Happy belated St. Pat’s!
Earlier today I ran my first half marathon! I wanted to share my training, experience, and lessons for next time.
At the very end of January, I decided I wanted to run the Shamrock Half Marathon – mostly because I want to do the Disney Princess Half next February. It was a completely impulsive decision and learned so much that I wanted to share with you all!
To train, I only ran once a week because I also do Pure Barre and Orangetheory. Up until a week ago, I had two part-time jobs where I was on my feet all day at both. I felt like between those four, I really just needed to focus on run longer distances.
The Shamrock Half Marathon training schedule started in November and included two or three short runs (less than 6 miles) during the week, and one long run every Saturday. However, I just did one long run a week – anywhere from 7 to 10 miles.
I definitely recommend cross-training with something like yoga, pilates, or barre. These workouts are especially focused on the core and incorporate resistance exercises. While your heart rate most likely won’t spend much time in the upper levels, you will be working almost all muscle groups and build tremendous strength.
Another great way to cross-train is with an exercise like Orangetheory – high intensity-interval training (HIIT), weightlifting or cross-fit. This will train your body for more powerful, explosive movements. With these exercises, your heart will become more accustomed to functioning at a higher rate, and becoming more efficient at pumping blood and oxygen throughout the entire body.
Ultimately, it is extremely beneficial, I would say crucial, to train your entire body when preparing for a long distance run. Yes, exercising your abs, arms, and back helps with running. Engaging your core and arms will help with your posture while you run. Better running posture will allow for your weight to be evenly distributed on your hips (easier on your joints), better blood flow through the body, and a more stable upper body (also makes running easier on your lower body).
To reiterate, I decided to do this run exactly 6 weeks before race day. If you are newer to running or don’t have an exercise regime, you will definitely need at least 10 weeks to train. Before registering for a race, check the FAQ page to see what the slowest pace is in order to finish on time. Whatever that pace time, or your goal pace time is, reach it at least a couple times in your training runs. This way you know you can reach and maintain it during the real deal.
Additionally, practice your runs including your pre- and post-race meals, and any energy bars/snacks you plan to consume on race day. The Sunday 3 weeks before the Shamrock, I ate the breakfast and protein bar I wanted to eat on race day, and ate the Jelly Belly Sports Beans I wanted to eat during the run. When you practice what you plan to consume, you know how your body will react on race day. If you have never eaten a specific type of protein bar, race day is not the day to try it out.
When I did my practice half marathon 3 weeks before, I ran in the outfit that I was going to wear for race day. This way, I knew if my bottoms would chafe, if my socks would slide around, if my sports bra was too tight, and so on. I hate exercising in long sleeves but the weather forecasted mid-40s for my run so I had to practice running in long sleeves. That sounds totally ridiculous but it also gave me the opportunity to prepare an alternative outfit!
This is so important that I wanted a whole section to address this! At least 6-8 weeks before, track down a running store so they can size you for proper shoes. For a 5k or a 10k, having the proper running shoes not quite as crucial. For longer distances, a well-fitting shoe is so very important and will make a world of difference. From talking to others, I’ve noticed that most people get fitted for proper shoes, buy the shoes they are fitted in, and then buy shoes in the same category from less expensive alternates later. Most runners go in every once in a while to get re-fitted to accommodate for any changes in their running stride.
So why should you be fitted for sneakers?
Having the proper shoe should cradle your foot and fit to your arch so that you are not sliding in your shoe, getting blisters, or any other irritations. After 13.2 miles of pounding on your feet in the wrong shoes, you could end up damaging your ankles, knees, hip, or back.
You want the heel and the bottom/sole of your shoe to be snug and offer support. Some footbeds have more cushion than others, this will come down to personal preference. I prefer a firmer footbed. Some shoes have a heel that goes higher up the ankle than others – this will also come down to preference. Mine is an average height.
