Sooooooo… last July, I totally just signed up for a half marathon. Looking back now, it probably wasn’t one of my most well thought out ideas. But who cared, I knew it was going to be AWESOME! My besties and I in San Francisco running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon together. THE ultimate girls trip! This was going to be EPIC! But before we Prefontaine-d off into the sunset, there was just 1 teeny tiny widdle bitty problem…
wait for it…
I (seriously) HATE RUNNING.
Apparently, I seemed to have developed an acute case of amnesia, because I completely forgot about my pretty strong personal aversion to ANY voluntary cardio activities. In short: I only run when being chased. Oh, and I’m an asthmatic, I’m 30 (cough cough)-something years old annnnnnnnnd I’ve NEVER ran anything over a 5K in my life. But yet, I signed up to run 13.1 continuous miles. Not. Smart. At. All!
W (in all of) TH was I thinking???
Along the way I had some training mistakes and missteps. But I’m happy to share with you my…
7 Tips for 1st Time Half Marathon Runners
1. If the Shoe Fits… Nah, Not Really: Finding the Right Shoe (a.k.a. Your Sole Mate)
My Initial Thought: I have plenty of super cute “running” shoes in my closet that match all of my outfits. Any old shoe will do.
Do your knees hurt? Does your back ache? Are you prone to shin splints? Do you have muscle or joint pain? Do you pronate? Do you supinate? Huh, whaaaa??!!! Surprisingly, this may all be chalked up to wearing the wrong running shoe. I would argue that finding the right running shoe is the most important task in preparing for a half marathon. It was a magical game changer once I found my Sole Mate (Saucony Ride 8).
So, how do I find the right shoe? Easy-peezy! Locate a knowledgable speciality running store in your area. Next, request a gait analysis and let them know that you’d like to be fitted for a running shoe. I will warn you that running shoes are not the sexiest but they are the best. So be prepared to try on lots of shoes to find your sole mate. Don’t shy away from channeling your inner Goldilocks to find a shoe that’s “just right.”
*If you are in Texas, Luke’s Locker was amazing!!!!
Bonus Tip: My running specialist suggested I purchase a shoe 1 whole size larger for additional room and the anticipated slight foot swelling when running long distances.
2. Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan: Training Schedule
My Initial Thought: In order to prepare for a half marathon, I’m going to have to do nothing but run an ungodly amount of miles EVERY day. Ugh!!!!
In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A typical half marathon training schedule consists of 3 runs per week (2 short runs and 1 long run), 2-3 days of cross-training and 1-2 days of rest and recovery. That’s it!
Bonus Tip: Don’t neglect your cross-training days (ex. weightlifting, yoga, biking riding, etc.). I made the mistake in doing so and felt the effects later after my race. While my stamina was strong, my muscles weren’t. Cross-training reduces your chance of injury and strengthens your non-running muscles while resting your running muscles.
There’s an App for That: Nike + Running
3. The Tortoise and the Hare: To Walk or To Run?
My Initial Thought: Everyone runs 13.1 miles non-stop the whole time. No walking or breaks.
In the early stages of my training, I was killing myself physically and mentally trying to run non-stop. With each day that I trained, my mile times kept getting slower and slower and slower. Grrrrr! This sooooooo was frustrating and counterproductive. I just knew there had to be a better way. So off to Google I went. What I found was a game-changing: Walk/Run Training Schedule. From that point on, my times dramatically improved and I began looking forward to my morning runs. I was able to go the distance and my body had time to rest and reset in between each timed interval run.
4. Don’t Kill My Vibe: Audio Entertainment
My Initial Thought: I need a LEGIT playlist to get me in the running zone.
Truthfully, music was killing my vibe. Crazy enough, it was affecting my mood and messing up my running rhythm.
5. Everybody Get Your Roll On: Foam Rolling
My Initial Thought: Foam rolling, Schmoam rolling. Foam rolling is NOT optional.
As I quickly discovered, foam rolling is NOT optional. Foam rolling increases blood flow, enhances mobility and aids with recovery. I foam rolled before my run and after my run.
4 main areas I concentrated on: Calves, Hamstrings, Quads and the (almighty) IT bands.
6. (Don’t) Stay Thirsty, My Friend: Hydration (H2O) and Sports Drinks
My Initial Thought: Water? No, Thanks. I’m fine only drinking sports drinks.
Dehydration is not a cute! It’s not what’s hot in the streets and it’s not ok. Been there. Done that. Annnnnnnd, not doing it again. Dehydration is more than just thirst… Dehydration hurts! No seriously, it hurts! Headaches, weakness, muscle cramps, chest and abdominal pain are just a few deliverables from dehydration.
Facts: The human body is composed of about 60% water. During runs, a fair amount of water is lost due to sweat. Lost water must be replaced in order for your body to preform at its optimum level.
What about sports drinks? Sports drinks are awesome for replacing any lost electrolytes (ex. sodium and potassium) and carbs (i.e. energy) during your run. Electrolytes are especially important because they help prevent muscle cramps by retaining fluid. But don’t make the rookie mistake of only consuming sports drinks during your runs. Water still needs to be in the rotation as well.
General rule of thumb: you should drink 6 to 8 oz of fluid/water every 20 mins. Any runs over 90 mins should alternate between water and sports drinks.
7. “You Know Why I’m Here”: Setting A Goal
My Initial Thought: Seriously, I just want to finish the race without the assistance of paramedics and a stretcher. Annnnnnnnnnd, I’m here for the Tiffany & Co. necklace all finishers receive. (Yes, I can be bought).
Do you know “why” you are here??? Do you know “why” you want to run 13.1 miles? Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks knew “why” he committed to playing pro football… Early retirement. Figuring out the “why” am I doing this? and the “what” do I want to achieve was an important piece in my training. It was the “why” that kept me going on days I didn’t feel like waking up in the morning to run. It was also the “why” that boosted my spirits and reminded me that this was not the Olympic trials and not to be so hard on myself when my mile pace time fell one day.