In keeping with this month’s “Get Outdoors” theme, I wanted to follow up about my experience running the Brooklyn Half-Marathon. In March, I wrote about my New Year’s resolution to run my first half-marathon. I’m proud to report that I accomplished my goal this past weekend. Here’s a rundown of my training and experience running the race. And let’s just say if I can do it, you can as well!
I think that my running schedule was key to success on the day of the half marathon. I followed Runner’s World’s Smart Coach, which created a specific plan based on my skill level and previous experience. I noticed the difference in my ability to run long distances after about a month of training. I did my long runs every Saturday, gradually increasing the distance each week from 5 miles to 12 on the Saturday before the race. This helped me do two things: gradually build my endurance, and get used to long runs, so much so that by race day I was fully prepared and able to run the 13.1 miles with ease and confidence. This is something I most certainly would not have been able to do without committing to and following a fixed running schedule.
I mentioned before that you should incorporate 1 to 2 strength-training days per week. This is one area where I slacked a little during my training. That being said, I did go to spin, weight training and yoga classes throughout my training. I focused on building different muscle groups and gaining strength in my core and arms, which I think allowed me to maintain balance during my runs. Plus, it breaks up your training schedule! I would highly recommend integrating cross-training into your training schedule.
My nutrition program during training was another key to success on race day. Certain foods gave me fuel and strength during long runs in addition to easing joint pain and reducing inflammation. My favorite pre-run meal (before my long runs on Saturdays) was a banana and a Larabar. You want to eat something relatively small—but filling—before long runs so as not to upset your stomach, although you need proper vitamins and nutrients so you can last the distance. One thing to note: I ate the same thing (banana and Larabar) before every long run so that on race day, my body was used to receiving the same meal and I felt comfortable and energized throughout the race. It is also important to refuel your body after a run in order to improve performance and speed recovery time. I regularly ate complex carbs such as quinoa and steel cut oats (with fruit, honey and cinnamon for extra flavor) after my long runs.
I treated myself to a nice pair of running shoes when I started my training. The timing is crucial because most experts recommend that the average “lifetime” for running shoes is 300 to 400 miles, depending on how hard you are on your shoes. That means you want to purchase your running shoes at the beginning of your training schedule. My shoes were perfectly comfortable—but not too worn in or beat up—by race day. Also, don’t skimp on quality—you need proper support in order to build your muscles and prevent injuries.
As mentioned above, I think that finding the right running shoes is key to preventing injuries. In addition to shoes, you want to make sure to stretch and rest throughout your training. Yes, I know that it takes some extra time to stretch and you may want to avoid those rest days but trust me, your body needs to rest and repair itself between runs. I made sure to rest throughout my training and noticed the difference in my runs after a few days off. Once, when I did skip my rest day, I noticed how tired and sore my muscles were after two long runs. It took me twice as long to get back on schedule, something I would not recommend if you are practicing for a race. Another great way to avoid injuries is by practicing yoga.
If you’re planning to run a half marathon here are some key tips from my experience. Ask any looming questions when you pick up your number and goodie bag a few days before the race. When I picked up my bag from the New York Road Runners, friendly staff members were ready to answer my questions. They gave me a map of the course and instructions on how to apply my tracker and bib. On race day, I felt prepared and ready for the 13.1 mile run. I also arrived at the starting location with more than an hour to spare so that I could use the restroom, stretch, hydrate and find my slot before my starting time.
After that, it was pretty simple: I ran a 13.1 mile race! After preparing and training for four months, it felt so wonderful and energizing to be with my fellow runners and hear everyone cheering on the sidelines. Crossing the finish line was a proud accomplishment, indeed. So, if you’re thinking of running a race, here’s my final two cents: Make sure you train, and have fun while doing it!
Here are some books that helped inspire me along the way: