Running 26.2 miles is one of the best and one of the worst things I have ever done. I am still in shock that I finished - especially if you have ever seen me run (apparently the "focused" face I make is hilarious). But on a hot, humid, rainy day in Houston, I did it! Trust me, it was not pretty and the lovely race photographers caught me crying at mile 24 and have some ugly pictures to prove it, but I did it.
I am not a fast runner nor am I qualified as an expert, but after reading a bunch of "running tip blogs", I have decided to share a couple things that I have learned from my races for normal people - those of us who run, but have busy schedules, are looking to finish and enjoy the race and do it so we can enjoy eating.
1. Train for your race - Realistically. I am not a fast runner. In 4th grade, when I did track and field, I never once placed at any meet. So freshmen year of college when I decided to run my first half marathon, I thought it would be something I could work towards and maybe redeem myself. I read all these blogs with people's training schedules, which I tried to keep up with. What these people didn't mention is they weren't a full time student with 3 part time jobs and a college social life. I quickly learned that if you are going to train for a race, you have to create something that works for you and your schedule or you will burn yourself out and running becomes a chore. I would do shorter runs during the week, mixed with different gym workouts (like yoga or spin), and a longer run on the weekends when I had more time. This may not work for everyone, and if you are looking to break world records, I don't recommend it, but after 12 races in 4 years, it seems to be working for me.
2. On Race Day - Here is everything I have learned about long races:
- Never wear new shoes or clothes for the first time on race day.
- Get a running pocket, tube or pouch. I have The Tube (which sounds ridiculous and lame) but it is the best thing ever. It's like a flat fanny pack that you slide up around your waist and has a couple pockets for you to shove all your fun toys in. You can also wear it under a dress that has no pockets for nights on the town, but that's another story.
- Bring bandaids and chapstick - You can keep them in your Tube!
- Wear good underwear. This one, I learned the hard way. If you do not pay attention to what you are putting on at 5:00 in the morning on the day of the run because the hotel room is dark and you don't want to wake up your supportive family and you aren't fully awake, you could end up in embarrassing pain.
- Take Advil before you run. I have a knee that likes to randomly swell for no other reason other than to be a pain in the butt (I have asked several trainers and this is their professional opinion, not just mine), and I have found that taking Advil 20 minutes before I do a long run reduces my swelling and makes it so I can run farther without the pain.
- Enjoy the run. Unless you are fast enough to win first place, don't worry about how many people are in front of you. Enjoy the route, the different people, the free stuff, the delicious orange slices along the way and the really nice random volunteers that cheer you on.
3. Include your family & friends. Even though I have apparently looked like a dork when I run my whole life, and certain family members like to remind me how I look when I run (don't worry they aren't teasing me - "its just so cute when I am focused"), they are also my biggest fans. My parents, sister, grandparents, and boyfriend have all become my biggest supporters and they are honestly the reason that I keep doing races. They come to every race, walk the expos with me, scout out the best spots to cheer me on and are always waiting at the finish line. For my marathon, my parents, sister and grandparents drove around downtown Houston in the RAIN for over FIVE HOURS to see me run right past them a couple times. Britt also did a great job of keeping Dom up to speed on my turtle-running-through-peanut-butter paced times and even from 7,000 miles away, he was able to cheer me on during one of the roughest miles of the day. Having someone to hold you accountable and support you the whole time, is a big a deal - so choose your support wisely.
4. Find FUN Races. Yes, Disneyland races are expensive. Yes, I am paying to run down streets that I could do for free. But that's not the point. Find the fun races that make you excited to train and that are fun to be a part of. I LOVE the Disney races and as expensive as they might be, I never once leave feeling like I didn't get my money's worth. Find a fun race, invite friends or family to run with you (or meet you at the finish line for margaritas) and enjoy the day.
Like I said, I am NOT a trainer. I am just someone who has apparently become a runner over the last couple years and wanted to share my realistic tips from running.
Happy Running, everyone!