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I ran my first half-marathon in September 2017. I have always wanted to run one and it was not until my good friend approached me about the topic that I hunkered down and the two of us got to training. Prior to that, I had set out to train a handful of times only to give up when the runs got longer.
Training with my friend was a lot of fun. We first created a Google Doc that had the training schedule laid out. We then tinkered with it to fit our daily schedules better. For example some days of the week I couldn't fit in a run, so I swapped it with a cross-training or an off day. Sometimes we did our cross-training days together, other times we simply texted about how draining or invigorating the run was. We had a lot of fun cheering each other on, and holding the other accountable.
The training itself was very empowering. There came a time halfway through where I ran 6 miles and almost cried; I never thought I would have the strength and stamina to do that! I was then overcome with mixed emotions when I thought about having to double that distance. It scared me and excited me all at once. The weekend before the race was our last long run. The distance was 10 miles and to this day, that is the best run I have ever had. I was on Long Island for the weekend visiting my boyfriend's family. The forecast called for rain but I wasn't going to let that deter me. The first 3 miles I coasted and the weather held up. By the end of mile 5, I was running through a torrential downpour. I tried my best to hide my electronics in my sports bra, but those efforts were truly futile as I was drenched to the bone within 20 minutes. But I kept running. No music, sopping wet, strangers ogling at me because I was crazy, legs pumping steadily guiding me through 10 miles. I ran 10 miles in 80 minutes. I maintained an 8-minute mile pace for an hour and 20 minutes. To say I was elated is an understatement. I was dripping when I got back to the house and the overcast clouds didn't look like they'd be letting up, but my face was bright and sunny. I was so proud of myself and couldn't wait to cross the finish line the next weekend...
The anticipation of crossing the finish line died after mile 2. I did not hit my goal of running the half under 2 hours. In fact, I was quite disappointed in myself because I was able to maintain 8-minute miles through most of my training. I won't make excuses regarding my missed goal, but I will point out some factors that I hope will help other runners.
Looking back I wish I had done some group runs. It should come as no surprise that race-day is different than training runs. Adrenaline and jitters aside, running in a large group is hard when it comes to setting your pace! Therefore, I am definitely adding group runs to my next training schedule.
During the race, I am a little embarrassed to say I was distracted by the water stations. Although it was very hot outside, I had trained in that weather. And once I had one cup of water, my body craved more and more which was a disaster considering my stomach was so full I felt sick!
The chugging of water cups definitely didn't help nor did the fact that I decided to wear a tight tank top that felt restrictive as my stomach filled with water. I also should have worn shorts and not leggings. Although I trained in leggings given the heat and the nerves on race day, I should have gone for the most comfortable outfit.
In terms of the training itself, there are a few things I would do differently. I would have taken the cross-training more seriously. There were some days I actually did something such as yoga, biking, or light strength training. But the rest of the time I used it as an extra off day. Off days could have been used more productively. I should have been stretching or moving a bit. Not just crusting on the couch anxiously anticipating the next day's run. I would also suggest finding a running route that allows you to take as minimal pauses as possible (this was nearly impossible for me living in New York). You don' think all of those shortstops at the stoplights will make a difference but having to run nonstop on race day, I felt the difference.
The training definitely changed my body. I really only gained about 5 pounds throughout, and it was mostly due to the fact that I was so hungry all the time! I definitely did not do enough preparation on how to appropriately nourish my body while curbing my hunger. Although it was 5 measly pounds I'm almost positive it all went all to my bum, as I could feel my glute muscles more prominently, and my jeans weren't too excited about it. My friend gained somewhere between 8-10 pounds throughout the training as well. That said, I would definitely prepare yourself for some changes to take place.
There were other very minute details such as the Thursday before the race I did some yoga moves in attempts to stretch out. This was not smart as I hadn't gone to yoga for at least two weeks and these moves made me sore. I also stopped drinking during training so I could capitalize on letting my body recover properly. The Friday before the race my office celebrated a colleague's first sale. It was only one glass of wine, but given that I hadn't had a drop in months, it wasn't the best choice.
After the race, I was pretty disappointed in my time (2:06). My Type-A personality just wouldn't let it go that I didn't hit my goal. My body wasn't tired, but my mind was mush. All I kept repeating was that I wanted to run another one and I'm upset with my time. My loving mother and boyfriend tried to console me and remind me how ridiculous I was being; I had just accomplished my goal of running a half marathon and I was upset with myself!
My last suggestion to anyone looking to pursue this goal is to look for a training schedule that has you run 13+ miles at least once during the weeks leading up to the race. My 10-mile run was phenomenal, and mentally I could wrap my mind around 3 more miles, but physically it was a different story. I'll also warn you that your concept of mileage is warped (3 miles to me at the time was a breeze, and now my calves quiver in fear by the thought of two miles!).
I will be running a half-marathon in 2018, and my training buddy is on board as well! We're both competitors that want to have better results, but we're also athletes who thoroughly enjoyed the training.