How to run a half-marathon when you’re not a runner

It’s not unusual when people find out that I’ve run a half-marathon, and am planning to run a full marathon by the end of the year, for their response to be along the lines of: I cold never do that, I’m just not a runner. The thing is, I wasn’t a runner, until I was. So today I am going to give you my top eight tips on how to run a half-marathon if you’re not a runner. This is information that I used to get me to my first half-marathon, and am currently using while training for my second and third.

I also want to let you know, that I am participating in a seven day blogging challenge in order to get me posting more consistently. Today is day one of the challenge, and today’s theme is a list post, so… here it is.

  1. Get the okay from your medical care provider.
    I’m not a professional athlete, a personal trainer, a sports coach, nor have I completed any training in exercise instruction, so before you start, see your GP or other medical care provider to make sure you are well enough to start running. If you have any niggling injuries or unexplained, get them checked out and treated if need be.
  2. Get properly fitted running shoes.
    Whether it be sneakers/runners, minimalist running shoes, or running sandals, it’s a good idea to get properly fitted by a specialist running store or podiatrist. Many feet and blisters aren’t worth not getting decent footwear.
  3. Find a learn to run program that works for you.
    There are a few free and paid learn to programs around. The program I used came as part of an online diet and exercise membership that was quite popular in Australia for a few years. I no longer believe in the philosophy of the program as a whole, so I am not going to recommend it, however, I did find the learn to run program useful. It was based on walk/run intervals for 30 minutes, gradually increasing time running, and decreasing time walking over time.C25K is a free learn to run program, and there are C25K apps available for smart phones on google play and the apple app store.

    I have also heard positive feedback about Operation Move’s learn to run program, although I’ve never used it. It is a paid program, and it’s designed for women, but I’ve heard the support from coaches, and the Op Move community is fantastic.

  4. Set yourself a goal.
    Once you are able to run about 5kms non-stop, choose an enter a half-marathon event that you can work towards. Pick an event that is far enough in the future that you can realistically train for and achieve your goal. When I entered my first half-marathon, I was able to run 5kms non-stop, and the event was 15 weeks away, plenty of time train for and achieve my goal. My current training plan is a 12 week program, however I started it about a month after running my first half, so while I was coming back from a minor injury, I had a good level of running fitness under my belt. The SMART goal planning framework would work well here. You may want to participate in some smaller events along the way, and something like Parkrun would be a good way to do this.

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    Image Source
  5. Find a reputable half-marathon training plan.
    Running a half-marathon isn’t simply a matter of just getting out there and increasing your distance each run. A good training plan should result in both improved endurance and pace. Just like learn to run programs, there are both free and paid half-marathon training program available.For my first half, I used the My Asics half-marathon training plan. It’s great for a beginner, it’s free, and there is a smart phone app available. At the moment, I am using the training plan that came with my next event entry. Most running events will give you access to a training plan when you enter, however, choose what works for you.

    STRAVA is a run tracking program with free and paid subscriptions, that will develop a training plan for you through their website. They also have an app that for smart phones, and link to some sport/GPS watches.

    Operation Move has a half-marathon training program as well as a learn to run program, however, it is a paid program. For personally developed training programs, you may want to invest in a running coach. Your local running club should be able to point you in the right direction.

  6. Find a running support group.
    The support from the online, national running support group I am a member of has been invaluable. It’s a pretty specific group, but if you are an Australian mum runner, I can highly recommend Running Mums Australia. There’s a link to their Facebook page on the website. Google and Facebook should help you find other online running groups.For in person support, I’d recommend checking out your local running club if you have one.
  7. Listen to your body.
    Sometimes we all have bad runs. Listen to your body and work out what it’s telling you. Sometimes you can push through if it’s your mind trying to talk you out of running, but if you are really struggling to run and your form is off, you may need to head home early. There is nothing wrong with this, it is better to cut a run short and take it easy rather than risk injuring yourself, or if you are coming down with something. If it’s happening regularly though, you may need to ask yourself if you are pushing yourself too hard, are there mental barriers you need help pushing through, or do you need to be checked out by a medical professional.The same goes for pain and injury. There is a difference between exercise-induced muscle soreness, and injury pain. Don’t ignore pain that could be the sign of an injury, get it checked out. Had I ignored the pain in my leg following my first half, I don’t think I’d be running today. I saw a great sports physiotherapist who gave me a recovery plan, and then a back to running plan. It has worked really well. While I won’t be up to running the marathon I had planned for September, I only had a few weeks off running instead of months, and there was no need for a moon boot or crutches.
  8. Reward yourself.
    Going from being a non-runner, to training and running a half-marathon takes handwork and dedication. rewards yourself along the way to keep motivated. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but show yourself some appreciation for the amazing things you are doing. And after you’ve run your half-marathon, take the time to rest and recover – you deserve it.

