Let me start by saying running is hard. In fact, I have loathed the activity for most of my life. So, you may be surprised (I was too at the time) to learn that several years ago I decided to give running a try for the first time. I had just graduated from college and wanted to try something new when it came to working out. An old co-worker is an avid runner, and she agreed to sign up together for a local Fourth of July 5K that we would run at my pace.
Never had it felt so good to finish something I deemed impossible to complete just four months prior. I’d like to say that running that race made me fall in love with the sport. However, I actually got bored of running and took a few years off. It wasn’t until October 2018 that a big life change propelled me into the idea of wanting to run a 10K race.
My roommate at the time had experience with running long distance and immediately agreed to train together. If you’re thinking of running a race of any length, having a running and/or accountability buddy is the most beneficial part of training and running the race (at least for me). Over the course of a month and a half, we ran every Saturday morning, each week adding on to our distance. During the week, we would train separately and then hold each other accountable by checking in after our runs. That November we completed our local Turkey Trot 10K race!
Reeling from the high of running the farthest distance I’d ever gone, I suggested we take things up a notch and prepare to run a half marathon that upcoming summer. Now, I am not a professional runner and there may be other methods some find easier when training for a big race. However, these are tips and tricks that worked for me. I should also say that running is a mental thing for me, so these tips are helpful from that aspect. Here are some tips on how to prepare your body before running.
I am someone who is motivated to complete difficult tasks with self-rewards. For example, if there is a dress I’ve been wanting to buy but am hesitant to spend the money, that may be my reward for sticking to a new workout routine for three months. Everyone is different and I encourage you to find what “prize” you can gift to yourself at the end. This could be anything from material things to a relaxing day off where you can indulge in your simple pleasures.
If you’re confused on how to start training, many people I know have found success in using the Couch to 5K app. This is a great place to start if you’re just getting into running and want to complete a 5K race. However, if you’re looking to run farther, there are other apps like this for all levels, and there are a lot of free resources available online.
While training for the half marathon, “busy season” was in full swing at my job and it was important that I got in whatever training I could each day, even if it didn’t exactly follow my training schedule. Every morning before work, I got in 30 minutes of running time on the treadmill followed by strength training. Even though I could only run for half an hour, I increased in the speed and worked on adding a little bit of distance each week. Then, during our Saturday morning runs, my roommate and I would push ourselves to run further every week. We also signed up for small races along the way. By running a 5K and 10K before the half marathon, we were able to set bench marks for how fast we wanted to complete the races, and it helped give us a guideline for how far we should run each Saturday.
Most training routines I found online said you should be running 12 miles the week before your half marathon. My roommate and I did not do that. In fact, the farthest we ran before the half marathon was a 10K, or 6.2 miles. So, we celebrated at mile 7, and then again at every mile after that!
While you can follow a training guide and do all the things recommended for completing a race, the most important thing to is HAVE FUN! When I first set out to run a race, the perfectionist side of me wanted to complete the race in a certain time. I think goals are important and are good milestones we can use to push ourselves. However, whether I ran a half marathon in 2 hours or 5, I was successful because I had crossed the finish line. Once I adapted the mentality of “run to finish,” training became more fun and I looked forward to race day.
If you’ve thought about running a race and have reservations, I’m here to tell you that you can do it! While races are on hold across the country right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are still holding virtual races that you can run on the trail of your choosing. Better yet, round up some friends and ask them to do a virtual run with you! If you’re looking for a less strict training routine, start running and see how far you can go. Whether it’s each day or each week, slowly add more distance to your run and see how far you can go by the time these social distancing guidelines are lifted. Lace up your shoes and start running today!