I found out that I needed to go up a half a size in my running shoes. You want to make sure that there is room in the toe cage so that your toe nails are not rubbing the edge of the shoe. Your feet swell and expand while you run so you need to account for that increase in foot size over the course of 13.2 miles.
To get a better idea of how swollen your feet while be at the end of a run, go shoe shopping in the evening after a day of being on your feet. I have always gone shoe shopping for running shoes and personal shoes after a long day so I can see exactly how comfortable my shoes will feel.
Additionally, everyone has a different pronation when they run. This is the way your foot lands when you are running. Some people have a neutral pronation, meaning their foot lands evenly on the ground. If you over–pronate, the outside of your foot lands first, and the inside of your rolls down. If you under-pronate, the inside of your foot lands first, and the outside of your foot rolls down. If you over- or under-pronate, this prevents the shock from pounding the ground from being absorbed evenly. Investing in the proper set of running shoes can minimize your pronation and minimize the chances of injury.
When you try on shoes, be sure to jog around the store or at least in place for 30 seconds. Also, be sure to ask about the return policy. Most running shoe vendors have a lenient return policy. I recommend going for a run indoors, whether on an indoor track or a treadmill to test your new shoes.
The most important thing is to keep an open mind when shopping for running shoes. I thought I wanted Nike shoes but LOVE my New Balances.
The Night Before
The night before a race is extremely important. Make sure you eat foods you are familiar with and know won’t upset your stomach the day – or even two days – before your run. Again, you don’t want to have any gastrointestinal issues! Be sure to drink plenty of water, too.
This is further back than the night before, however, I only did two short runs the week before my race. I did two 3 mile runs and went to Pure Barre a couple times. You want to be sure that your muscles have time to recover but don’t get too relaxed. You also don’t want to injure yourself!
Last night, I took my dog for a long walk (a couple miles) to stretch out. For dinner, I had spaghetti marinara and a salad. I was in bed reading by 7:00 pm.
As I said previously, I had practiced getting up, eating breakfast, running, and recovering 3 weeks before.
I got up at 4:15 am. For breakfast, I had an English muffin with scrambled eggs with green peppers and cheddar cheese, a banana, and coffee. From the moment I woke up until I got to my corral, I was sipping on ice cold water. I went to the bathroom a few times before I got to my corral.
For larger races, you typically want to be at your corral no later than 30-45 minutes before the race starts. This allows for time in case of a weather delay or some other unplanned event. You can also use this time to stretch and do some warming up.
I wore my running belt – I’ll link everything at the bottom of this post. I don’t have a running sleeve for my iPhone so I used my running belt to carry my phone, tissues, and a pack of Sports Beans. I wore my new running shoes (that had been broken in very well) and balega socks. As for my outfit, my lululemon running hat, Speed Up leggings, and tank, and my Shamrock tech tee.
(A nice candid for accurate representation of how tired I was!)
I wore my Orangetheory heart rate monitor out to track my hear rate and have a more accurate representation of the calories that I burned (bottom screenshot). I also ran my fitbit app to track the mileage (top screenshot). My fitbit reflects the cool down walk, and walking to and from my car. The calories are not an accurate reflection since my fitbit does not track heart rate. My Orangetheory tracking shows a more accurate calorie count due to the hear rate tracking abilities and a more current weight. On the chart, you can see when I was walking (the low points) and when I was really working (the high points).
I ran the first 6.2 miles without stopping. The low point in the middle of the graph is where I walked to the port-a-potty, went to the bathroom, and grabbed water from the water station. For the second half of the run, I tried to run at least 1.5 miles before walking again.
Overall, my run went so well and I am very pleased with the results! I am planning to run the Crawling Crab Half Marathon Challenge in October and register for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February.
Keep reading to check out the link to what I wore!
Running Hat: lululemon (a similar hat is linked)
Running Tank: lululemon
Sneakers: New Balance
If you have run a half-marathon, or are planning to run one, share your experiences in the comments below!
Additionally, if you have any recommendations to add to a running playlist, let’s hear ’em!