Happy Healthy Me
Tackling your first half marathon: Yoga & race spectators are unexpectedly vital
Last weekend, I ran the Dallas White Rock Half Marathon, my first race of this distance, and a feat I never had as a goal until recently. The half marathon distance (13.1 miles) is daunting when running three miles is a challenge.
Training for and completing this race was a huge highlight of my 2010. Here are some things I took away from this experience and tips for reaching a challenging goal:
1. Set realistic goals. This was my first half marathon, and the primary goal was to finish. That should always be the main goal you work for. Worrying about a finish time can come for the next race.
Same with worrying about negative splits or busting through records. Setting a secondary goal or non-running related goals are great ideas too during the training cycle.
2. Devise a training plan and trust it. I read plans by Hal Higdon and Runner’s World and then I made an Excel spreadsheet with a plan that I thought would work best for me. I exercised six days per week with two days of running. The other days were stretching, CrossFit, or cross-training cardio like spinning, walking, or swimming. Many plans suggest three to five days of running, but I knew that would hurt my legs more than help me.
Building strong muscles is really important for running too. I took care of the weights part with CrossFit classes two times each week.
3. Keep track of your plan. My Excel sheet had not only a list of what activity I did each day, I also wrote down any pains I felt, the miles I actually ran versus what I planned, how many miles per week I ran, and any other notes I wanted to remember. It is helpful looking back to know when things went wrong or what worked. If you are really detailed, you could journal your food, water and hours of sleep on a spreadsheet too.
4. Stretching is so important. I added a lot of yoga, especially near the end. I used to not like yoga classes that didn’t work up a major sweat, but then I learned to appreciate the stretch I got from holding poses or spending a lot of time on leg stretches. It was more valuable to recovering quicker and building stronger muscles than a fast and sweaty class.
5. I realized the importance of spectators. I had a great race with little discomfort and no boredom. Running for 2 hours and 45 minutes is a really long time. You can drive to Austin in that time! But with spectators lining the entire course, there wasn’t time to get bored or think about stopping. Their signs were encouraging and funny (one of my favorites — “Way to be the best at exercising!), they cheered and offered Kleenex and orange slices, and they made you want to keep going.
I hope to be a good spectator at a race one day soon.
I am so proud of my accomplishment of running 13.1 miles. Running is a sport that anyone can do — elite or novice. You can find it challenging to run one block or six miles or more. It’s also different than other sports because every runner, regardless of skill level, can compete on the same course. My time is comparable to the first-place winner (who finished over 90 minutes before me!).
Running is an individual sport that only you can take on and complete. There’s no cutting corners or relying on teammates. When you put in your best work, you know that completing it was 100 percent you.
Now when’s the next race? I’m ready to go faster.