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Thinking of Running a Half Marathon?

Do it. You won't regret it.

Start Line of the 2016 Rock and Roll San Antonio Marathon and Half Marathon

Thinking of running a half marathon? Great! There is no better feeling than seeing the finish line and then crossing it. Trust me, I've run over thirty half marathons, and crossing that finish line is the best feeling. But getting there takes a lot of work and dedication. The first step is easy. It's the steps that follow that are the most difficult.

They always say the first steps is the hardest—for me, it is the easiest, but everyone is different. The first step is to find a race that you would like to do. I recommend a race from the Rock and Roll Marathon Series; they are all over the world and provide on-course entertainment. Find one near you, or far if you're like me and love travelling and register. Once you hit the confirm registration button there is no going back. Congratulations, you just signed up for a race, and now the hard part begins, training.

Training for me is the most difficult part of running a race. I do love running, it brings me clarity, but sometimes getting yourself out there can be difficult. Hopefully, you signed up for a race that is a few months out, so you have plenty of time to train and prep. First thing is to find a training plan. I recommend the Nike Run App. Just input your race date and it will ask you some questions about your activity level and draw up a plan for you. As you run it will modify the plan based on how your runs go. It is a great tool, and if you are not a fan of Nike there are lots of other options out there. 

Next thing is to find multiple pairs of running shoes. Take it from me, a bad pair of shoes will ruin your run. Multiple pairs of shoes are a good idea so you can rotate during your training runs, and they will last longer. I usually have two pairs of shoes I alternate each time I run. The shoe makes all the difference. Once you find a shoe that works for you, stick with it. Shoes usually have a lifespan of three hundred miles. Personally, mine usually last until about two hundred, but every shoe is different. Once the bottoms begin to smooth over they have gone past their expiration date. 

So now you have a training plan, now comes the most difficult part, training. Running is a mental fight, and making yourself get out of a nice, warm, and cozy bed on a nice cold morning is not always the easiest thing to do. Winning the battle with yourself is always the most difficult part. It is always easier not to do it, but you must. You must win the mental battle and lace up those shoes and hit the pavement. 

If you're not familiar with running, start off slow, two to three miles at a time, two to four times a week. Build up your endurance, and then gradually increase your mileage. It will be tough in the beginning and you may feel like you're slow, and look funny while you run. You may be right but who cares! You are out there doing something great and healthy. I look ridiculous when I run, but I am in my own world. 

As the weeks go by you'll find yourself getting faster and faster. Some runs will be better than others, and those runs are the most important. They are important because everyone has these runs and they make you better. Even the most experienced runners have bad runs; it's normal. It sucks but it's normal. You'll find yourself increasing your average distance the longer you train. It won't get easier; you'll just get better.

It is important to get in a long run every week, and that you have a pre-long run ritual. Find something that helps you on your runs. For me it's a cup of coffee and a chocolate chip Cliff bar. It used to be peanut butter on toast, and then oatmeal, but those stopped working for me. You need slow burning carbs for a long run because you need energy to keep your motor going. You should also find some sort of energy chew to eat while you are running. I use Cliff energy chews and eat three every two miles. This helps me get through the long runs. There are many types of these chews and guus available, and they can be found at grocery stores. 

Ok, it's race day. You've stuck to your training plan (hopefully) and you're ready for it. Your very first half marathon. There is so much energy and excitement at the start line you'll start to feel those pre-race butterflies, fly away. The announcers will help pass the time but you'll still feel anxious. When they finally get to letting loose your corral after what seems like an eternity, the realization of what you're about to do finally starts to sink it. Remember, everyone gets pre-race butterflies, even the elites who always start first because they are lightning fast.

During the first three to four miles, you'll feel unstoppable. The energy is still there from the start line and you've stopped at the first few hydrations stops. Never pass one up because you don't feel thirsty. That is a mistake. If you wait until you're thirsty you're beginning to get dehydrated and that will end your race. Always grab a water and electrolytes, stay ahead of it. I've seen a lot of people carried off the course by an ambulance because they are dehydrated and it is not a pretty sight. 

Between miles five through ten you start to question why you are doing this to yourself. Hopefully the course is scenic and you take it in as you run or walk the course. These are the most difficult miles because they are the middle and the part where it feels like it will never end. Some compare it to hell but it's not that bad. It's rough, and if the weather isn't cooperating it will feel like the race is taking an eternity. Don't worry you'll get through this and some reason want to do it again.

Once you hit mile 11 and realize you only have 2.1 miles left you will realize how amazing you are. You are doing what so many people can't or won't do. You are approaching the finish line of your first half marathon. When you get to mile thirteen you'll get a sudden energy burst and jog like it is nothing to the finish line. 

Crossing the finish line is one of the most invigorating feelings you'll ever feel. It will be emotional, you may cry, and that is a normal response. I bawled my eyes out at the finish line of my first race. When you receive your medal you will look at it and think "I earned this," and wear it the rest of the day. Take all the free food, water, and Gatorade they give you even if you're not hungry or thirsty because you will be. You may hobble back to your car or hotel room, have everything hurt in the evening, but you will feel great because no matter what your finishing time was, you still ran circles around every single person sitting on the couch. That is something to be proud of. 

Lela Harris
Lela Harris

I have been through a lot in life. More than most but not as much as some. I took up running as a way to combat my ever present depression. I have combined my two loves in life. Traveling and running, every state 

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