Running My First Half-Marathon: Musings & Advice

Pirate Gear at Maritime Race Weekend 2016On a beautiful Saturday morning, I ran my first half marathon at Maritime Race Weekend— a beautiful race along the coast of Nova Scotia.

After 16 weeks of training, my anxiety was through the roof! I had a moment in the mile long bathroom lineup before starting where I just wanted to scream and run for the truck. Once I lined up for the start I began to feel relaxed and collected; a calm settled over me.

Then we were off! For the first 10 kilometres, I felt invincible! I felt like I could run forever! That changed in a hurry around the 13th kilometre. 14-18 were a complete mental battle. 19-21 were fine because the end was in sight. I crossed the finish line in 2:15:52, which was more than I could have hoped for during a hilly first-time half.

Here’s what I learned, what I’d do differently, what I’d do the same, and what you should consider before running your first half-marathon:

Elevation Map

Elevation Map – Maritime Race Weekend Half

Hill Training

Train hills. I cannot stress this enough. I knew the course I was running would have hills, but had no idea that it would be constant hills from kilometre 4-18. Luckily I had trained hills, and I truly believe everyone should. Why? Because I was a first timer and passed a lot of people uphill, and I could maintain my pace without a lot of extra effort. Worst case scenario your race has no hills and the training still helped your overall endurance. That’s a win/win if you ask me.

Find a Friend

I found training for the half incredibly isolating. No one in my circle was interested (read: crazy) enough to do this with me. Due to the intensity of training, I had to make some lifestyle changes. Such is the plight of a runner. It would have been easier to have someone in the same boat, rather than being the only one leaving social events early to rest for an upcoming 19k run. For more on the benefits of a training buddy, click here.

Find a Pace Bunny

Running with a pace setter

Photo Credit: Salt Marsh Trail Running Group

While running, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting the 2:20 bunny, Stan. His friendly attitude and valuable insights made those hard stretches a lot easier. Never underestimate the power of positive encouragement! The volunteers along the course were so motivating and friendly. I’m truly grateful for their dedication and have a new goal to pay it forward as a volunteer in a future race.

Fuelling for the Race

Eat the same thing the morning of the race and during the run that you would usually intake before a long run while training. This routine prevents any stomach surprises, which was pretty much my greatest fear while training for this. The method helps take the edge off the nerves too.

Hydration

I made it my mission to hydrate well the days leading up to the race. I had 500ml of water before running in the morning and brought 340ml of Gatorade with me in my running belt. This method was entirely sufficient for hydration, and I didn’t have to stop at any stations which helped my pace consistency. Some people hate running with a belt, and many of the runners I met along the way chose to hydrate at every station rather than carry water. Decide what you prefer during your training sessions.

Mind Games

Like I said, 14-18 were the hardest for me. I was getting tired. I just wanted to walk. I knew if I walked I wouldn’t be Maritime Race Weekend Finisher Medalsable to keep running. It was an exhausting mental battle. Know that this may happen and be ready to distract yourself. Positive self-talk is encouraged. On hills, I would often stare at the pavement and tell myself it’s flat, or imagine pulling myself up with a rope. Go through your multiplication tables. Invent life stories for the spectators. Keep your mind from telling you how tired you are. Denial is not only a river in Eygpt.

Stretch!

I don’t have much to add here, as it’s pretty self-explanatory. Stretch and then stretch some more, or you’ll be in Rigormortis by nap time.

Would I do it again?

I confess, I was a bundle of negativity the last few weeks of training. I was tired. I was stressed out trying to schedule in the long runs. The heat was getting to me. I wanted to finish the race and wanted never to run again. Now I’m thinking about doing another one in three weeks and planning ahead to the Disney Princess Half Marathon in 2018 with a group of friends. It’s a lot less scary once everything is said and done.

Will I ever do a full marathon?

HAHAHAHAHA NO.

Maybe.