Lessons from Training for My First Half Marathon (So Far)

July 30, 2014


My first half marathon is scheduled for October 18th and I couldn’t be more excited.

I also couldn’t be more filled with fear and panic!

I first started running sometime in 2009 while I was still living at my mom’s after just moving to Hawaii. I couldn’t make it down the .75mi stretch of road without feeling like death… and that probably took me about 12 minutes. My goal was always to run a half marathon, but I never trained consistently enough. Nor did I commit myself to it enough to change my lifestyle and diet.

Several years later I would cross the finish line of the Great Aloha, an 8.1mi run in Hawaii, with my mom and her co-worker. We probably ran 7ish of the total distance, but took lots of walk breaks. Before that, the most I ran without stopping was just under 3mi (during training, I had also run most of the Color Run 5K, but not all of it).

After moving back to CO, I decided to try again, “for real this time.” I had to stop due to being burned out in general with exercise and life and took a long time away from working out in general. Then, this past spring, I decided it was time.

I started at week 0 of 24 in this program.

Week 0 was literally just walking… and so I walked. Then, I moved into interval training and slowly but surely worked my way up to 5mi just a handful of weeks ago in Portland, OR. My legs carried me five long miles. FIVE. Without walking or stopping. In between that I had a lot of bad runs, some awesome runs, a 5K that I completed faster than my (totally arbitrary) goal of 35min, and a lot of foam rolling, Thai massages, lessons learned, and frustration.


Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Hydration, diet, and rest are everything. You can’t just go out and start running all the time, and you certainly can’t do any distance running without paying attention to your diet and hydration. At first I was okay without a lot of focus on diet and hydration, but I was also doing intervals for less than a mile. Now that I regularly run 3+ miles on a training day, my body says OH HELL NO when there’s not enough water in more, or if I’ve eaten like garbage. Also, resting is so essential to getting stronger and running further. So essential.
  • You will have a lot of bad runs. It’s funny… I knew this going into it but I constantly had to remind myself that this is a journey. Just because I have a week of awesome runs, doesn’t mean the following weeks will be awesome. It just means that I’ve crossed over one hurdle in my training and am moving into a whole new level. As soon as the mileage picks up, I’m more than likely to start having hard, bad runs again. I’ve had a whole bunch of bad runs lately and it’s like I forgot that at one point I couldn’t even go a whole mile. This is a journey, this is a journey, this is a journey.
  • You will get sick or hurt, plan accordingly. I have done both so far. First I got sick and had to take a week off early on, then had to repeat a week to get back into the groove. Then I hurt my back moving and had to take a week off, after already having a bad “off” week, and had to ease back into training. I’m so glad I accidentally had almost two months worth of extra weeks built into my time between starting and my scheduled half.
  • You need support and guidance. I couldn’t have done what I’ve done so far without my running group and coaches. I signed up for this program and it’s worth every penny. I post in the group for accountability and when I need a kick in the butt or support. I also post if I have a question about something that’s coming up while I run. While lots of people just go out and train for half and full marathons, you’ll have a better chance of making it through without injury if you have a great coach and support.
  • You have to know when to push and when to take a break. I learned that this last week. I had one day where I needed to push through, and I did. I was able to run further than I thought and my legs are stronger because of it. Then I had a day where I needed to stop and take a break. Like several days away from running altogether. Fatigue and burnout is real, and it’s important to know the difference between when to push and when to stop. I stopped… got a Thai massage, did yoga, rode my bike, rested, and relaxed. It’s so important to honor your body.
  • You can go farther than you ever thought possible. I ran FIVE MILES without stopping… and soon I will run six and seven and all the way up to 13.1. I almost skipped my five miler in Portland because I had a lot of great excuses. But really, I was just scared. I’d been having bad runs and had never run five miles before (forgetting, obviously, that I had never run four miles either before I just one day ran it). I pushed my excuses aside and headed out on the road and I RAN FIVE MILES. I will be equally as impressed and terrified when it comes to six miles, which is soon. As my coach says, trust in your training. You can do it!!

I didn’t like running when I started, but I felt called to it. It’s taken several years for me to find myself as a runner, but I’m so glad I stuck to it all this time. Running is amazing. The “runner’s high” is worth the hard runs, it’s helped me push through some mental barriers I’ve had for a long time, allowed me to see what I’m physically capable of, and has become a true passion.

As much as it frustrates me at times, I absolutely love my training. My goal is to finish my first half marathon without walking… even if I move so slowly at times I may as well be walking. I want to run the entire thing. From there, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll push for a personal best, maybe I’ll train for a full. For now, I’ll keep working towards my first 13.1 with joy and massive frustration. 🙂

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