I was never a runner. In high school I dreaded running laps at soccer practice, and frequently felt nauseous after the timed-mile test. But here I am 5+ years later, a half marathon under my belt. When I graduated from college and was working part time in a less-than-rewarding job, I decided to set a goal for myself. I signed up for a half marathon, and the rest was history!
Was training for 12 weeks through perma-winter 2014 fun? Not really. But did I slap an obnoxious “13.1” magnet on the back of my car hours after crossing the finish line? Damn right I did!
Here are some of the realities of training for my first half marathon. I’ll let you decide whether you think half marathoners are, as they claim, “only half crazy.”
- You might gain, not lose, weight. What?! Doesn’t running burn, like, crazy calories? Well yes, I suppose it does. But it also makes you super hungry all the time! It’s very easy to fall into the “I ran 8 miles today, I can eat whatever I want” mentality, but this can easily be your downfall. I sometimes struggled to be aware of my body’s needs (sweet potatoes and peanut butter, now!) and differentiate them from my tastebuds’ desires.
- It’s easy to become a slave to your training plan. Since this was my first race, I wanted a training plan to take the guesswork out of my workouts. I don’t regret following the plan, but I can’t tell you how many times I wished a different workout was on my agenda. Word of advice: training plans are not one size fits all. If you need to work in an extra rest day or you’re just not feeling 6 miles in the freezing rain, adapt the plan to fit your needs!
- You compromise your other fitness goals. Before half marathon training, I was incorporating a lot of strength and plyometrics into my workouts. I loved the results I was seeing in my muscles! But as my workouts centered more on running long and slow miles, I basically put my (tiny) muscle gains on hold. Boo!
- Be prepared to tweak your weekends. Most people will devote several hours on Saturday or Sunday to their “long run.” For me, it was early Sunday mornings, which meant no going out and getting drunk on Saturday nights. Luckily I didn’t see this as a huge deal breaker, but let’s not kid ourselves –that kind of sucks! I do know some people who could pull off the late-night-Fridays-get-out-and-run-Saturday-evenings, but I could never rock that schedule.
- You’ll reach a new level of soreness. I’m no stranger to delayed onset muscle soreness, but increasing my distance runs made me sore in strange new ways. After my first 9-mile run, my hips were so sore that I could barely sleep! Eventually your body gets used to the distance, but I was totally unprepared for the discomfort that I felt.
All “realities” aside, it’s a great feeling to set a goal and watch yourself make small strides toward accomplishing it. I was nervous before every long run, but 95% of the time I was surprised at how well I could perform. For those who are thinking about signing up for a race, I totally encourage you to give it a try! Now that you’re armed with a few heads-ups, you’ll be ready to tackle your own training plan.
By Emily Gasper