Tuesday, March 12, 2019

My Half Marathon Training, Experience, and Running Essentials

After posting a picture on Instagram last week from the half marathon I ran, I was blown away by how many of you wanted to know more about it and sent me specific questions via direct message. While I tried to answer many of those questions, I thought it would be helpful to put together a post about my experience that answers your questions while also sharing some of my running essentials. If you’re not into running no big deal but for those of you that are, I hope you’ll enjoy this! 

Have you always been a runner? 
A lot of curiosity came on the topic of whether or not I have always been a runner. I realized that many of you haven’t been following along since I was in high school and may not know that I ran cross country from 7th grade through my senior year. My main motivation to participate in the sport was that it would help me to stay in shape for soccer season which I would definitely categorize as “my” sport. So, while I do have some background in running, I have never been all that fast. I’m sure part of that is due to stressing myself out before races and then throwing up (TMI, I know) but I’d much rather go slower for a longer distance than sprint any day. Once I graduated high school, I would still run some and had pockets of a lot of running in college, but training for this half marathon was the first time I consistently ran in a long time. Junior and senior year of college I was really into Barre3 workout classes and would only occasionally go for runs and then during my first year teaching I did not work out much at all (which probably should have been a red flag that something was up given that I am the type of person that typically enjoys working out). Once I moved to Birmingham, I decided to get back into running mainly to have an excuse to explore more of my surroundings. I didn’t want to lose the endurance I had already started to build up when it got darker and colder so I thought training for a half marathon would be a good motivation to remain consistent since I’m pretty headstrong in that once I decided I was going to do it there was no turning back.

How did you choose which half to do?
Initially I had considered running my first half marathon in either February or April since there were races local to Birmingham during those months. Since I didn’t really run a lot when I was at home for Christmas, I decided that I wanted more time to train, so I ruled out the February race. When I realized that the April half was the same weekend as Sophia’s bachelorette it was back to the drawing board. Since I had already been training/running for several months, I wasn’t willing to wait and not run one until the fall and happened to look into the Seaside Half Marathon since I had heard many people talk about how fun it was. Since I didn’t have any friends running it with me, I semi-jokingly texted my parents asking if they would be in for a family vacation to Seaside. It worked out well that the race was the Sunday before Mardi Gras (which my mom and dad didn’t have to work on) so we could make a long weekend out of it. Within a week a house was booked, I was registered, and it felt like all of my training so far was going to be worthwhile. 

What training plan did you follow?
Prior to Christmas, I was mainly running just to build up endurance while loosely following this training plan. Since it didn’t exactly fit the number of weeks I had until my half, I altered it a bit and worked backward from race day with that plan to make my training plan based off of that. By doing that I was also able to plan my workouts around when I would have time to complete them since training can be time-consuming. All of my weekday runs were done on a treadmill making my long runs (typically on Saturday or Sunday depending on which day it was less likely to rain) a lot more fun since they got to be outside. Since I knew the Seaside course was pretty flat, I felt well prepared after long runs through Mountain Brook where the elevation changed more frequently. In the image of my training plan for the month before the race, S and S means strength and stretch for any of y’all that may be interested in using it. I will note that I am clearly not all that knowledgeable on half marathons and instead am solely sharing what worked for me. 

What did you eat on race day? 
I based my race morning meal off of what I typically ate before long runs. I started the morning off with a large glass of water (and had obviously been hydrating in the days prior) and then a cup of coffee. I was a little hesitant about running with coffee in my stomach, but it hadn’t bothered me during long runs so I figured it would be fine. Then I ate a bowl of oatmeal and had a perfect bar. I didn’t take any food along with me since I didn’t eat during my long runs and found that I wasn’t hungry until after I finished. I hate bananas, but I know lots of people that enjoy them pre and post race if you’re looking for something else but in reality basing it off of what worked for you during training will be your best bet. 

What did you wear? 
I was used to training in semi-chilly weather which wasn’t the same as how it was on race day (super humid with potential rain looming). I had run in shorts and leggings and preferred to run in leggings thanks to the compression they put on an old “injury” that started to bother me a bit during my training. I can’t remember the exact name of the leggings I wore for the race but think they may be the Lululemon Pace Rival crop. There were times that I wish I were in shorts during the race due to how warm it was. As for my top, I wore my favorite blue Lululemon tank and one of my Amazon sports bras. I don’t usually run in a hat but given how humid it was and the chance of rain I gave in and got a hat from Lululemon the day before the race.

