One of our awesome coworkers did the unthinkable and ran a half marathon without training at all. Now we don’t recommend you do the same, but what you can do is learn from this cautionary tale and do NOT try this at home…
Last summer a few friends and I decided to run a half marathon together. I’ve never run a half marathon (or any race, really), but I’ve always been athletic and worked out regularly, so I thought, “okay no big deal.” We signed up about two months out, full of excitement and adrenaline. Immediately I printed out a training plan and was ready to kill it.
Well, the excitement was short lived as life quickly got the best of me. Between work, friends, travel, and everything else that a mid-20’s girl has going on, I literally didn’t do a single run on my training plan. The excuses were so easy to make. “I know I can run 2 miles so I can skip this week” turned into “Well I can probably suck it up and run 10 miles if I really needed to” and “I did yoga today, that has to count for something!” Yes, I still went to the gym a few times a week, but leading up to the race I ran about 6 miles total. Horrible idea, I know.
Fortunately, I made it through the entire race without walking once (if you don’t count the 2 potty breaks I had to take), finishing in 2:24. I suppose it could have been worse (although the soreness I experienced for the next week was miserable!). Lucky for you, you can learn from my mistakes! Here are some training do’s and don’ts, from the person who did it ALL wrong.
- Be realistic. Understand the limitations you have (time, travel commitments, nearby trails to train on, etc.) and be realistic about it. If you can’t run 6 days a week, make the most of training 4 days a week.
- Set goals. Honestly, I had no idea about the race time I wanted. Not having a goal made it easier to slack off while training.
- Get a training buddy. My race buddies and I all live in different cities. This meant training (or not training in my case) alone. Having a training buddy to hold you accountable will keep you on track.
- Actually do your long training runs. Obviously they’re important for building stamina, but they’re a good dress rehearsal for race day, too. Do you prefer to run in shorts or leggings? How often do you need a water break? Which shoes are most comfortable? Should you bring a few energy gel packs? There’s lots to consider, none of which you want to be surprised by 6 miles in.
- Listen to your body! I’m fortunate not to have experienced anything worse than soreness after my 13.1 miles, but if you don’t listen to your body (regardless of whether or not you’ve trained), you could really hurt yourself. It’s not worth it.
- Expect not to sacrifice. The whole point of committing to a race is to challenge yourself. It’s not a challenge if you’re not making some kind of sacrifice. I promise, there will be plenty of Taco Tuesdays, you can skip a few to go on a long run.
- Beat yourself up for missing a run. Yes, you should have a training plan and yes, you should do all you can to stick to it. But unless you’re a professional runner (please don’t be, because I know you’d judge me!), something will inevitably come up here and there. If you’re stuck at the office until 10 pm finishing up a huge project, make up for your long run tomorrow.
- Underestimate the power of sleep. Rest is extremely important, not just before your big race, but before your long training runs, too. Make sure you’re getting the most out of training by getting enough shut-eye.
- Make excuses! Trust me, there is always an excuse, and they’ll quickly snowball if you let them. (Case in point — me)
Despite my less-than-ideal race experience, I am still a huge advocate for racing. Signing up and paying a race fee forces you to commit to something. With a little dedication, you can accomplish something huge. When the times right, I’ll definitely get back out there… and maybe even go for 26.2 miles!