Non-Expert Half Marathon (or Other Big Race) Tips for the Non-Expert Runner

Okay, so I ran a half marathon, which means I’m basically an expert now, right? Totally. (Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert in anything running/fitness/health related. I am a girl who ran a half marathon. Once. And is now giving you some insight.)

Since I have reached self-proclaimed expert status (nope), I figured I’d share with you a few things to consider before/during/after a half marathon (or any sort of big race) experience.

Signing up:

  • Before even signing up, think about training. Most half marathon plans are about 10-12 weeks long, so decide around what time of the year is best for you training-wise. My typical workout schedule is pretty similar to a half marathon training plan already, so in that sense I could have basically signed up for one whenever I want. However, I had to take the weather into consideration. I originally wanted to sign up for a half in early April, but due to the insane amount of snow that hit New England this year, getting any training runs outside was nearly impossible (and doing a long run on a treadmill sounds worse than getting teeth pulled).
  • Once you do decide on the time of year you’re interested in, you can narrow down your race search on websites like halfmarathons.net, active.com, and runningintheusa.com.
  • Before you commit to a race, do a little bit of research on the course, maybe just a quick Google search of “(insert race) recap.” I really loved the race I did (Bluberry Cove 13.1) because it was super small and everyone was super nice, but I may not have chosen it had I known how hilly it was going to be. I didn’t realize that until after I signed up, and at that point there was no turning back.

During training:

  • Mostly stick to your training plan. By that, I mean definitely do the long runs on the week you determined to do the long run. The day of my long run switched around a bit (going from Sunday, to Tuesday, to Thursday), but I always completed the miles on the week I had them scheduled for.
  • Consider making your long run day a non-weekend day. I feel like most people and training schedules online have the long run on Saturday or Sunday. Obviously the weekend may be the only time a long run can be done for many people due to having 9-5 jobs and whatnot, but as an early-twenties gal, I find myself going out a lot on the weekends and working weird hours. Having a long run in the morning after a night out was rough. I couldn’t have as much fun and stay out as late with friends because I knew I had ___ miles to run bright and early, and then when bright and early came I hated everything. It worked out better for me to get my long runs done on a weekday morning before work, leaving shorter,  doesn’t-have-to-be-done-super-early-due-to-weather workouts for the weekend.
  • Also, consider having your long run at the beginning of your “training week.” I’ve also noticed many schedules have the long run as the last day in the weekly training cycle. For my first couple weeks of training, I found that my legs just weren’t feeling a long run, since they hadn’t had any rest for the past 6 days. I decided to switch up my training schedule, and have a long run after my rest day, and usually do a hot yoga class, or something less intense, the following day.
  • Foam roll and stretch. A lot. I tried to foam roll and stretch at least three times a week. Usually at night before going to bed. That seriously improved my running/recovery time immensely. Caroline Jordan has some great foam rolling/stretching for runners videos on her channel, and I would highly recommend them!

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  • Experiment with gels/chews on your long runs. My favorite were Clif Shot Bloks, but find what works best for you. They definitely keep you from losing steam as your mileage increases.

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  • GET A RUNNING FANNY PACK. They’re amazing and super kewl. Hydration on the go = rad.

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 It’s a love story, baby just say yes.

Race Day

  • Get everything set the night before. Know what the weather will be, what you’ll be wearing, what you’ll be eating, and set it all out so that your (likely quite early) pre-race morning will be smooth. If you have to stay in a hotel or somewhere other than your house the night before the race, bring your usual breakfast with you. Sure, it may feel weird throwing a mason jar of coffee and a piece of bread in your suitcase, but race morning you will be super happy you did.
  • Try to poop (thank you starting line port-a-potty).
  • Don’t rush. Get there early. This is coming from someone who is always late (yes, I am that person, I hate me too). I got to the starting line fairly early and was really happy about it.
  • HAVE FUN. Super lame advice, I know, but seriously. This is your race, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so…oh, wait. No, but really, you trained hard, you’re prepared, you are a rockstar. Run your little heart out.

Post Race:

  • Try to eat something light and easy on the stomach post race. Similar to what you’d eat after a long run. At the race I ran, there was a brunch right after. I should have gone with oatmeal and fruit, but I went right for the home fries and breakfast pizza. My tummy hurt for a while after, and I probably would have felt a lot better had I gone for something more akin to what I usually eat.

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Never thought there’d be a time in my life where I would wish I had a smoothie bowl over home fries.

  • Take a day off. You’re going to be sore. Possibly more sore than after a normal long run. You ran a killer race and you deserve that rest day. Do nothing and revel in it.

Okay, so that’s about it for my advice. Take it with a grain of salt, and let me know if you have any advice for future races as well!

Questions for you lovely humans:

1. How strictly did you follow your initial training plan? I followed mine pretty spot-on. I changed the day of my long run, but I’d always do the prescribed long run for the week. I also kept up with two shorter runs + 2 strength training days + 1 yoga day a week pretty well.

2. What is your ideal post race meal? Mine is totes a protein smoothie bowl, and apparently is not breakfast pizza and home fries.

3. What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book? Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, for sure.

BYEEEEE

Julie

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