Running Your First Half Marathon?
Me and running were never good friends growing up (as you can see from my picture, we still aren't). I always associated running with punishment because basically it was. Late for practice? Go run laps. Half-assed it in a game? Go run sprints. I also was slow as hell and would find literally any excuse to stop running when I was doing it for personal cardiovascular reasons. Give me a barbell and some heavy weights and I am a happy girl. Ask me to run? GTFOH.
With all that said, I do admire runners who push their bodies to unthinkable limits and run mile times I can only dream of. The amount of training and hard work it takes to complete long distance races has earned my respect for sure. Lots of people have a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon or Marathon on their bucket list and for good reasons. Setting a goal such as completing a race gives a person a healthy achievement that in turn teaches them what it means to be dedicated and to be held accountable for themselves. I had always flirted with the idea of a half marathon, especially after my best friend Elaine completed the New York City Marathon in 2015. Watching her kick so much ass during that race was a huge inspiration of mine to get my ass off the couch and get running.
This past summer, I get an email from my Sister-in-Law, Ali inviting me on her 30th birthday trip to Key West. Beach, booze and boys? I’m in! What I didn’t think the email was going to say was that the trip was going to be based around the Key West Half Marathon. So wait, no late night partying on Duval and sleeping off hangovers on the beach? Shit, ok...I had to think about it for a second. I knew that if I didn't say yes to running the race, I would experience serious FOMO and regret my decision once race day came, so I committed. Fast forward to now and I officially am able to say I completed my first Half Marathon on January 15th! Throughout my training, I figured out some helpful tips and tricks that kept me motivated that I think a running noob like yourself might find helpful!
1. Give yourself PLENTY of time to train PROPERLY
I decided to start my training on Labor Day kind of as an end of summer reboot to get myself back in shape after all the BBQ's and drinking that occurred the past few months. My race was in the middle of January, so I had plenty of time to ramp up slowly which was perfect for me. My senior year of college I signed up for the Long Island Half Marathon on a whim and only gave myself a month to train. I thought I was in shape because I was a college athlete, but I was far from it. I ended up getting tendinitis in my IT band and had to drop out right before race day. I will get soreness in the same knee from time to time if I decide to go out for a long run without building up to that distance, so I knew I didn't want to run into the same mistake this time around.
2. Find a good training plan and stick to it
Luckily my friend Elaine has ran a bunch of half marathons as well as a full marathon, so she had a great training guide for me. You can easily fine ones for free online that breakout how many days per week you should be running as well as the distances. What was great about her training manual was that it called for running a minimum of 3 days a week and incorporated cross training and strength training as well. I would go insane if I couldn't lift weights, so this one was perfect for me. Research a few plans and find which one fits you the best. If you find one you like, you will have a better chance of sticking with it till race day.
3. Invest in a good pair of running shoes
Just like everyone else in the world, I have always gravitated towards Nike sneakers. Whether it be for running, strength training or for everyday life, Nike was always my first pick. Having friends who run and dating a cross country runner, I had always heard that Nike didn't make the best running shoes. I decided to put my personal style preference aside and go to a legitimate running store and get my feet looked at and try on a few pair of sneakers that would potentially work for me and my running stride. I highly recommend this as I ended up with the Saucony Ride 9 as I was told I have a neutral stride. They were super comfortable and felt like I was walking on a cloud. I also run pretty heavy so my knees tend to get sore and these sneakers totally eliminated the pain.
4. Just because you are running 3-5 days a week doesn't give you a free pass on your diet
Your goal might not be to lose weight, but I highly doubt you want to gain weight throughout this training process. A lot of people think because they begin doing a lot more cardio than they are used to that they can start carbing up before and after runs. FALSE. This is specifically in regards to a half marathon, but you should not need to change your diet whatsoever. I eat fairly healthy and I never felt fatigued or that I was slacking on my runs due to a lack of energy from not eating enough. The only time you should need to refuel is when you have been consistently working out for 60 minutes or longer. If that is the case, bring some energy gummies or jelly beans along with you on your longer runs. These give you a burst of carbohydrates that will get you through the end of your run. I personally love the Honey Stinger Organic Chews!
5. Set goals throughout your training to keep you motivated and on track
I decided that after Labor Day, I wasn't going to drink any alcohol until after the race. I knew this was a lofty goal being that the race was 4 months away, but I work well with extremes. Go big or go home. I will say I did go to Indonesia about 3 months into my sobriety and gave myself a free pass to enjoy some Bintangs, but once I was on US soil again I was back at it! Obviously you don't have to do this, but it does help to set goals whether it be long standing throughout training or maybe weekly goals. These help keep you focused and motivated and it feels great once you have accomplished it. That first beer after 13.1 was the best thing I have ever tasted ;)
6. Make sure you have trained in the outfit you plan on wearing for race day
This I found out to be very important the hard way. On my 10 mile run a week before the race, I came to realize that I get booty chaffing (shout out to my big booty girls). I like to wear my pants rather high on my waist and the seams and type of fabric I was wearing was causing irritation that was not pleasant. I kept this in mind and decided on capris that I had done long runs with before and had no issues with as well as a good supporting sports bra that I knew was comfortable to wear for long periods of time. This isn't a fashion show ladies, so put away your Lululemon yoga bras and tiny compression shorts. Also, make sure you invest in an anti chaff product. I used Dry Goods Anti Chaff Spray that is basically an aerosol baby powder and kept me rash free on race day.
7. Don't be nervous and HAVE FUN!
You have done everything you should have leading up to this big day and trained your ass off, so why get nervous? You are prepared and ready to take on 13.1 miles like it ain't no thang! There will be tons of excitement from the crowd and adrenaline flowing through your body but don't let that get into your head. A lot of people start out of the gate way too fast because they feel good, but that will quickly wear off and you will be dragging your feet to the finish. Pace yourself, concentrate on your breathing and make sure to have an epic playlist to keep you on track to finish strong.