Running a half marathon is a huge accomplishment and it requires focus, commitment, and time. I ran my first half marathon last year and learned so many things about running and myself in the process. Many of you are about to embark on this journey for the first time as well, so I would just like to share my experiences, tips, and thoughts with all of you so that you can get the most out of your running as you can!
First of all, I never considered myself a runner. I played softball and volleyball in high school and didn’t pick up running until I got to college. Once I started college I realized I needed some form of exercise that I could do on my own to stay healthy and to stay in shape. This is when I discovered running. At first I hated it…I only ran as part of my workout and considered it something I had to do. After a few months with this attitude I realized that I was getting nowhere. I decided to change the way I thought about running and find ways to make it more enjoyable. For me this meant I needed to change up my music more often, because music is an important part to keep me going. Then I made a conscious decision to view myself as a runner, even though I was only running 1 mile at a time. By doing this, I gave myself a new confidence that propelled me into this new hobby of mine. Every time I went for a run I felt strong and empowered. I felt like a runner.
Beginning my sophomore year I was running 5Ks easily. I decided to challenge myself and sign up for a 10K. With hard work and training I ran my first 10K in 55 minutes. This was a huge success to me. This boost of confidence challenged me to consider taking my running even further and sign up for a half marathon. When I heard the Chick-Fil-A Half was going to be in Athens I signed up immediately. And so began the journey to what I consider one of my proudest accomplishments…
I trained for the race for 12 weeks. I followed a plan that the Connect Race Series sent me that was specific to the Chick-Fil-A Half. My training started off great! I was so excited and devoted to running that I set a goal to run it in under 2 hours. For those of you who don’t know much about running, this is about an 8:30 pace for 13.1 miles. I knew it sounded crazy, but I also knew I could do it. Everything was going well until I got up to about 8 miles for my long run. From that point on I had excruciating pain in my knees and right ankle towards the end of my run and for a day or so after. I remember calling my mom one morning just balling my eyes out on North Campus because I physically could not walk to a bus stop or to my next class. I was suddenly fearful that I would not meet my goal or finish the race at all.
After my 10 mile run that caused the above fiasco on North Campus I allowed myself to slow down some. The race was about 2 weeks away and I needed to heal as much as possible before then. However, backing off of my training made me stressed and fearful that I would not meet my goal.
Race day had finally arrived and I was beyond excited, nervous, and ready to go! I was overcome with emotion as I stood at the starting line with hundreds of people around me. As the race started I felt great and was hopeful that I would get through it pain-free. At about mile 6 my worst fear came true. My knees started to experience shooting pains and I had to slow down. For half of the race I was in terrible pain. I just remember my knees buckling and the thought of quitting running through my mind. I had trained too hard to give up.
I crossed the finish line at 2 hours and 9 minutes as a mess of tears. In that moment I did not care that I didn’t meet my goal. I was so proud of myself for finishing something that few people will ever do. I felt so strong and accomplished. It was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced.
With that being said, I am excited to run my second one! There’s nothing like crossing that finish line. I tell you my story in hopes that you can either relate to me, learn something from me or be encouraged that you can do it too! As I said, I never considered myself a runner, but with hard work and determination I am on the road to my second half marathon!
I would also like to share the training plan that I will be following. I am using Hal Higdon’s Novice plan and modified it a bit. I am starting at week 5 since the race is only 8 weeks away. I am also taking out the 5K and 10K on the plan and making a steady increase for the long runs so I can get up to a longer distance. If you are not already built up to about 4-5 miles then this plan might not be for you. If you are a beginner you should take a look at this awesome 8 week plan! It is definitely doable for anybody!
I also wanted to touch on how to prevent injuries like mine. My injuries came from a combination of many things. The first being that I had terrible shoes. It is important to invest in a good pair of running shoes. I went and got impressions of my feet and had somebody watch me run on a treadmill in order to be fit to the right pair. I also increased my mileage too quickly. I was trying to run further distances too quickly and most likely hurt myself that way. Make sure that you build up to your long runs and listen to your body. It is also so vital to warm up, cool down, and stretch. If your body isn’t warm or loose before you go on a long run then you are setting yourself up for an injury. You also need to stretch for a good 5-10 minutes after every run. I now ice both of my knees and my right ankle after every run. If you feel any pain, ice it right away. Below is a link to some recommended stretches for runners.
http://www.shape.com/fitness/cardio/get-loose-best-it-band-stretches (it was my IT band that caused me so much pain so be sure to look at this if you have knee pain!)
Nutrition is also important when training! You will be burning so many calories and you need to replenish your body with healthy foods. Here are a few links to help you with that!
I hope my story and these tips help each one of you in some way with your training over the next 8 weeks. Please know that you can come to me with questions, comments, or advice at any time! I always love a running buddy as well 🙂 Good luck y’all!