It’s been a little over a month since I ran my first half marathon and a little over a year since I took up running altogether! Being the geek that I am, I spent as much time training for my first half as I did researching training/prep recommendations on the internet. Now that the newness of my shiny medal and personal goal completion is starting to wear off, I thought I would add my take to the internet on what can help a couch potato become a runner!
1) Pick a race that gets you excited! Signing up for a race that inspires you and makes you hungry to cross the finish line can make all the difference when you get behind in training or you’re trudging through the last few miles. It also gives you a date to complete your goal, which will help you plan your training schedule and keep your commitment to it. I had tried several times to “become a runner” and signed up for events that didn’t really strike a chord with me. It wasn’t until I signed up for the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland with several inspiring friends that I actually followed through on training and completing an event.
2) Find a training schedule that fits your needs, and don’t give up if you get off track. The most distance I had covered in one outing prior to my first half was just under 8 miles, and I certainly didn’t run it all. I had gotten off track due to work, vacations, and holidays. While I did find out on race day that my knee is pretty disagreeable once 9 miles have gone by, I still finished. And I finished happy. If I had been too hard on myself during training, I would’ve lost the motivation to keep going. If I had given up because I fell behind on “the plan” I never would’ve made it to the race and found out what I was made of!
3) Sign up with friends. My friends (a mix of new half marathoners and seasoned runners) kept me excited and moving when I started to focus on the distance and the pain. I was able to share my joys, share their joys and feel the experience so much more than if I had tackled my first half marathon alone. Also, it’s really nice to have someone with you to take those important photos! If you don’t have friends that will run a half marathon with you, join a running club or meetup and make some new friends!
4) Tell everyone you know that you’re training for it. Even if you spent the week eating junk food and sitting on your ass, the more you say you’re doing it – the more you start thinking like a person training for a half marathon. Also, peer pressure can be a real motivator. And you’ll find people in your life to support you in your goals! You can also do this via social media – I used the iPhone app Map My Fitness to track my training (and friends “liked” my workouts), and I made a Pinterest board for motivation and half marathon tip bookmarking.
5) Stretch! Stretching was a huge piece of the puzzle for me. The more I stretched throughout my day, the better I felt on run days. I started stretching more as a part of daily life a couple of years ago when I started seeing a chiropractor – while it helped me get more out of each visit with him, I didn’t really start seeing the importance until I began running. Miss a day of stretching and see how far your muscles are willing to carry you! I came across this great stretching guide for runners. Remember to stretch a lot! At your desk, when you wake up, when you unwind for the day. Get a foam roller for help stretching those muscles!
6) It’s okay to walk if you need to! I did. Though as the race wore on it was easier to jog than walk – my knee didn’t like the long steps of my walking pace. There were plenty of other people walking, and I was still passing a lot of them. I wanted that medal!
7) Make a running playlist that you use in training and use that playlist on race day! This really helped me in the middle of the race, when the excitement of the start was over and the adrenaline of the finish had yet to build up. It helped me keep pace and zone out instead of worrying how many miles were left.
8) Go shopping! It turns out, if you have the right clothes and shoes running long distances is a lot more comfortable. I ended up treating myself to a pair of Brooks running shoes, and I’ll never look back. Plus, they’re Seahawks colors! I bought some nice running shorts two days before the race, at the race packet pick-up event. I bought a Flip Belt there as well, and man do I love that thing!
9) Record your training and your experience on race day! Yes, you might feel like your time is slow or face is too gross and sweaty for a selfie. But when you look back years from now on your start – these memories will be priceless. Seeing my training stats for the year on my MapMyFitness app was pretty awesome too (92.6 miles in 2014, which is 92.6 miles more than 2013!).
10) Be happy. Running for fun is a luxury. Be happy that your legs move, your heart beats, your lungs exhale. And when it hurts, remember how lucky you are to be doing what you’re doing.