How I Prepared for My First Half-Marathon
I never thought I'd be someone who runs marathons.
I don't know what I expected those type of people to be like, but I surely knew I wasn't one of them. I've used every excuse to skip the gym and I've never been able to stick to a diet for more than two days. You can imagine how I surprised myself when I agreed to run a half-marathon with a friend.
I knew preparing for this would require a lot of discipline and effort and I wasn't sure I would be able to pull through by myself so I roped in my S.O. What ensued were more than two months of preparation that taught me a lot more about myself than about running. Read on for my best tips on preparing for a half-marathon (these exact tips can be applied to a full marathon as well)!
Find a Buddy
Looking back on the whole experience, I realize that I couldn't have done it alone. It took a lot of support from my two partners in crime: Dawn and Emmanuel. We had a text message group where we would share our progress and also support each other. The week before the big event I almost quit. I cancelled the whole trip out of fear that I wouldn't be able to succeed. Thankfully Dawn and Emmanuel came to my rescue and assured me that we could do it—that no matter the outcome, I would feel very accomplished for trying. I found this mini-support group vital for what lied ahead. I think everybody will benefit from signing up to run a marathon with a buddy or two. It will help keep you accountable and will also provide support when you feel you can't do it any longer.
Get on a Schedule
I knew that in order to have a chance at completing the half marathon I would have to devise a plan. Being the Pinterest aficionado that I am, I came across multiple running schedules in the past. I hopped on the site and researched the best schedule for somebody with my current physical ability. I would start by running five days a week anywhere from 3-6 miles in my first week. I ran cross-country in high school and the first week's goal seemed manageable. For the longer run that week, I planned something fun with my friends so that we would have something to look forward to after our practice. We live in Los Angeles and decided to run by the beach in Malibu and reward ourselves with brunch after our sweaty-filled dash. I continued using my Pinterest schedule week after week, eventually adding mileage to my runs.
Sometimes You Have to Trick Yourself
I'd be lying if I told you it was easy keeping on track. Sometimes I would head to the gym with my best intentions only to find that even getting to three miles was a struggle. I realized that sometimes, the best thing to do is trick yourself. For my longer runs, I would set the treadmill at a good pace and cover the screen with a towel. This would prevent me from peeking and seeing how much longer I needed to run. It somehow also made the time tick by faster. It was as if not seeing the numbers made time itself pass along faster. I made this my M.O. for longer runs and refused to peek at my mileage until I ran through all of my playlist.
Prepare the Night Before
The night before the marathon, we drove up to Santa Barbara where the big event was to take place. We made sure to get to bed early and to load up on carbs for dinner. We decided on a ramen restaurant and guzzled water (hydration is key!) as we loaded ourselves with heavy food. Our group was a ball of nerves and giggled at imagined scenarios over dinner. What if we didn't finish and had to be picked up by medical cart? What if we were so slow that they shut down the marathon before we reached the finish line? What if we got lost? We were half-joking, half-really worried about what was ahead. I prepared a playlist for the run and we set our alarms up for 6:00 a.m.
What to Expect the Day Of the Run
You can imagine my surprise when I jumped out of bed and realized my alarm hadn't gone off! We had to leave the house in the next five minutes and I hadn't even brushed my teeth! Dawn was changed and ready to go and I was rushing to get out the door. You could feel the excitement in our car ride to the half marathon. We made sure to nibble on an energy bar so that we wouldn't run on an empty stomach. We also sipped on some water to help keep dehydration at bay during the 13.1 mile distance we had ahead of us. A huge crowd gathered by the start line and we used these couple of extra minutes to stretch. A man finally went on the loud speakers and announced that the marathon had begun—off we went! We blended with the crowd and soon settled into a comfortable pace. During the 13.1 mile run I had to continue reminding myself that it was all mind over matter. That no matter my time or the outcome, I should be proud of myself for going through with this. I was at the 11-mile marker in what seemed like no time, and that's when it hit me that the end was near—this two month journey was ending. By the time I reached the finish line, every single joint hurt. My ankles, knees and hips took a beating. My boyfriend made it through the finish line first. He waited across the line with energy bars and water. I made a beeline for him and we congratulated each other. We found Dawn and took a celebratory picture to commemorate the experience. I've never felt more proud!
No words can convey everything that I learned throughout these two months of training. I was ready to throw in the towel multiple times, but surprised myself with resilience. I learned to count on those close to me for support and to speak up when I thought I needed an extra push. The biggest lesson from this experience is that with preparation, you can do anything you set your mind to: running a marathon, becoming a beach volleyball player, anything really! I'm looking forward to my next marathon and to beating my results the next time around.
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