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So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 6 – When the Race is Over

This is the final segment of my “So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon” blog-a-thon.  If you want to catch up on parts 1 – 5, you can check out my deep thoughts (with a sprinkling of hilarity) here:  Researching Your First Half Marathon, The Training Plan, Acquiring the Gear, The Mental Stuff and The Day of the Race.  I know, it’s a lot of amateur advice to take in.  But like I said, deep and hilarious – if you like it like that.

So here is my not so sage advice on what to expect when the race is over.  Once you finish a half marathon and you’ve let your awesomeness sink in, you will need to come up with 3 (yes, THREE) versions of your race day story:

  • Version 1 – This is what you tell clueless acquaintances.  These are the folks who don’t really know you all that well and don’t even really know what a half marathon is.   You just tell them that you ran a race and it was fun.  So, your conversation might sound something like this:
      • Chuck, the clueless acquaintance:  “Hey, how was your weekend?  Do anything fun?”
      • You, the half marathon finisher:  “Well, it was a pretty busy weekend.  I actually ran a half marathon. “
      • Chuck:  “Dude, seriously?  Did you win?”
      • You:  “Well, no.  It was my first half marathon and it was 13.1 miles so I really wasn’t trying to win, just trying to finish…which I did, by the way.”
      • Chuck:  “So, you didn’t win?  Bummer.  Sorry about your downer weekend.”
  • Version 2 – This will be for people who love to run…People who have finished a half marathon, a marathon or any long distance race.  This is where you can go crazy and describe all your gory race details.  We want to know what miles 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 were like.  Tell us all about miles 5, 6, 7 and 8.  And did you hate miles 10 and 11?  Were you stoked by mile 12?  Were you falling down by mile 13 or were you sprinting to the finish?  We want to know about running hills, hitting walls, temperature, pace, what your medal looked like.  Did you cramp up?  What did you eat?  What was on your playlist?   Were the lines long at the porta-potty?  Did you experience any chafing?  Did you cry?  WE LOVE THE DETAILS!!!  So, please do your non-running family and friends a favor, save Version 2 for the runners in your life and come up with Version 3 for your other friends and family.
  • Version 3 – This is for the people close to you who know how hard you trained and understand all the work you put into finishing the half marathon.  You can tell them the details of your story but don’t do it mile by mile.  Tell your story emotion by emotion…they’ll relate better 🙂  And, by all means, if they ask for details, do not hold back!

Other important “When the Race Is Over” things you should know:

  • You will feel like a bad ass.  Quite honestly, you should feel like one.  And you can even act like one for a few days if you want.  I’m pretty sure it’s in the half marathon policy manual somewhere.
  • You should reward yourself in a meaningful way.  Here’s how I rewarded myself :  1) The day after the race, I took a vacation day.  I honestly wasn’t sure  I would be able to move, so I thought I better play it safe.  I actually felt GREAT the day after the race!  Nice, relaxing day off…Check!  2)  I promised myself a new pair of running shoes.  The weekend after the half, I went to a local running store and had a pro assess my running situation and make a couple of shoe recommendations.  New Shoes…Check!  3)  I got a pedicure.  My poor feet deserved that pedi.   Cute toes…Check!  Those were the things that made me happy.  I’m so easy to please.
  • You should sign up for another race.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a half marathon, a 5k or a 10k.  Just sign up for something so you have a race to look forward to and you keep yourself in the running groove.
  • Lastly, in my experience, I had a lot of bone head moments shortly after the half.  My not-so-scientific explanation is that running a half marathon takes a great deal of focus and I’m pretty sure the week following the race, my brain was taking a breather from the half marathon focus factor.  Maybe it’s just me.  But if it’s not, please let me know your experience so I don’t feel like a weirdo.

So, first time half marathon finishers to be, my advice is to enjoy your journey.  From figuring out which race you’re going to run, to tracking all your training progress to crossing that finish line.  It will make you proud and you will inspire people around you…maybe even that dumb ass acquaintance Chuck will be in awe once he figures out what a half marathon is.

Go forth and train, run, finish then be a bad ass!

