The half-marathon already seems so long ago. It’s been about three weeks and I’ve already fallen back into a routine of maintenance running and eating bacon every morning.
I’m a middle of the pack runner, but this was sort of a banner race for me — I got a PR by three minutes and, even better, I had fun during the race AND was able to walk the day after the race.
This was my fourth half-marathon, and I’ve always hovered a little above or a little below the 2-hour mark. This race was different, I got a PR by three minutes. Even more important, I was able to walk the day after the race. After my first half marathon I fell down the stairs at work because I was so sore.
Somewhere around mile 8 I decided I wanted to write a blog about how I trained differently for this race. I feel a little silly writing training advice because of my middle of the pack status. 837 women finished before me in the half marathon, they’re more qualified to blog about training. Or you could read about how these speed demons train and race: Mommy, Run Fast, This Runner’s Trials.
Even though I feel a little out of my league offering training advice, I’m going for it. Just keep in mind: 1) this stuff isn’t anything new, this is basic running advice, and most of it you should probably do even if you aren’t training for a race 2) I’m doing this for myself, so next time I want to PR I’ll look back and have some motivation.
1) Eat better
I’m not always great about eating to fuel myself to run, and I decided to be more aware of what I was eating in the weeks leading up to the race. I wanted to lose a few pounds – because the lighter you are the easier it is to move you across the finish line – and also just eat smarter for energy, hydration, muscle repair, etc.
Something like…cut back on sweets, eat fewer chips, have broccoli with dinner.
2) Get some sleep
I used to stay up until 1 a.m., wake up for an early morning long run, then come home eat a huge breakfast and crash on the couch all day. I can’t do that anymore, so instead I started going to bed at 10 p.m. or earlier every single night, especially the week of the race. Guess what? It helped. This helped me run hard, and recover quickly.
3) Strength train
I never really got on the routine I imagined, but something is better than nothing. Strong muscles are fast muscles.
4) Speed work
Every Tuesday, without fail, I ran a tempo workout at the gym. I dreaded it all day, then I rocked it out. I think it helped my speed, but I think it also helped my confidence. It also makes you feel hardcore, and that alone makes it worth it.
5) Train hard
In addition to all that strength training and speed work, make sure to work hard in your long runs, too. In the past I did my long runs sloooowly. This race, we ran hard(er) and made sure to run hills. Again, it boosted fitness and confidence on race day.
In each of my previous races, I’ve fueled starting at mile 10…otherwise known as way too late. Don’t wait till mile 10. This race, I started at mile 5, then had something else every other mile. I never felt hungry or weak like I have in the past. This is the most simple and easiest change – and maybe had the biggest impact on how I felt.
7) Know your splits
I wore Tom’s Garmin for this race. Normally I’m very anti-gadget; I don’t even like running with music. But having a GPS is really helpful if you’re trying to hit specific mile splits. It might have actually slowed us down a tad (I got nervous if our miles were near 8:30) but generally speaking, these are great for nailing a goal time.
[I’ve also seen mile-split temporary tattoos at race expos, I think something like that would work well for me, too.]
I know, no real news here. No breakthrough training plan or magic vitamin. All this can be summed up in one sentence: Take care of yourself and train hard.
But I think, for most of my running life, I’ve sort of done the same thing and then been disappointed on race day. But the truth is: you can’t train halfway and then expect an explosive race day. There are some runners that can do minimal training and have a great race, but I’m not one of those runners.
My next goal: take a race photo that doesn’t make me look like I just got a wisdom tooth removed.
One goal at a time.