Monday, January 9, 2012

How I Ran a Half Marathon

{My new running shoes, unfortunately I didn't take ANY pictures from my race. Oh well.}

So this is a subject that I probably don't have any room to blog about, but I'll just tell you about my experience with running a half marathon and what I learned from it....

Running a half marathon was something that has been on my bucket list for a long time. I really remember thinking about it first in high school, which is funny because I didn't participate in any sports or much physical activity in high school. I ran from time to time after I was done with my mandatory P.E. credit (that's right, one year of physical education, that's it!), and trust me, my activity level as a teenage, slightly less pathetic than my pizza roll and soft pretzel diet. Still, somewhere deep down I felt like I would get to a half eventually.

Fast forward to college. Once I actually started caring more about my health, i.e. switched majors to nutrition, it was like I felt obligated to work out too. After a lifetime of mostly just day-to-day tasks and peaks and valleys of working out, it was hard to get into the groove of things. Between two jobs and being a full time student, working out was last on my list most of the time; hey, I wanted a social life too. 

My last year of school changed a lot. I went down to one low-key job and worked really hard to make sure that, despite my rigorous school schedule, I planned days for leisure and time for staying healthy, including work outs. I kept this up post graduation and even branched out and despite some anxiety, started taking spin classes. That brings us up to this year. 

When I started my job at the Arizona Department of Education it was really nice because there were a handful of people that I connected with that really worked on being healthy in their personal lives, (you would be surprised at how many nutrition students/professionals don't practice what they preach). I made a small pact with a couple of girls at work to sign up and complete a summer series of 5K's. I had never participated in a race before and was almost embarrassed that I hadn't. Well after running over the summer and building up my performance and tolerance I had a bit of a running bug.

{Me and my friend Kristi after my first 5K}

The half marathon was something I always thought I would do but never did. I figured that if I kept telling myself that it would happen eventually, it would never happen. So I though, 'what better time than now?!?' lets face it, I'm not getting any younger. So I went online and found a running schedule and tweaked it slightly to fit my schedule. Over the course of about four months I trained for my half. I didn't feel ready when I did it, but I think you just have to go for it and see what happens. As long as you've gotten some decent training in, you would be surprised what you can do, I was. 

So here are my tips. Some are things I did and thought were beneficial and some I feel like I would do now that I've done my half:

1. Cross train:
The schedule I printed off of the Internet spaced my runs out well and had me alternating distances, but it didn't include any cross training. It consisted of me running four times a week and slowly increased to long runs on the weekends, but that was it. After my run and talking with many other runners I think a huge advantage you can give yourself while training is to include other types of workouts. That might be a spin class, some strength training or even some sprints/boot camps. Plus, this keeps things from getting BORING. I've been working on this post-marathon and I can already see it helping.

2. Mix it up:
Living in Phoenix, sometimes my only option is treadmill running. It is a very good excuse, but when the weather becomes tolerable, GO OUTSIDE! I really regretted not doing more outdoor running. I think I just got comfortable with the gym and it became too easy to plan my running for late at night and say that I had to go to the gym. I very easily could have ran right after work, or saved my outdoor runs for the weekends. Some people would tell you that treadmill running is a no-no for training, and maybe it is, but I think it has a place in training as long as it's not abused.

3. Stay inspired:
If that means keeping a running partner (which I had multiple running partners) or reading up on blogs or websites that focus on health and being active, great, just do something. It is so easy to lose your inspiration for what you're doing four or five months out and just stop running. There were plenty of nights when I didn't feel like getting off the couch or my bed to go work out but I had to. I got a lot of inspiration from Danielle Hampton from Sometimes Sweet and Amber Beck from I Love You to the Moon. Both ladies have lovely blogs with a wide range of topics, but a big focus is on health and fitness. Sometimes it was just the boost of inspiration I needed to jump up and get going; that and being able to cross my runs off of my work out calendar. 

4. Small goals and incentives:
Everyone is different in this department. For me this was signing up for a few 10K's to keep me motivated. Well...I ended up getting sick for one and going out of town last minute for the other, which really sucked, but it did keep me running in between. Knowing that I was going to be accountable for two other runs that were more intense and longer than the ones that I had done over the summer, and I had already paid for, made it a lot easier to stay motivated. Other people don't work this way though. Money isn't always an issue, so allowing yourself to indulge (in non-food related rewards) is a better solution. A pedicure or a new outfit is always a nice reward to achieving goals, even beyond the satisfaction of actually getting through the run!

5. Stay positive:
Attitude is everything! I really didn't think I would do as well as I did. My only goal was to finish and I wasn't worried about anything else. A lot of people want to run the whole thing and not walk and I honestly didn't know if I could do that. I had ran up to 10 miles prior to the race, but usually after three I would take a walk break and walk it out for about a quarter of a mile. The day of the race I ran my first SIX miles without stopping and then to mile ten without taking another break. I had NEVER done that! All in all I only walked maybe 1.25 miles of the race. Attitude is everything, as you can tell from my advice above, 50% of it is mental. If it weren't for me staying in the game mentally, I never would have ran six miles without stopping. 

Well there you have it. I am obviously very amateur when it comes to running, but I did it! This is something that I consider a big accomplishment in my life and it's not my last. I'm still trying to mix it up and I'm planning on doing the Warrior Dash and another half-marathon this year. I also want to add another day of fitness to my weekly routine; currently I'm doing four, but I know I have it in me to do five. I have had other people tell me that the most they ever ran before a half is five or six miles and that they did fine. So if you're training and you're not sure if you can do it or maybe this is the first time you've ever even considered it, start small and work your way up. Trust me, you'll surprise yourself!

If you have ran in any race before and have a story about it, please comment or email and share it with me, I would love to hear it!

Keep it real,

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Blogger Mike M said...  

Great article Kelsey I really enjoyed it. You mentioned staying inspired which I think is the most difficult part of running. Running a race is almost solely an individual effort. I think it is easy to let yourself down but hard to let others down. I really want you and Jim to join my team. Its a 12 person team 200 mile relay that has to be completed in 48hrs from Kingman AZ to Phoenix AZ. I would like to do this 2013 it gives everyone over a year to train and I think it would be a great way to stay motivated and would truly make running a team effort!

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