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Friday, May 27, 2016

10 steps to running a half marathon

Last month I ran my third half marathon - the Flying Pig in Cincinnati - and it was honestly the most fun 13.1 yet!  Maybe it is because I've learned a bit of wisdom from my other two halfs, as well as the full marathon last year (read about that whole, crazy, amazing experience here)  The more you do something, even if it is challenging, it does get easier!

In the past three years I've gone from running 3-4 miles at most usually (besides a 10K here and there) to running several half marathons as well as a full marathon.  These goals were all accomplished AFTER I birthed two children and while raising two toddlers.  Not saying I'm a superstar or anything...but I accomplished several huge goals after life got exponentially more busy/challenging.

My long runs (the actual training) occurred on the weekends in the wee hours of the morning.  That was the way I was able to fit it in, since I am a SAHM the rest of the time.  One of the halfs I trained solely on a treadmill at the gym, which is doable...but I don't recommend unless that is the only way you can make it happen.

Alright mamas (or guys!) -- If you've never run a half marathon, but think you might want to make this 'your year' to train for one and accomplish that goal, here my ten steps for running a half - learned as a 'mama runner'...
{disclaimer : I'm not a professional so my "advice" is strictly what worked for me in my experience and should not be trusted as "medically correct" for all runners...just sayin'.}
1. Register for your race.  You have to just pull the trigger, pay the registration fee, and get started!  This will be motivation in itself. Find one that is local or even do a destination race!  It is really fun to plan a vacation around any race, especially if you go with friends. Which brings us to...
2. Get a friend to run with you. Even if you don't run the actual race side-by-side, it is so awesome to plan to run it with a girlfriend or two and keep up with each other during the training period.  Do at least a few long runs together on the weekend - this is awesome for catching up on life.  Then definitely have a celebratory meal or drink (or two!) post-race!  Make sure to take sweaty selfies and perhaps even coordinate your outfits.  Seriously - the camaraderie makes it more fun.

3. Update your race playlist!  Never underestimate the motivational power of music.  Inevitably one song will become your "anthem" during your training process and race.   Find your anthem!
4. Establish a pre-race and mid-race 'eating routine' and keep it up! cannot stress enough the importance of routine during the training process.  Get up the same time each week before your long run, and eat the same pre-race fuel.  For me this ritual involves a big plate of spaghetti the night before, tons of water, and bulletproof coffee an hour before race start time.  I used to eat a piece of whole wheat toast with almond butter for my pre-race breakfast, but I have trained my body not to need it that early in the morning. You figure out what works for you!   Best to avoid eating too much or anything greasy/heavy, though.  For during the race : I bring two Gu packets on the race with me. One I eat ate around mile six, then another at mile ten - if I think I need it.  Some people eat orange slices, Starburst, or running "gummies."  There are lots of options - you just need to find one that agrees with your tummy! You might not feel hungry during the race, but eating something can give you a mental boost anyway!  On your weekly long run experiment with different foods and the timing of eating them. Do not experiment during the actual race!!!!!!!
5. Try not to skip your long runs!  I know that with kids and work and the cold season that stuff happens.  But, especially with a half marathon, you really need that weekly long run (meaning you only have a certain number of weeks to get to your goal, whereas with marathon training you'll have some cut-back weeks.)  You need to gradually build up your endurance. I personally like to make it to at least 11 miles before I consider myself ready for a half.   You'll find that 'race day excitement' will help you get through those last couple "untrained miles" -- but, trust me, you will feel it afterwards.  Find a training schedule on Pinterest and use it as a starting point. 
take time to run even while on vacation -- these will be your most enjoyable and memorable runs!
6. Lay out EVERYTHING you need the night before. Races are usually pretty early.  (My most recent started at 6:30am.)  Make sure you have your race bib with safety pins, music device fully charged, Fitbit fully charged, outfit picked out and laid out, shoes by the door.  The worst way to start out a race is rushed/stressed because you forgot something.
7. Never trust the first mile - of the race or any of your long runs.  It could be amazing...or it could be super hard.  Your body needs time to find a groove during your race.  I've had long runs where the first seven miles were horrific, then around mile eight I started feeling amazing!  Give it time and enjoy the process.  Really be present during your run and pay attention to your body.  Or maybe zoning out and focusing on the music works better for you.  Slow down if you need to.  Walk if necessary.  Just try to keep going until you reach your goal for the day!
"Did you win, Mama????"  Yes Cormac, yes I did.  ;)
8. Don't skip the water stations.  (or Gatorade if you prefer that)  I've run three half marathons now, and I don't run with a water belt because I find it just too bulky.  There are awesome folks there to hand you cups of water or Gatorade nearly every mile!  This is more than enough water to get you through the race -- provided that you were well-hydrated to begin with.   Also, if there is any other forms of water (misters, sprinklers, people on the sides spraying runners with hoses) don't miss those either!!!!!!  Seriously, getting sprayed mid-race with cold, refreshing water can be a major morale booster!  Just trust me.
    9. Reward yourself!  After the race make sure you reward yourself for accomplishing your goal!  Maybe it is to take a hot bath and then long luxurious nap.  A new pair of running shoes. A vacation?  Or make it as simple as going out for a meal and nice cold adult beverage with your running friends!  We had a couple margaritas after the last half, and, wow - they tasted amazing!   Everything will taste pretty amazing while you are on your runner's high post-race!  Try to avoid anything too heavy or fried, though.  Just sayin'.  (Bowel distress is common.)
    10. Have a positive attitude through it all! Remember, a race this long is not supposed to be easy. If it was easy everyone would do it!  Enjoy the challenge of pushing your body.  Your body is amazing!  It can do things you never thought it could if you treat it right and train properly.  I started out years ago barely being able to run a mile.  Part of that was because I had told myself "I am not a runner."  I hear this from so many people.  If you make it a point to run, you are a runner.   One mile turns into 3.1 which eventually can turn into 13.1, if you want it to!
    I hope this was motivating!
    I've seen so many friends go from "run haters" to regular runners, and it is such a cool transformation to see.

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    Happy Memorial Day weekend!