13.1 miles? I can now officially say, "Been there. Run that." WOW. What a morning Thanksgiving morning was for me as I buttoned down to run my first half-marathon. Prior to race day, the furthest distance I have completed is the Peachtree Road Race, the world's biggest 10K. And any 4 year old with a mediocre sense of math knows that 6.4 does not = 13.1. Oh, and I don't really like running. That is another special element I had not mentioned before.
As for the big race? The great news is, I loved it. My goals were twofold: 1. Finish. 2. Don't walk. Two goals accomplished. I will admit I was a bit squirrely on my way there. Was a half-marathon really for the elite runner? Would I still be on the track when they were sweeping up cups and traffic resumed? Thankfully, no.
So here are training tips for anyone who is not an elite runner and wants to check Half-Marathon off your bucket list:
1. If you go it alone, be super appreciate that your husband is willing to get up at 645 am and drop you off. AWESOME. If you run with friends, you better paper/scissor/rock it out to see who is going to drive because parking can be a challenge at these things. Extra bonus when your little man wants to ride along. Super extra bonus when he yells out the car window as you leave , "Win the race, Mom! I know you can!!!" Smile about your child's love and positive attitude. Smile bigger that clearly, your child knows nothing because clearly, you are not actually going to win.
2. Dress appropriately for the weather. The day was gorgeous here but OH BOY it was less than 40 degrees out. I brought a jacket and a hat but woooops..where are you gloves, missy? My hands were SO cold I was tempted at one point to put them in my pants. Yes, it occurred to put them in my jacket pockets. Oops, those were full. I bought some "energy" concoction called "Gu" I had read about but also saw at the race number pick up expo. I also had my cell phone because I had to ring up aforementioned awesome husband to fetch me when the race was over.
3. When dressing appropriately for cold weather, layer it up with things you could easily discard on the ground and never think about again. The race course is strewn with shirts, jackets, hats, gloves as runners heat up. Hey guy I will never see again, thank you so much for getting warmer quicker than me and giving me your gloves so I didn't actually have to run with hands in my pants. But listen, my hands were more brittle than an ice sculpture and I would have done what I had to do.
4. When in doubt, don't wear the Eeyore costume. Oh, you were cozy when it was 40 degrees and you had many envious looks as you were snuggly warm but when it hit 60, you were hot. And I can't imagine it was smelling good in there. But I love your spunk, you grown man who happens to have a full-sized Eeyore costume.
5. Speaking of spunk, hey all you wild and crazy people who ran with stuffed turkeys on your heads. I love your spirit! I think a stuffed turkey on my head would throw me off my game. I think the stuffed turkey with the wobbly neck which caused it to bob up and down in front of the runner's face would be a weird twist on the rabbit used at a dog track. And a stuffed turkey with a big long neck doesn't actually look like a turkey as much as it looks like a another part of the turkey. If that turkey was a horse.
6. Bring your cell phone and get a fun pre-race photo. Not of Eeyore or the stuffed turkey hats but of yourself. My goal: try to look that motivated and refreshed come finish line time. And I have many friends who ran half-marathons the past 8 weeks and I LOVED seeing their pics. I also liked the status updates, I have to tell you. Why? Because it was motivating and one day when I saw a friends update about her first half-marathon, it actually motivated me to register to do my own. And yes, I did give a status update mid-run. I was in line for the port-o-john and had some great fanfare supporting me virtually that day so a little status update never hurt anyone.
7. Run with your iPod. Unless you're good like that and can run without it. If you can, are you crazy? Unless you are going to chitter chatter all the way (which I saw hardly anyone doing) I think you need some pep in your step and my way of achieving that is via music. And a kick ass playlist. Several months ago I was turned onto this amazing DJ Greg Gillis (stage name: Girl Talk) and thankfully, he has remixes that carried me through a few unsavory hills and Miles 11-13. And make sure Rocky's theme song is on your playlist too. By Mile 11 I was definitely needing some Eye of the Tiger. I also use the Nike+ iPod tracker system so I could track calories, mileage, and pace.
8. Listen to your body. My body started out saying, "This is awesome" and proceeded to ramp me up to roughly 9 minute miles. Then we hid mid mark and we were clocking about 11 minute miles and my body exclaimed, "Feeling superfly TNT." At aforementioned Mile 11, my body said, "LEG CRAMP" and I ignored it. Have fun ignoring that message. I tried to stretch it out while I was running which was pretty and ineffective. And by pretty I mean, it was a hybrid of the Elaine dance from Seinfeld + a deer bounding through a dewy meadow + and what 2 year olds look like when they have something unpleasant in their pantalones.
9. Watch the carb loading the night before. What goes in, has to come out. I had a little pasta the night before and oatmeal and a protein bar the morning of the race. And I never tried the "Gu" either. It actually feels like goo and I couldn't get on board with it when it came to actual race day. Maybe I should have and then it would have been Mile 11 getting its ass kicked and not me. Oh, and you can have a glass of wine the night before too. How do I know? Because someone on the Runner's World blog said so. And because you know you aren't going to win. Unless you are the guy who ran it in 1 hour and 8 minutes and then not only are you going to win, but you are phenomenal.
10. Keep in mind, you can do it. Seriously. People were walking from the starting line so getting out there and doing it is half the battle. And seeing people walking from the starting line really takes the pressure off. And the participants are all shapes and sizes as well as covering an age range from 18 to about 118. Doing anything for the first time is just that, you will only be new to it once. I am already looking forward to my next race. And extra bonus at the end of my race: My husband, son and brother came to see me at the finish. About 400 meters before the finish line, I see my husband and son. MiniMac wants to jump on the track with me and run it in. That is exactly what I needed after 13 miles and a cramp dance on the route. We raced down that hill through the finish line and he got to wear my medal. Later, he whispered to JMac, "I hope Mom is ok because I beat her in the race." I feel more than ok, pal. I feel fantastic.