I’ll admit that prior to becoming a runner I knew nothing of the sport, besides that it took a heck of a lot of endurance and stamina. If you’re in shape running shouldn’t be too difficult, right? Just put on a pair of shoes and go….yup was I totally wrong. It wasn’t until I decided to run my first 10K that I realized there is so much more to running than just putting on a pair of shoes and going for a run. There is a learning curve to running that I’m still on, since this is my first major long distance run I had to do research into what I should be or shouldn’t be doing to prepare myself for a half marathon. Some things I knew from training for my first 10K, such as breaking in a pair of running shoes before going a long distance with them, but there was a lot that I wasn’t aware of until I made the commitment to run a half marathon and really had to commit to getting myself both mentally and physically ready for what I am about to do on May 17th.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far, and am still learning:
- Find a training schedule that works for you. Whether it’s the schedule like the one that Cellcom Green Bay Marathon sponsor Prevea provides online for both half and full marathon participants, an app on your phone, or a schedule you found in a fitness magazine you have to find one that works for you. I’m a visual person so I have mine on my fridge so I can reference it at any time, as well as cross off workouts I’ve completed (because nothing feels better than crossing of a workout session).
- Accept that training will not be perfect: Not every run will be fantastic, some will be less than fantastic or downright ugly. You might even miss a run or two because of injury or a crazy work schedule. It’s okay, life happens. So you miss one, just make the effort to get the next workout in. And do your best to never miss a long run session.
- Pay attention to how you run, can you improve your posture or how your foot hits the pavement? Look forward and not down (this is a struggle for me at times). Holding your core tight and relax your arms and hands, to help your posture. Keep your breathing easy as well. Also have a few pairs of running shoes that you can rotate between while training, instead of just one that might be a little too worn down by race day.
- Use your training runs to try new things out, so you can figure out what will work best for the big day. Are you going to us energy gels or chews? This is something that I’m still learning; I’ve been trying out energy gels and chews on my last few long runs to see if they are something that I may use on race day. So far I’m leaning towards the gels as my preferred source of a little energy before a run.
- Nutrition and hydration: Learning what to eat even a day or two before a long run is something I’m still figuring out. At the being of my training I wasn’t paying attention to what I was eating much, but as the distances increased I realized how important it is to put the right kind of fuel in my body. Food is fuel, and for everyone what type food works for you will be different than the next. And making sure to properly fuel your body after is key too, and again this is different for everyone. Also keep hydrated! I drink half my body weight in ounces of water a day just to keep my muscles hydrated. I can tell when I’ve haven’t drank enough in a day, even if it is a rest day. Our bodies are beautiful machines; we have to do everything to take care of them.
- Be mentally prepared as well as physically. Running is not only physically demanding, but it is mentally demanding. I’ve learned no matter what distance I’m running I have to learn to silence my mind from distraction and to remind myself that my mind will give up long before my body will. Listen to your body, it will tell you if that side cramp is something you can run through or if you need to walk it out a bit.
- Find what motivates you. Is it upbeat music? Are you going to dedicate your miles to loved ones? Are you looking forward to celebrating with a drink at the finish line? Whatever it is that motivates you, use it to your advantage. I love listening to a variety of upbeat music, and I actually will sing along. This helps my breathing and distracts me from how far I’ve run. Treadmill runs are hard for me because I always want to check how far I’ve ran, but I’ll count songs instead and check my distance only after so many songs.
- Have fun and live in the moment. Some days I’m so excited for race day, other days it’s my nerves that get the best of me. I know that come the day of the race I will have butterflies in my stomach, and adrenaline pumping through my veins. Once I cross the start line and settle in I will enjoy every step of the race. This has been a long journey, and on race day it’s all about living in the moment and enjoying the atmosphere around me and supporting my fellow runners.
This first timer is still absorbing all the advice and information she can get and is still learning as she goes, but I cannot wait to run through Lambeau and complete my first half marathon. I’m also looking forward to celebrating with a drink and raising my glass to say cheers and a job well done by us all!
The First Timer