the hard work I’m putting in. Because, in the end, I’m not sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and watching Friends reruns on Netflix. I’m pounding pavement and kicking butt.
Will I run another half marathon? OH YEAH. Will I ever run a marathon? Mmmm, probably not. Not because I don’t think I could eventually (with the proper training), but I just have no desire to as of now. Could that change? Sure, why not.
Let me know your racing stories and any advice you may have!
The Busy Bee