Half-Marathon. noun. A race consisting of 13.1 miles, which leaves runners dripping in sweat, questioning their life decisions around mile 11, and craving chocolate milk. Also a race that is entirely worthwhile.
Ten days ago, I and two great running buddies survived a half-marathon. (I hesitate to say ran, because by mile 6 my mom could keep pace with me for a block, which should tell you something about my speed.) This 13.1 mile jaunt was unlike anything I had ever done before. The furthest I had run before training was a 5k, and this was…longer. Significantly longer. Like long enough I had to start training 10 weeks before. And though running a half was possibly the longest 2.5 hours of my life, honestly, I’d do it again. But first, before I seriously reevaluate my sanity and the last ten weeks of peeling feet, sweaty sports bras, and runner’s fanny packs, let me share what I learned and how I survived.
Tell everyone so you don’t chicken out.
When I began considering running a half last fall, I asked a lot of opinions to see if everyone thought I was insane. (The verdict was split.) When I actually started training, I told tons of people so I could make sure I didn’t flake. It worked, apparently.
Have running partners so you don’t chicken out.
I did most of my runs solo (except for one time I went running with my boyfriend and wanted to kill him because he kicked my butt with no training whatsoever and talked the entire time), but I talked two other half-insane friends into signing up for the race with me. Knowing that my younger brother and friend were training and then getting to run alongside them made everything way more fun.
Use a schedule to track your runs.
I taped mine to my wall and crossed out each run in Sharpie. Drawing big black x’s across the boxes was almost as rewarding as the endorphins.
Birds might attack your head.
On one of my long runs, I was attacked by a bird. Literally. Here I was, foolishly admiring how close I was to wildlife like the little bird perched on the fence, when I must have wandered a little too close to that dumb bird’s nest. As I passed, I heard a squawk and a flutter and felt a jab on the crown of my head. I squawked right back and kept running, a little more panicked. It happened again, same squawking and jabbing, right above my ponytail. I started to sprint while flapping my hands over my head (neither of these are natural around mile 4), watching over my shoulder like I was in the Hunger Games. The suspect bird eyed me reproachfully but kept its distance. Dang bird. But at least I have now survived a milder version one of Tris’s worst fears in Divergent, so that’s something.
Measure your mileage in manageable bites.
Don’t think about the 5 miles you have left – think about how you can totally handle the next half-mile. Ooh, life metaphor right there.
A good cheering section makes all the difference.
I had the best people supporting me. They got up early and waited at water stations to cheer and take action shots and jog alongside me for a few paces. It made the whole thing feel more motivating and epic.
Find what works for you.
This race was made possible by the TED Radio Hour podcasts, Aasics running shoes, and post-run McDonald’s blueberry pomegranate smoothies.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Actually, not really. I was mostly happy not to be last. But it does make death less likely and smiling more possible.
Use common sense.
If you used the bathroom 25 minutes before the race and have a suspicion you might need to go 15 minutes later, for the love of God, just go. Having to pee for the last 7 miles of the run is about as fun as it sounds. And do other logical things like drink water and tell people when you’re going on long runs so they can find you if you collapse and eat lots (and lots and lots) of healthy food.
Basically, have fun and don’t die. That about sums it up. See you at the next race?