While I have walked/ran two half marathons now, I still do NOT consider myself a runner. Sure, I run. But I also walk. A lot. I hear people, especially colleagues, say all the time, "I could NEVER do that" and I have to chuckle inside. Because I get it. If you would have asked me a year ago, two years ago, maybe even when I was in the best shape of my life in high school as an athlete, if I could "run" a half marathon - I'd have laughed. Hysterically. And maybe after picking my jaw up from the floor, I would have emphatically said, "No way. I could NEVER do that."
I heard this inspirational quote that I've kept with me every single day since I started my half marathon journey and it has completely transformed the way I look at running; it says, "Whether you think you can or can't, you are right." The only thing separating my colleagues from me in terms of doing a half marathon is the fact that they think they can't and I think I can (well, that and maybe the fact that I wanted and was motivated to do it). Trust me!
I walked and ran The Shamrock'n Half in Sacramento. If you want to know what I did to train (with my daily 9 week schedule, follow the journey HERE). For those of you who are new to my journey, I walk/run. My first half marathon, I did a 1:1 ratio (1 minute walk to 1 minute run). This time I did a 2:1 ratio (2 minute run to 1 minute walk). My goal is to keep increasing this interval. I had to leave my house at 5am race morning, to meet up with my friends, and be at the race by 6:15am - in order to run at 8:30am. Crazy Right? Which leads me to my first three pieces of advice!
Tip #1: Lay all your race stuff out the day before your race - that way you have plenty of time to figure out what you're missing - or what you need to quickly run out and pick up (like if you are out of race food) and then when you're waking up before the sun has even come up, stumbling around in the dark, you aren't trying to find your bra.
Tip #2: Eat the same breakfast you've been eating during training. Fleet Feet's philosophy is that you NEVER EVER run without fueling your body first. But don't go and eat a "special" race day breakfast to get your calories/carbs in - because you don't know what it will do to you when you're running and the LAST thing you want to be doing is a tour of porta-potties during your race.
Tip #3: SHOW UP to park your car AT LEAST a full hour and a half before you race. You'll need a lot of time to park and walk into the race (some people had to park up to 2 miles away). You'll also want to get there and get settled, warm up, and do dynamic stretches. You do not want to go from the car, directly to the starting line. I showed up at about 6:40am for an 8:30 start time race. I ate my typical breakfast (two pieces of toast - one of them I divide in half and put peanut butter on just one half) before I left and then brought a small granola bar to eat about an hour before the race.
When we got there, it was still dark but we still had to park a good distance from the front. Trust me! People get there early!
My running buddies from our training group!
Tip #4: Make sure you wear what you've been wearing to train in! Do not go out and buy a new shirt. Do not go out and buy a costume that you have never worn before (stuff you put on OVER shorts, pants, or shirts that you've trained in are probably fine because you'll know where the part that's touching your skin rubs). And do NOT go out and buy new shoes for race day. Why? You don't want to have blisters! You don't know where it could chafe! Seriously. I cannot tell you how many green St. Paddy's Day socks I saw ditched on the side of the road during the race because, I'm sure, people were getting all sorts of blisters from them. I made this mistake last year during my 11 mile run. I wore a tank top that I hadn't worn before and I got the rawest, reddest skin where my iPhone arm band was rubbing on my naked skin. Lesson learned. But the good news was that I then knew where to apply my body glide during my half. If you haven't trained in it, it isn't safe to wear in a half marathon.
Here I was lined up, ready to go before my wave started. Don't you love the woman looking at me like "what are you doing?" on the right side of the photo.
And this was about half a mile from the finish line! We crossed that bridge and then headed into the baseball stadium.
Tip #5: I play mind tricks with myself to make the time go by. Leslie, my running partner, and I pick people we think we can pass and then make it our goal to get them. We do this the whole race. See that guy in a hydration pack with a black shirt about 200 yards up? Let's pass him! This time Leslie and I separated during the second half of the race and...don't laugh at me...I started picking every single girl in teeny tiny shorts with 0% body fat and made it my goal to pass her. Once I did that, I'd pick my next adorable girl and pass her too. I have learned that teeny tiny shorts and 0% body fat doesn't always equate to health and stamina. I may not look exactly like a runner - heck, I know I don't. But that doesn't mean that I'm not super prepared and healthy. I may not be the fastest runner out there, but I was completely prepared to finish 13 miles!
