I absolutely loved my first half-marathon...
But, to be clear, I did not kill my first half marathon. I ran my first 13.1 with my dad, and it was honestly just our goal to cross the finish line. We both finished well, within minutes of each other, but when the next fall rolled around I had a few things I knew I needed to pay more attention to or add into my half-marathon training agenda.
The main lesson I learned? Understanding that all of the LITTLE things that go into training will help you reap BIG benefits on your big day.
DIET: Lesson number one: don’t read everything you read on the internet! Contrary to some opinions, you DON’T need four bowls of pasta the night before a race. In fact, you don’t necessarily need ANY bowls of pasta in order to perform well. The real trick is knowing your body well enough to know what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t normally eat half a pizza before you go to bed, don’t do it the night before a race! My meals before half marathons have since changed from spaghetti and bread to a protein, a starch (sweet potatoes for the win!) and a veggie that isn’t too hard on my digestive system. In the morning, simple peanut butter and toast is my go to.
WATER: You NEED water! According to Web MD, just losing 2% of your body weight in fluid can decrease performance by up to 25%. Water is your best friend and I quickly realized that I needed to be drinking before, during, AND after my workouts in order to perform at capacity.
SLEEP: 7+ hours. I might be able to make it for a week on 5-6 hours of sleep a night, but I know from experience that it will absolutely catch up to me. To avoid unhealthy crashing and burning, make sleep a priority. You’ll thank yourself on race day.
PERSONAL RECORDS: Compete with yourself! After a couple years of training, I learned that there are going to be some days when I have a little extra in me - and those days, I take advantage of the energy and push myself a little harder for a faster pace or extra mile.
CHANGE IT UP: Don’t be afraid to change up the training schedule. Try running your 5 miler at an incline, or doing your repeat workouts at an incline. By the same token, if you’re traveling on the day of your long run, take the day off and reschedule the workout for later in the week! I learned that it does not AT ALL affect my training in the long run.
MUSIC: Good music is my key to a good run! I keep my go-to playlist with all of the classics - (mostly Springsteen) and then another one that changes on a monthly basis.
FRIENDS: Run with friends. I used to only want to run alone, but quickly realized that running with someone else subtly and subconsciously challenges your pace and keeps up your spirits. Casual conversation is also great for your breathing!
FIND A PURPOSE: Blindly training for a race is one of the worst mistakes I’ve made (hello race #4 - a great pace does not mean a happy pace!). I found that I was running because I felt like I had to - not because I wanted to. Having free time to run should be the best part of your day, not your worst! For this reason, I decided to take a year off of training, and I came back stronger and more thankful for my running time than ever before.
For anyone who’s wondering, since race #1, I have shaved 23 minutes off of my personal record. And as we all know, in the Running World, that’s a world of a difference.