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So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 5 – The Day Of the Race

Greetings and welcome to the post I have fondly titled, “So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 5  – The Day of the Race.”  This is my fifth post in a series of I don’t know how many, about preparing for your first half marathon.  How many half marathons have I run, you ask?  One so far.  So with that nugget of information, understand I’m not claiming to be a running expert.  I’m just a new runner sharing information that I wish I would have known prior to training for and running my first half.

Before composing this post, I decided to wear my coveted Half Marathon shirt so while writing, I could relive my glory days.  OK, OK, my glory day.  It was a great day indeed!  I will not go into hard core details here but feel free to read my post about surviving my first half.  It’s about things I thought I did well, things I would do differently and helpful advice I received along the way.

Oh look, here’s my shirt:halfmarathonshirt.jpg

There are a lot of things to take into consideration on race day so what helped me maintain my sanity was to make a list a day or two before the race so I was totally ready to roll when I woke up on race day.

Let me be up front with you.  I am a planner and I mean Planner with a capital P.   I’m a nut job list maker and a freaky control freak so imagine the lists I had going on for this Half Marathon.  A training list, a food list, a vitamin list, an accessories list, a to-do list, a to-don’t list, you name it.

My “Things To Do the Night Before” list looked something like this:

  • Try on clothes – (just to make sure everything is there)
  • Take clothes off and set out for morning – (keep everything together so you’re not running around the house looking for your good luck socks…trust me)
  • Pin bib to shirt – (it’s a good thing I did the night before because I fussed with it for 15 minutes…don’t ask…I had placement issues)
  • Set alarm (wake up early enough to eat, digest, do your business…if ya know what I mean, hydrate, get dressed, drive to the race, walk around, take it all in and get pumped.  You don’t want to rush around the morning of your first half)
  • Set out breakfast items
  • Pack up all accessories – (the accessories deserve a list of their own)
  • Charge iPod/phone – (race day is NOT the day you want your device to run out of juice)
  • Remember to enjoy the day – (everyone says that but around mile 11 you might not be feeling the love…just keep going.  The love will come)

My “Essential Accessories For Race Day” list looked a lot like this:

  • Fanny pack (or ‘running belt’ for those of you not stuck in the 80’s like me)
  • Water
  • Gummy candy things, energy bar, (some people bring gels (like GU).   My body says boo to goo…makes me gag)
  • Chapstick
  • Tissue (I have gnarly allergies and need tissue…lots and lots of tissue)
  • Headband
  • Sun Visor
  • Arm Warmers
  • Jacket
  • Extra Safety pins (even though I pre-pinned my bib to my shirt, I brought extras just in case…that’s the planner in me)
  • Sunglasses
  • Keys
  • ID
  • Money for a beer after (not really).  Money for a taxi, just in case.
  • Fully charged iPod/phone/electronic device that plays music in your ears.
  • Watch

I know what you’re thinking.  I’m one of those people who over packs for a weekend get away.  Yes, I am, but I only bring the essentials and all the things I listed above were essential to me on race day.

You’ll have a lot on your mind before race day, so get a list together to help keep you on track. 

Another thing that is important is to make sure you have some cheerleaders at the finish line to cheer you on.  My husband and son were there with smiles and cheers and my son made a poster that read, “Way to go Mom.  You’re Beast!”  I’m not sure what that means but I think it’s a good thing and it made me smile extra hard at the finish line. That was the best feeling…to see the faces of people I love after a grueling run.  So be sure to invite some familiar and friendly faces to meet you at the finish!

Another thing I wish I knew is how anxious I would be the night before and morning of the race.  Part of my anxiety (other than the fact that I was about to subject my body to 13.1 miles of running) had to do with the fact that I was running this unfamiliar half marathon thing alone.  I was alone in a sea of  people.  Did that line choke you up just a little? Anyone?  Anyone?  🙂  Really, I was running without a buddy so it was kind of weird to be around so many people who were running the race with a friend, partner or group.  I quickly learned (well, it took me almost 3 hours) that by the time the finish line came around, most people were crossing it solo.  I started to feel less alone when I realized that everyone out there had the same goal…to cross that finish line!  It sounds corny but there is a camaraderie thing happening out there so my advice would be to enjoy it at the beginning, middle and end of the race. 