What running shoes do you have?
I mainly trained in the Brooks Ghost 10 model that is no longer available. About three weeks before the race I switched to the newer model of that same shoe, the Brooks Ghost 11 and ended up running the race in those. I know it’s not ideal to switch so close to the race, but since the shoe style was nearly identical, I didn’t find it to be a big deal. 

How did the race go?
Overall the race went really well. I was worried for a while that it would get canceled since there was a 90% chance of thunderstorms the morning of the race but those held off for the most part (and I only got rained on for a few minutes with two miles left). I wish I had a running buddy to do it with but once I eased into my pace found that I was around the same people for most of the time. I was really impressed by how quickly the time went by thanks to entertaining people cheering the runners on. I didn’t really pay much attention to my splits for each mile and instead wanted to make sure that I could comfortably keep up my pace since I didn’t have a time goal in mind and was more focused on wanting to finish the race. One tip to keep in mind is to not necessarily get water at every station along the course. When I would go on my long runs, I would rarely get water before 6 miles in and decided that unless it was absolutely necessary, I wasn’t going to stop for water until mile 8. I did fast walk while sipping my water when I opted to stop, but once I had finished taking a few sips, I felt fine to start running again. The last 3 miles were definitely the hardest part of the race for me since I was ready to be at the finish line and I fast walked for about five minutes during the third to last mile before running to finish it off.

Would you do another half marathon?
I think that I would! I would love to have a friend to run one with me and can understand what people say when they talk about runner’s high from races (which I don’t think I could say in high school). I’d love to do the Seaside one again next year but will definitely be keeping my eyes out for races local to Birmingham in the future as well.

Would you ever do a marathon?
I have no idea. I think that with the job I have it would be very difficult to carve out time for that kind of training but never say never I suppose. Just thinking about running 26 miles right now hurts my knees but that could also be because yesterday was the first run I did post half marathon recovery.

Since some of you were interested in my running essentials, I thought it would be fun to share the items that I loved and used either for training or during the race. 

My Running Essentials

Extra Spearmint Gum (not pictured)
For whatever reason, before long runs, I got in the habit of chewing a piece of Extra Spearmint Gum and taking a second piece with me to replace the first piece halfway through. I don’t think I chewed it that much while I ran, but I do like having a minty taste in my mouth while working out. I made sure to have a few pieces on hand for the actual race too.

Headphones + A Good Playlist
I still haven’t crossed over to the airpods camp and use my “old-school” wired headphones. I don’t think training or running the race would have been nearly as enjoyable if I hadn’t had audiobooks and a good playlist to listen to. My go-to playlist is titled 5-9 on Spotify and is full of a really random assortment of songs.

Deodorant is essential for any , and there is something about Dove’s Spray Deodorant that takes the cake. I like that it doesn’t come off on clothes and smells good. While I tend to use natural deodorant for my everyday life, I feel like an antiperspirant is necessary when running long distances.

Icy Hot 
This was the cure-all for the old injury I mentioned earlier. It can best be described as a permanent bruise that will occasionally flare up. I’ve had an MRI on it before which showed that it’s a cluster of nerve cells altogether. I would put Icy Hot on it before long runs and before the race to numb it a little bit, and it worked wonders. 

My favorite protein-packed pre workout snack!

Kind of self-explanatory. If you’ve never been fitted for running shoes, go to your local running store to have them check your feet, stride, etc. so that they can guide you as to which shoe would work best for you. That’s how I discovered that these work best for my feet and I didn’t even have to use insoles like I had to in high school for soccer and cross country.

Lululemon Baseball Hat
Not that anyone looks great post-workout, but I think without this my face and hair would’ve looked rough after running in the humidity and rain. If there’s a chance of either on your race day, it is something worth considering since you’ll likely want to stick around at the post-race party.

At this point, I am preaching to the choir about how great this jacket is. The material is breathable, it has pockets for your phone plus a spot to thread your headphones, the sleeves have built-in mitten-like hand covers, it is affordable and comes in lots of fun colors. What’s not to love?

If y’all have any other questions about the half marathon that you want me to answer feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll try to get back to them! 

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