If you read my post on Friday, you saw that my mom and I ran (and survived) our very first half marathon on Saturday. We ran the Zoom Annapolis Women's Race through downtown Annapolis. When we started our training eight months ago the thought of running a mile without walking was impossible. Fast forward to our race on Saturday and running 13.1 miles straight. If we can do it, anyone can! Seriously! I was a runner in high school (and sorta in college) but I hadn't run much since. And my mom was not a runner. We started from ground zero and were able to train and finish a half marathon. So I thought I would put together some tips that helped me get in shape and finish my first half marathon!
1. Download an App
There are so many free apps that can help you get in shape! I highly recommend finding one that you like and sticking with it. These apps are a great way to keep you accountable in your training! My mom and I started with the '10K Runner' app, and then continued to the '21K Runner' app. It is amazing how much these apps really work if you stick with them! I remember in the first couple of weeks of the 10K Runner app thinking that there was absolutely no way that we would be able to run for 4 STRAIGHT MINUTES! I am still in awe that me and my 50+ year old mom are able to run 13+ miles without stopping!
2. Create a Playlist
If you are like me, then you get really bored while running. Especially for long distances! To keep you focused (and entertained) during your training, make sure you have a long playlist of good songs that are upbeat and keep you motivated. I actually started listening to books on tape for my longer runs to keep my mind off the distance. I like to be able to focus on something else rather than running 10 miles.
3. Run 13.1+ Miles in Training
Some people may disagree on this tip, but I think this tip is an important one! I recommend running at least 13.1 miles in training to not only prove you can physically run the distance, but to show yourself that you can mentally run the distance! Running is almost more of a mental than physical game, so for me, it was imperative that I mentally knew I would be able to finish 13.1 miles come race day.
4. Set a Goal
Whether you want to win the race or finish it without walking, setting a goal is something I think everyone should do! Setting a goal is a great way to keep you motivated and focused during your training and on race day. My goal was to finish in under 2 hours, and my moms goal was to not finish last haha. We are happy to say that we both accomplished our goals!
5. Study the Course Before the Race
This is actually something I wish we did before our race. Since I live and trained in Annapolis, I knew the basics of the race course. I knew we were going to have to run over the Naval Academy bridge twice, and I knew we were going to have to run up this one long hill. I ran these hills during our training so I was not that worried about them. What I wasn't prepared for was the two miles of hills that occurred while running through a community I was not familiar with. To be honest, these surprise hills killed me mentally more than they did physically. If we would have checked out the entire course before the race, I would have known about these additional hills and would have been more prepared! I highly recommend at least driving the entire course before the race so that you do not have any unpleasant surprises on race day like we did!
6. Carb Load
Make sure to fuel your body with plenty of carbohydrates, and not just the night before! For the week leading up to your race, try to eat at least one meal with an abundance of carbs. Pizza, pasta, bagels... Fuel your body with as many carbs as you can! You will need energy for your race! My mom and I are usually on a low carb diet, but throughout training, we ate a large carb full (usually pizza) dinner the night before our long runs, which were on Saturdays. But the entire week leading up to our race we ate at least one high-carb meal a day. I really felt the difference!
Stretch whenever you can! Not just before and after every run, but throughout the day as well! Stretching is the best way to keep your body injury free. I am probably the most inflexible person you will ever meet, and didn't follow this tip as best as I should have, but I am urging you to stretch whenever you have the chance! There is no such thing as stretching too much!
This tip is a little obvious, but probably the most important tip I can give you! You need stay hydrated, and not just during the summer months. You should always be trying to drink water throughout the day, even when you aren't training for a half marathon, but it is even more important if you plan on running 20+ miles a week. The humidity during our race was expected to be in the 90% range, so we knew that being hydrated was critical! The day before our race I drank so much water I lost count. Bonus tip: there will be water stations throughout your race. Make sure you take one cup of water at every station, but only one! You will regret drinking more than one, trust me!
9. Wear Comfy Shoes and Clothes
This tip may seem a little silly to you, but I think it is worth mentioning! Make sure every item of clothing you wear during your race is comfortable and you have run in them before. You don't want to end up chaffing or getting a blister in the middle of your race!
10. Stick to Your Pace
It is very easy to want to stick with the group in the beginning of the race. When everyone starts together, it is exciting and makes you want to stay with the people around you. But if everyone is running at a pace faster than you are used to, I insist that you stick to your normal pace, even if it means falling behind the group. There is nothing worse than starting out the race at a much too fast pace, and then paying for it later. You don't want to run the first three miles too quickly, causing the last 10 to be much slower. Stick to your goal and don't worry about the runners around you!
Immediately following our (super humid and incredibly hilly) race, My mom and I swore we would never run another half marathon again... Well, we signed up for another race in November. It is basically the same course as we ran on Saturday, so we are excited to see if we can run a faster time than our first. We will be more prepared for this race (see tip #5) and hopefully accomplish more of our goals!
I hope these tips help anyone who is planning on running (or thinking about running) a half marathon in the future! And trust me, if my mom and I can finish, so can you!!!
Thanks so much for reading! xo