My last piece of advice would be to really do your research on preparing for your first half marathon.  There are very important factors to keep in mind:  What to eat/what not to eat, staying hydrated, cross training, stretching, the list goes on.  Here are some great websites that offer tons and tons of information:

Also search WordPress for running blogs.  There are so many bloggers out there who offer a wealth of information.   Some of my faves include:

Check them out if you are looking for interesting running experiences, knowledge, product reviews, amazing accomplishments, and difficult challenges…you name it!

Runners out there – anything you wish you would have known before running your first half marathon?

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon–Part 1

My youngest sister, Amy, recently announced she would be running her first half marathon in 2013.  Since I ran my first one this past October, I thought it would only be appropriate for me to offer some sisterly running advice.  After all, I have been running one whole year and I did live through my first half.   Disclaimer:  Seriously, I have only been running one year, so I only know so much.  I’m not a pro, an expert, or a genius in this field and I don’t claim to be.  If I do make that claim, it is dripping with sarcasm.   Read at your own risk.

There are a lot of topics to cover and I don’t want this to be an ultra long post so I will break this up into a little blog posts and the topics will include:

  • Researching your first half marathon
  • Getting a training plan in place
  • Acquiring the necessary gear
  • The mental stuff
  • The day of the race
  • When the race is over

Ok, here we go…………

Step 1 – Research.  Do a little research on running, races in your area, running groups in your area, that kind of thing.

RUNNING RESEARCH

Check out some books from the library about running.  One that I read and enjoyed was “The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women:  Get Off Your Butt and On With Your Training” by Dawn Dais.  She’s funny, honest and is not a runner so it was very easy for me to relate to what she was saying.  Sure she wrote about her marathon training experiences but I just took half of her advice and applied it to a half marathon. Worked beautifully.  If you’re a guy, skip this book unless you want to learn about running bras and other girly running things.

I also read some books about extreme runners because I thought their athleticism, drive, dedication and touch of insanity were very inspiring.  I would think to myself, “If these guys can run for hundreds of miles in a bazillion degree heat, I can run 13.1 in 62 degree weather.”

A couple of books I thoroughly enjoyed reading include:  “Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss” by Ultra marathoner Dean Karnazes  and “Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall.  If your running or training ever start to get you down, read these books and you will walk away inspired and ready to run!

RESEARCH RACES IN YOUR AREA

There are some great websites out there that can help you find races in your area.  I would encourage you to sign up for at least a 5K, or a 10K later in your training, so that you go through the race experience.

Here are some sites that I found helpful:  www.active.com – This site helps you find, register and learn about events in your area. www.runningintheusa.com is another good one and lets you narrow your search by region and race type.  Also, Runner’s World Race Finder is a great site and is easy to use and very helpful.

When deciding which half marathon to sign up for, read the description of the race.  If it says “For advanced runners” or something along those lines, maybe skip that race this time around.  If I read the description of my first half, I would have read the words ‘hills’ and ‘hilly’ and ‘challenging’.  But, no, I did not read the description.  I found out a month before the day of the race that I needed to incorporate some hill training in my master training plan.  Rookie move.  My next half marathon is described with these words: “Flat, scenic, fast, ideal for setting personal records.”  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Pay attention to the date of the half marathon…don’t sign up for a race that is a month from now…give yourself time to train.

RESEARCH RUNNING GROUPS IN YOUR AREA

I will admit…I am a bit of a running loner.  I did not seek out a running group.  I was (am) so slow that I did not feel like embarrassing myself in front of strangers.  There was also the fact that after 5 minutes of “running” I would be huffing and puffing, sweating profusely and my heart rate was through the roof.  It was so pathetic I actually went to a cardiologist to make sure it was ok for me to run.  He cleared me saying my heart was fine…just a little out of shape.   Side note:  Like the pros say, if you start a new exercise program, get your doctor’s clearance.  The one thing that did for me was eliminate an excuse to not run!

Back to running groups, I think they are a great for staying motivated, being held accountable and providing running companionship.  It’s definitely worth looking into and finding out if it would be beneficial to your overall training.  Turns out, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, that’s all.

So, there is topic one….nothing riveting but still important:  RESEARCH!

