Off to the Races (Part 1)

Dear Reader,

As a child, writing and running were two things that I despised. Today, in apparent betrayal of the small human I used to be, I will blog about my half-marathon journey.

Have any of you run a half-marathon? I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that… it’s a (half-)marathon, not a sprint…. Okay, that’s a bad joke, but it gets to the core of things — training for the 13.1 miles takes time. Part one of this post will cover half-marathon training.

Registration

When should I run a half marathon? If you’re serious about training, this is a great question to start with. For me, I dislike running in the cold, but also in the heat. If one should train for about three months before the event, then it is important to select a race date suitable for your training schedule. So, if you curse the brutal rays of the summer sun, it’s best not to register for a mid-September race.

Additionally, it is important to investigate the registration details — are you allowed to run with headphones? Is storage available on site? Can one run with Camelbaks? How does parking work? What are the fees?

As a first-time runner, I opted for a location that I knew well and one that was easy to get to (why make things any more difficult?).

Gear

The golden rule that I found repeated across the web for half-marathon training is — don’t try anything new on race day. If you’re going to get good running shoes, make sure to train in them first. If you’re interested in experimenting with energy gels or drinks — be sure to train with them. Similarly, make sure to check the weather in advance so you can dress appropriately (I ended up bringing hand warmers!).

For me, I knew I was going to jog with a hydration pack (constant access to drinking water makes running less stressful for me). I’m so glad that I began jogging with the pack early on! The first time I wore it, I found it to be uncomfortable as the straps slid across my shoulders with every step and the straw flapped around a like a pest. After a few runs and experimenting with the straps, I finally got it to sit securely (which makes all the difference).

Training

Training plans vary depending on your fitness level and running ability. However, the general advice (if you have average fitness and running ability) is to train for 13 weeks. During this three-month time, one should aim for one long jog every week (increasing mileage each week) and one to two shorter jogs.

This sort of plan can be A LOT. Work schedules, weather, and sickness can easily derail this sort of training routine. For me personally, I jogged only twice a week — one long jog and one short jog. Although I am not naturally athletic (I once threw up in the bushes while training for a triathlon during gym class in high school), I have made a habit of jogging, which saved me from the huffing and puffing of a first-time runner. Also, don’t overdo it with the jogging — you will hurt yourself. Jogging is hard on the knees and other parts of the body, especially if your form is not perfect.

Cross Training

When you’re not running, it’s important to devote some attention to other muscle groups to increase overall fitness and flexibility to prevent injury. Pilates, yoga, and barre are all good choices! Barre classes are particular helpful as the exercises are designed to target the little, normally overlooked, muscle groups, like the gluteus medius for example. According to Westcoast SCI, the gluteus medius helps: Absorb force of the ground pushing back against your leg as your foot hits the ground and prevents the knee from collapsing inwards while running (if you take away one thing from this post, let it be the importance of the gluteus medius).

Rest Days

Jogging and cross training is hard on the body. If you put your body under the stress of vigorous exercise daily, you will wear yourself down and make yourself more prone to injuries. Don’t do this! Running in such a state would be unnecessarily challenging and hinder your performance. In fact, be sure to give yourself a rest day or two before the race!

What to eat before your run

No one asked me to talk about diet, but it is, of course, super important when it comes to running. Many half-marathon events take place in the early morning, which can be a problem for night owls. For me, eating or drinking calories before jogging gives me side stitches. I’ve learned this in my experimentation of eating fruit, trying energy gels, or just drinking juice or milk in the morning. In the end, I’ve found that eating a late dinner the night before and only drinking water the morning of is the best fuel for my body. However, everyone is different, and be sure to figure out your routine early on to help you train well and put yourself in the best position for your run.

Dietary Supplements

I’ve disclosed my dietary supplement choices to a few people and have received mixed reactions…. Regardless, for me, I have found it most helpful to take a potassium supplement before jogging. Potassium is an electrolyte that is useful to runners as it can help relieve muscle cramps (make sure to also drink adequate water!). I used to cramp somewhat frequently (either during a jog or hours later). However, with a small dosage of potassium beforehand, I NEVER cramp on my jogging days. I also take a small dosage of magnesium after my jogs, which can help with muscle recovery. This combination works great for me, but my methods are, perhaps, not mainstream.

With all dietary supplements — don’t take some random blogger’s word for it! ¡¡Speak with your doctor!!

All in all, running a half marathon is not about the destination… it’s about the journey (cheesy but true!). Also, in addition to being a physical challenge, it is also a mental one (more on this point in part two).

Join me next time in part 2 for the actual race day.

Wishing you happy runs!

Love,

Raven

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