Tip #6 - Make a fueling and hydration plan before you race. My hydration plan mainly consists of taking at least a sip of water at every other walk interval. I'm a drinker. I need water and no one ever has to remind me to drink. It's just natural to me to drink when I walk. But my food plan is a little more complicated. I eat 3 packages of sports beans while I run - plus one package when I'm finished. I try to eat at mile markers: 3 miles, 6 miles, 9, miles, and 11 miles - but if I'm feeling like I need a little kick, I grab a bean or two and eat them during my walk intervals. I also take 2 electrolyte replacement tablets (one right before I run and one half way through my race). I talked about why you need to replace your sodium when you run in THIS post. You can get hyponatremia, which can actually be fatal (very rarely, of course).
Here's a video of me crossing the finish line that Mr. Howard took. The video is only a few seconds long, but I'm in black with a green hat!
(I know it wouldn't have meant as much if we had done photos before I raced, but boy would it have been a lot more fun for me to look at! Everyone looks awesome in these photos and I look like a sweaty hot mess, minus the hot part.)
My sister-in-law, sister, mom, and baby boy:
Tip #7 For those of you who have a time goal in mind, this next tip is essential. I didn't follow this tip and literally cried when I checked my results. Start your timer the second you cross the starting line. I'm an idiot and didn't and I forgot what time we crossed the start (there's the wave start time - but your race clock doesn't start until you cross the actual starting line). I tried to keep my start time in my memory and THOUGHT I was going to reach my goal. I even stopped outside the stadium, caught my breath a little bit, and then continued my run across the finish line - because I thought I had 30 more seconds. I crossed the finish, waved hi to my family, stretched, came up the steps of the stadium, and went to a computer to check my results and was SHOCKED that I missed my goal by a minute and 37 seconds. WHAT?!?!? When you run for one hundred eighty minutes...1 minute and 37 seconds is NOTHING. I could have easily made my goal if I had set my own clock and wasn't an idiot. I came home and instantly bought a running watch. It should be here tomorrow! I decided on the Garmin Forerunner 10 based on reviews for a beginner's runner watch. And I will never make that mistake again. Grrrr.
I am trying to focus on the fact that I PR'd by 4 minutes 22 seconds (which means I took 20 seconds off of each mile) and NOT that I missed my goal by a stinking minute - but it was hard. I was pretty darn bummed. Alas, I guess I'll just have to run another!
Can I tell you about this little boy in the photo above, though? He didn't care that I didn't reach my goal by a minute. He was BEYOND thrilled for me. I'm pretty sure he's told everyone he knows (and even people he doesn't know - like the random person in the grocery store who was wearing workout pants) about Mama's medal and has asked if he can bring it to preschool to show "Mama's runner badge" to his friends. This is one of the reasons why I run.
I run for me. I run because I love it. I run because it makes me happy. I run because I love making a goal and reaching it. And I run because I know how important it is to model health and physical activity to my kids. I want my kids to see that being healthy and taking time for yourself is essential.
Tip #8 STRETCH after you run. Resist the urge to walk over to your friends and family and get carried away with the rest of your day. Take time to stretch immediately after you run. I actually do this - even if I only run 3 miles. I have learned that stretching makes the difference in my recovery. If I want to be able to walk up and down my stairs at my house and chase after my kids, I have no choice.
Tip #9 If you don't reach your goal, give yourself a second to feel sorry for yourself and then, like the Frozen song I've been listening to on repeat for the last few weeks, let it go. Let. It. Go. You just ran a half marathon. 13 point freaking 1 miles. In the big scheme of life, what's a minute and 37 seconds?!? *My personal goal for this particular half was to do it under 3 hours (so 02:59:59) and instead I did it in 3 hours, 1 minute, 37 seconds.*
My last piece of advice is an accidental tip I learned, but one that helped me SOO much!
Tip #10 Walk after your race! I know it's hard. I know your legs hurt, but DO IT. Mr. Howard parked at least a mile away (maybe 2?) and last time I had him go get the car, while I hung out. I figured I had walked and run during my race, so I had done enough walking. This time my mom, sister, Andy, sister-in-law, brother, hubby, kids, and I all went out to lunch downtown (which required walking) and then I pushed the stroller with the kids back to the car. I probably walked an additional 2 miles after my race and it helped me SO much. Walking during a race (at a power-walk pace), is not the same thing as leisurely walking. Duh. It should have been obvious that I needed to let my muscles cool down naturally - but it never even occurred to me. I'm going to make it habit that I always walk back to the car myself to cool down.
My absolute favorite part of long runs is when I come home, put the kids down for a nap, change into clean, dry, soft, comfy jammies, crawl into bed, and lay while my husband rubs my feet and calves. It's pretty much the only time he'll put lotion on his hands to massage me (he doesn't mind giving me massages all the time - but he hates using lotion). And let me tell you - after 13.1 miles I've earned that darn lotioned massage!!!!