Next topic:  Getting a Training Plan in Place

Surviving My First Half Marathon

News flash…Slow Girl crosses finish line.  I did it!  I survived my first half marathon!  I’m so thrilled because earlier this year when I started running, I set what I thought was a lofty goal to finish a half marathon and I did it.  Yay me!

medalshirt2

(Note:  The race coordinators used 2011 bibs so the date is wrong…what’s up with that?)

I will spare you the minute by minute account of my day and instead provide some highlights about what I thought went well, what I could have done differently and some advice I received that was helpful.

THINGS I DID WELL

  • Set realistic goals.  My primary goal was to finish. My secondary goal was to finish under three (yes, as in three hours). My secret unrealistic goal was to finish in 2.5 hours. That was silly since I’ve never run at that pace in my life. Can’t a slow girl dream? I’m happy that I accomplished my first two goals (finish time was 2:49:28 – luckily I did not win any awards as I would have missed the awards ceremony).
  • I stuck to Jeff Galloway’s training schedule and the entire training was injury free. It was the slow and steady method of training which worked out well for this slow girl!
  • I walked up the hills like a rock star. This was a hilly course, which I didn’t quite realize when I signed up.  When I found out about the hill situation, my strategy was to walk up the hills since it sucks to run up them.  Then, at every opportunity, I would make up the lost time by running downhill, at the expense of my poor knees.  One hill, fondly known as “Doomsday Hill”  took me 10 minutes to walk up – this was at mile 9.5.  Running it was just not going to happen for me at that juncture in the race.
  • Crossed the finish line in an upright position.  No crawling involved. I made it through miles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (yes, I will be listing each mile for a dramatic effect), 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and of course the little pesky .1 mile at the end!

beforehalfmarathonafterhalfmarathon

THINGS I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY

  • Incorporate more hill training since after all, this was a hilly course.  The hills slowed me down but at least they didn’t stop me.
  • Drink slowly at the drink stations.  I took a swig of some refreshing water and it went down the wrong pipe so I had a choking fit…almost made me pee my pants which would have been SO not cool.
  • Relax and don’t let nerves get to me.   I found no pleasure whatsoever in dreaming about dirty toilets the night before the race which probably had something to do with the porta-potties that gross me out SO much I can not convey…my stomach is turning right now so let’s change the topic. Ick.  Think about rainbows and unicorns.
  • Don’t get light-headed.  I got light-headed around mile 10 but I don’t know why.  I drank water all along the course, I ate my energy snacks throughout the run and had a breakfast I was used to having before a long run (small bowl of oatmeal).   I haven’t figured out the problem so I don’t yet have a solution.  Maybe my brain was having a “what the hell are we doing” moment?!

HELPFUL ADVICE I RECEIVED (Not professional advice and not claiming to be professional advice)

  • Walk up to the water stations and walk while you drink, it’s gentler on your stomach and goes down easier.  Advice from: Leesa, my hair stylist and recent half marathon finisher.  Everyone has their own preference…run or walk, and  clearly I didn’t follow the walking advice because I choked on my water.
  • Stretch, stretch, stretch.  Advice from:  Andrea, younger sister and half marathon finisher.  Stretch before the race and stretch just as much after.  I did this and even threw in a couple of stretches at mile 10 and 11 when my hips were screaming…”Stop and stretch us or we will stop working for you!”  So I did and it felt good.
  • Just enjoy your first half marathon.  Advice from:  Everyone who ever finished a half marathon.   Well, that’s just dandy advice but honestly, I enjoyed it most when it started and when it ended.  Miles 1-8 flew by.  Miles 9-11 sucked and then I was so happy to see mile 12 and I made a little friend by mile 12.8 (see, I’m even slow at making friends).  It was her first half too and we were feeling the same…tired, sore, wondering how far away the finish line really was. It was nice having someone nearby who was in the same boat as me.  I didn’t catch her name but fondly refer to her as Girl in Pink #1 (she had a friend in pink too…that’s a whole other blog).  When the finish line finally came into view and I saw my husband, son and friends/fellow runners Patty and Jeff cheering me on, I was elated and completely forgot all about pesky miles 9, 10 and 11.  All in all it was a super great day!!!

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Good luck to all the future first time half marathoners out there.  You will do GREAT!

slowgirlfastdog2