Saturday, December 29, 2012

13 Things I Learned From Running 13.1 Miles

With 2013 approaching, I've been reflecting on what I accomplished this year and contemplating possible goals for next year.

Many of you are likely doing the same.

Running a half marathon was my biggest fitness accomplishment of 2012.

During my training, I wrote this blog post, in which I listed nine things I'd learned so far about running.

After completing my first half marathon, I thought more about the experience, and what I might be able to share with those who are considering running their first half marathon. 

What follows are thirteen things I learned from running 13.1 miles.  (Well, technically, I ran way more than 13.1 miles during my training, but I don't feel like adding up all the miles...and math never was my strong suit.  Plus, there's no way I could come up with that many running tips, so let's just go with thirteen, okay?  Okay!) 

1 | People of all ages and body types complete half marathons. 
It doesn't matter if you're young or old, tall or short, slim or overweight, if you set your mind to it, and devote time to training for it, YOU can run 13.1 miles.

2 | If you think you can, you will.  If you think you can't, you won't. 
I'm learning from experience that I'm capable of accomplishing more than I think I can--if I just believe in myself.  During my training, I had to work at blocking out that nagging voice in my head that said, "You're too uncoordinated.  You're too slow.  You're not a real runner.  13.1 miles?  That's just crazy."  I tried hard to push those thoughts out of my mind.  To ignore them.  And to counteract those negative thoughts with positive ones.

3 | Walk, run or do both.  (And don't feel a shred of guilt!)
For years, I never attempted a half marathon because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to run the WHOLE thing.  If I couldn't run the entire time, I thought, Why try?  Then, my husband and I had a great conversation about "running" a half marathon.  Brian said, ever so gently, "You know you don't have to run the whole thing.  I know people who have finished half marathons--even marathons--and they walked."  It was an Aha! moment for me.  My husband had said just what I needed to hear, at just the right time--in the most supportive way.  Thanks to this breakthrough moment, I was finally open to running--and walking--a half marathon.  The day of the run, with my adrenaline pumping, I felt good and ran most of the race.  I walked only when I drank water or took a Gu packet.  But during some of my training runs, I walked a lot.  And I'm okay with that.    
4 | Just keep going. 
The first two to three miles are always the hardest for me, both physically and mentally.  My body is yelling at me, No, no, no!  Not this again!  I don't wanna run!  Let's go sit on the couch and watch television.  Let's go eat something.  Let's go clean the bathroom.  I have to remind myself, sometimes with each and every foot fall, why I'm doing this.  I have to remind myself of my goal.  I have to remind myself that it will get better.  And it does.  Three miles in, my muscles are warmed up, I've fallen into a rhythm and I feel good.

5 | Listen to your body.  
Since I injured my left knee in the past, I paid attention most to my knees.  If my taped knee didn't feel good, I'd re-wrap it.  If it still hurt to run on it, I'd walk for a few minutes.  Or if my right side started hurting, I'd slow down and walk for a minute, placing my right hand on my head.    

6 | Use a schedule.
There are lots of half marathon training schedules available online (this is the 12-week schedule I used).  If you don't find one you like, ask a runner friend to recommend one.  Post the schedule in your bedroom, your kitchen, or next to the treadmill--wherever you will see it daily.  It's also helpful to take a picture of your training schedule with your phone. That way, you'll always have it with you, regardless of whether you're at home, at work, or on a trip.  

7 | Carve out time. 
While you're training for a half marathon, you'll need to find time to run.  Sounds like a no-brainer, but it takes a fair amount of planning and discipline.  You may have to cut back on television time, chat with family members while running on the treadmill, or walk with a friend at the park instead of meeting for lunch.  Also, it's possible that you will have to put some of your other goals on hold until you complete your training.   
John C. Maxwell said it well: "Every worthwhile accomplishment has a price tag attached to it.  The question is always whether you are willing to pay the price to attain it--in hard work, sacrifice, patience, faith and endurance."

8 | Track and celebrate your progress. 
Consult your training schedule at least once a day to make sure you're running the appropriate distance.  Cross off your runs as you complete them.  Share your running progress with a friend or family member.  Post your runs on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  Some runners also find it helpful to keep a training journal.  (If I run another half marathon--or a marathon someday--I'm going to purchase the Runner's World Training Journal.)

9 | Cut yourself some slack. 
Life happens.  As much as I tried to fit in all my runs according to the schedule, occasionally, I had to move a run to another day, run on a "rest" day, walk instead of run, or skip a run altogether.

10 | Try not to skip your LONG runs.
Find a way to get your long runs in; they will prepare you physically as well as mentally for the half marathon.  You may have to tweak your running schedule to do so or ask a family member, friend or babysitter to watch your child.  I'm so grateful to my husband, parents, and sister for taking care of Noah during my long runs.

11 | Do what works for you.  
  • Do you like running alone or with a friend?  My husband (and son) joined me for the shorter runs, and it was nice to have someone to chat with while running.  It makes the miles go by faster, and I'm often motivated to run quicker with a partner.  But I also enjoy jogging by myself.
  • Do you like listening to music while you run?  In past years, I listened to music while I ran outside, but this year, I decided instead to focus on listening to my body and my breathing--and to just enjoy the outdoors.  When I'm running laps in the park, I like to play the five senses game to keep boredom at bay.  I focus on one sense at a time, thinking, What am I hearing?  What am I seeing?  What am I tasting? etc.  My mind fills with descriptive words and thoughts, and oftentimes, I come up with promising story and article ideas.
  •  Do you like watching television or movies while you run?  I knew I'd be completing a few long runs (6+ miles) on the treadmill, so I rented movies from Redbox to keep me entertained.  Watching television shows on the DVR works just as well, too.   
12 | Switch it up. 
Run in the park.  Jog on the treadmill at home.  Go to the gym.  Run in a new neighborhood.  

13 | Let others inspire and guide you.  
One of my former teacher colleagues decided to take up running two years age 60!  He's run several half marathons and mentors others who want to complete half marathons.  Talk about being an inspiration!  Not only can other runners inspire you, but they are also great resources for running tips, recommendations, and advice.  All you have to do is ask.

Do you have any fitness goals for 2013?  Anyone thinking about running a half marathon? 


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Anonymous said...

Loved this post (and the link within to your halfway training mark post). I'm not a "natural" runner, but took it up as a way to push myself into doing something I never thought I could. I've run several races over the years, including two half marathons and a Tough Mudder (check it out!). It's an amazing feeling to realize, holy crap! I actually ran 13 plus miles. As for a marathon--I agree--crazy!

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