What I Learned From Running My First Half-Marathon
If you would have asked me a year ago if I would ever run a half-marathon or any distance over five miles, the answer would have been a hard "no." I grew up playing a variety of sports — track and field being my favorite, and I specialized in the short sprints. The furthest I had ever competitively ran was 800 meters in high school and I was content never going past that distance. To be honest, after hearing my clients and friends constantly talking about the races they were training for I began to toy with the idea of training for a long-distance race, just to say I had done it. In the fall of 2017 I was presented with the opportunity to run for a non-profit organization near and dear to my heart and that's where my road to 13.1 began. Here are the invaluable things I learned that helped get me to the finish line.
Know Your Why
This is one of my mottos that I use when I have a goal I want to accomplish. Your why is essentially your purpose and it holds you accountable. Write it down and save it for the days when you need some quick motivation!
My why: I was running to raise funds for the The Lower Eastside Girls Club, where I'm a mentor. I wanted to show the girls that it's okay to step outside of your comfort zone and ensure that they saw women running that looked like them.
Have a Game Plan
Going into training I knew I wanted to continue to do other workouts like strength training and yoga, so I created a master calendar to keep all my workouts organized. This can be as specific or as general as you want, but I find that it kept me accountable and gave me a lot of gratification when I completed workouts. If you have your sights set on training for a half-marathon and aren't quite sure where to begin check out this training program for beginners!
Run With Friends
Running anywhere that wasn't a treadmill gave me anxiety, especially running in a big city. Another fear of mine that held me back from running outdoors was getting lost/having no idea about running routes. A good friend of mine volunteered to run with me and showed me a bunch of routes to use for training, which made me a lot more comfortable on my solo runs. A running buddy will help your goals come to fruition and give you that extra push you need when you feel like you've hit a plateau.
Cross-Training Is Key
Cross-training is great for injury prevention, it can help you improve on more specific areas of fitness and can be used for recovery and low-impact training. The constant impact on my joints caused me to get runner's knee, so I incorporated cycling on my lighter days. My strength-training program proved to be successful giving me the power and speed to kick for the last miles. Strength training, yoga, swimming, and Spinning are just a few ways you can cross train; just be sure to cater your cross-training to your specific needs!
Set a Goal, or Multiple Goals
If it weren't for setting small and large goals I more than likely wouldn't have been as committed to training. A few of my goals during training were to stick to my training plan and improve my endurance. My race day goals were: 1. Not to walk and 2. To run sub-two hours. (Spoiler: I achieved both!)
A Great Pair of Shoes and Running Socks Make All the Difference
As a self-proclaimed fitness maven, I know the importance of a good shoe and an even better sock. Throughout training I experienced some intense rubbing and blisters due to inadequate socks and shoes. I highly recommend sweat-wicking socks to prevent blisters! To find the best shoe for your foot and more about your gait in general, stop by a specialty running score and schedule a gait analysis.
Make a Playlist
I love working out with music and running with a playlist helped take my mind off of how far I was going, which was great for my longer runs. A 2015 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that using music can improve running performance and recovery.
I built my playlist to simulate how I would run my race. I knew I would more than likely start out faster than I wanted, so I started off with songs that had a slower tempo. Around mile four my playlist transitioned into faster tempo, upbeat and motivational songs to carry me through the remainder of the race.
Recovery Is a Must
Recovery is often overlooked, but is a necessary step. Foam rolling and stretching became non-negotiable after workouts. I'm also a fan of ice baths, Epsom salt baths, and contrasting between hot and cold.
Since I had never run a long-distance race, I had no idea what to expect. Naturally, I was anxious and nervous about competing, but my nerves calmed and I started to have fun as I ran through downtown Brooklyn, Times Square, and Central Park!