I know most of you read this because it is a food blog, but recently I ran my first half-marathon and am going to take some liberties here (it being my blog and all) and write a little bit about the experience. Because amidst indulging this summer in pizza and pasta, the occasional sweet treat, and all that delicious produce the warmer months have to offer, I was working hard and training hard to be able to run 13.1 miles, which is no small feat.
(Approaching the beginning of the course on race day)
Let me preface this all with saying that I am not a runner and have never considered myself to be an athlete. I played some sports in high school, but never varsity, and since graduate school my workouts have consisted of occasional yoga or pilates class, and walking a bunch around the city. I was told by a ton of people things like “you won’t be able to believe how you’ll feel”, and “if I did it, you can definitely do it”. But the people who told me these kinds of things tended to be athletic people, maybe ran track, or at least hit the treadmill regularly for a few miles. I spent most of my energy just trying to believe that I really could do it, when just 2 miles seemed totally daunting.
When I started training in May I had never run before in my life. To be completely honest, I could probably run a quarter mile. But, I did it, and I learned that all I had to do was keep running, push myself, and try to run a little bit more every day. I also learned a few other things along the way, that were incredibly important to being able to push yourself, physically and mentally, more than I had ever done before:
Start moving—you can’t run a half-marathon (or even a 5K) without just getting out there and starting to run. Even if all you can do is a quarter mile jog, get it in, and eventually you’ll get up there. I used this plan to start running and be able to run ~3 miles consistently. And every time I didn’t want to run—I thought to myself I’d always regret not running, but never regret getting a good run in.
Get a plan—When you start a business, you make a business plan. If you’re writing a paper, you make an outline first. Same goes for running a race. I used Hal Higdon’s Novice plan. It was 12 weeks long, pushed me hard, and was time consuming, but I loved having something to stick to and goals to shoot for. And it helped me get to the finish line. There are a ton of half-marathon training plans out there- Google and find what works for you! And remember—running a half-marathon is hard. If it was easy, more people would do it. It should feel hard because it is! And running will get easier.
Dress appropriately—Having the right gear is a little pricey but is the safest way to do it. Go to a running store and have someone evaluate your feet and buy a great pair of shoes. If you’re silly enough to train during the hottest months of the year, buy some good dri-fit clothing (Target has great, inexpensive shirts). Get good socks! And for those ladies who are well-endowed, my favorite sports bras are definitely Moving Comfort, and they are so worth the price tag.
Listen to your body—Some days your knees hurt, or you’re just not at the top of the game. Cross train instead of running, or take some walk breaks, but don’t over push yourself or you’ll get hurt. And remember to stretch and rest on rest days. Resting is one of the most important parts of training.
Be good to your body—Sleep for 7-9 hours a night. Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Eat healthily, with foods to fuel your body well. Wear sunscreen.
Have support—Having a support network, or even a running buddy or group, was critical to my success. I had Amy and Eric, experienced runners, to give me tips along the way. My friends Allison and Naomi were always so excited to hear about what I was up to and cheer me on. The incredible Shannon from Shan Does Life had such positive encouragement. And my amazing boyfriend actually hit the trails with me, running almost 200 miles in the course of a few months, spending time together chatting and coaching me along.
Run Happy—One of the things that helped me along the way was creating mantras, to push myself along when things got tough. One was “Run Happy”. Sometimes I would even just count my next 100 steps to push myself through a tough moment. I listened to my favorite music, and reminded myself that I was strong, and that I had trained hard. Run Happy was my favorite mantra though, and during the final few miles of the race I was ecstatic. For more on mantras, click here.
Be Brave—Part of the reason people don’t do new things is because they’re scared. Running was new. 13.1 miles was very scary. But it turns out that when you submit yourself to being scared and vulnerable, the emotions that can come out of those feelings are really incredible. (For more on vulnerability, click here.)
(That’s me in the pink shorts, just about to cross the finish line, and my friend Eric in the green shirt next to me).
When I woke up last Sunday morning I was incredibly excited—I couldn’t wait to get to the race and jump in with the crowd and start running. Race Day was finally here! But I had never even run 13.1 miles before—my training plan put me up to 10.5 and Higdon suggests adrenaline would carry me the rest of the way—it did. I completed my first race in 2:23:07, with a 10:56 average pace (a time which I am already determined to beat). Crossing the finish line was one of the greatest feelings I’d ever had.
I rested this week, as everything I’ve read said to rest for 1 week after a big race. But I felt antsy all week, and couldn’t wait to get out there again. I hit the trails this morning for a nice 4 mile run. And that’s when I realized—I’m finally a runner.