Have you ever had one of those moments when you're feeling overly ambitious and you sign up for a race you technically aren't quite ready for?
Phew. Glad to know I'm not the only one. Because this was definitely the case for me at the beginning of the year when I decided to sign up for not one, not two, but three half-marathons over the course of the next 12 months. Although this might not seem like a lot to some, it certainly was for my legs at the time.
As you can imagine, it only took a couple of days before I was slapping myself on the wrist wondering what in the hell was going through my mind when I pressed that submit button. You'd think having to fill out multiple pages of information before receiving the final race confirmation would have been a sign, but no.
Yet fast forward to today and here I stand, now with two half-marathons behind me and one more to go! I must admit, after enduring all the grueling training and preparation, I do in fact feel the healthiest I have ever felt. While I might not have dropped numerous pant sizes, for me, that wasn't (and still isn't) my end goal, as I've always chosen not to focus on the number looking back at me on the scale. Instead, I choose to rely on how I feel — mentally, physically, and emotionally — and after eight months of getting into shape, I can confidently say I feel restored, rejuvenated, and, frankly, alive!
On top of that, I've uncovered quite a few pointers throughout this running-more-than-I-could-once-even-fathom process. So if you're in the midst of training or simply looking to lean in to your own fitness aspirations, below are four tips that will consistently get you across the finish line.
1. Good Nutrition and Proper Hydration Are Key
Many people assume that if they load up on carbs the morning of the race, they'll be good to go. However, that simply isn't the case. No matter if you're running a 5K, a half-marathon, or even a full marathon, your body needs to be properly hydrated and nourished well before your big day.
While everyone's body is different, I've noticed a tremendous difference while running when I take the time to properly fuel up and hydrate throughout the week before my race. In doing so, I am less likely to experience stomach cramps, nausea, and dizziness during my run.
Having said that, I've found setting timers on my phone to remind me to chug water or eat another PB&J to be super helpful. This way, no matter how busy the day gets, properly fueling up doesn't get swept to the side.
2. Don't Underestimate the Power of Music
I know, I know — the idea of plugging in headphones to listen to music while running is by no means a new concept. But truthfully, I have yet to come across anything more powerful than an awesome, adrenaline-pumping playlist to get me across a finish line.
Not only does good, upbeat music get you "in the zone" and elevate your mood, but it can also help you keep up your race pace. In fact, time and time again, studies have proven that listening to music can distract athletes from pain. So whatever you do, don't underestimate the power of your favorite tunes.
3. Talking to Yourself During a Run Is Totally Normal
There is no denying running is just as much about mental strength as it is physical fitness. No matter how many races I run, I find there to be parts of each that launch various mind battles. But as strange as it might sound, talking to myself is what ensures I overcome each and every one. And guess what? The more runners I talk to, the more I realize how normal this is.
See, repeating mantras to yourself throughout your race will sometimes serve as that extra ounce of motivation needed to keep running. The same goes with setting small milestones — you know, breaking up the course, mile by mile. By doing this and consistently cheering yourself on, you'll be able to dig even deeper for mental strength and start to feel the exuberance of the runner's high.
4. A Slow and Steady Pace Really Does Win the Race
Chances are when it's time to start your race, you'll want to dart forth and run fast ahead. I get it. This is the day you've been waiting for, so of course you're ready to get the show started. But I urge you to hold back your speed and take your time. Avoid one of the biggest mistakes runners can make and start out slow.
Oftentimes, I'll tell myself to "stay in my lane." While it's so easy to get caught up in the speed of the surrounding runners — especially when they're zooming by me — I think of the wisdom in Aesop's fable The Tortoise and the Hare and am reminded to keep pushing forward, but at my own pace.
So by all means, push yourself. Just remember that a slow and steady pace really does win the race.