I hope I’ve given you some useful information on how to run a half-marathon when you’re not a runner. This post certainly ended up much longer than I expected. I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

Competing for Events

At the start of the year, I used to giggle to myself when my husband would write all his upcoming runs on the calendar. While I was getting into running, I didn’t really understand the planning and entering running events. My first half-marathon back in May has given me the bug though.

I’m now training for my second half-marathon. I’d hoped to be training for a marathon, but a little niggly stress reaction put a kibosh on that quick smart. It’s not completely off the cards though, it’s just going to be later than I planned.

I’d heard about how addictive running could be, but I didn’t get it until I became addicted too. While I was recovering from my injury, my physio had me take a few weeks off running. There were quite a few times that I wanted to sneak out for a run, thinking that what the physio didn’t know would’t hurt him. Ha! It might hurt me though. He put the fear not me of months off running, and a moon boot if I didn’t listen to him. I’ve grown to love running so much that I reluctantly did as he said, and recovered without any hassle.

I’m now back to running about 40kms a week, and the Perth City to Surf is just over six weeks away. I’m running the half, and hoping to take a decent amount of time off my first one. I’ve got another half planned for September (when I’d originally planned to run my first full marathon), and a marathon in October.

I don’t giggle when my husband ‘books in’ events anymore. Now I’m telling him that he has to leave certain dates free because I’m booking in an event. Today we realised that we both want to run separate events (he’s a ultra-marathon trail inner, I’m a road runner – meep meep!) on the same weekend in different parts of the state. Mine involves at least an overnight stay, while he’s closer to home. There’s the little issue of 4 kids to look after, and I think one of us will have to miss out.

I called shot-gun.

 

 

First Half-Marathon Recap

It’s been two weeks since I ran the HBF half-marathon, and I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that I ran a half-marathon. As I said in my last post, a major part of running long distances is mental endurance. This was certainly true for my first half marathon. I’ve come away from it having learned quite a few lessons that I am going to use to change and improve my running.

I need to train more hills, and bigger ones at that. Less than a kilometre into the run, was the steepest and longest hill I have run. Ever. I wanted to walk it, I seriously considered it. I also knew that if I did, I would regret it later. I told myself that none of the other half-marathon runners (there were almost 3000 of us) would be walking less than a kilometre in, that the rest of the course would be flat (it wasn’t), and that it wasn’t as steep or as long as it seemed. And I did it, I ran the whole way up the hill, but the lack of significant hills during training meant that all other (minor) hills during the rest of the course were a struggle, and that my legs were much more tired by the end of the course than they had been during any of my long training runs.

I had to make a toilet stop just before the 10km mark. I went to the toilet just before the run started, I didn’t drink any water between pre-run toilet and about the 11km mark. I’ve never made a toilet stop during any run before, so it was pretty frustrating to have to stop running, line up and wait for a toilet, and then get going again. I discovered that just because all my babies were born via c-section doesn’t mean I should ignore my pelvic floor.

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Coming out of the Graham Farmer FWY Tunnel, about 13kms in.

I found running with a large group of people challenging. I’m used to running on my own, so running with a few thousand people was definitely not what I’m used to.  Navigating my way around people, and also being aware of runners coming up behind me wanting to pass me are things I hadn’t given much thought to previously. I ran with my hydration pack, so I didn’t have to stop at the water stations which was good for me mentally, but I did have to navigate my way around people who were stopping for water, and all the paper cups chucked on the road. I must say the volunteers are awesome. Handing out thousands of cups of water during the event (and there was about 34,000 participants including the half, the 12km and the 4km events), cleaning up the rubbish, plus all the finish line volunteers was greatly appreciated.

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This was me attempting to smile at the photographer.

With about 6kms to go, the 12km course front-runners started to pass. They seemed like cheetahs sprinting passed me, and I was almost taken out by one of them. It was a knock to my confidence at first to see them go flying by, but I reminded myself they only had 6kms in their legs compared to my 15kms. In the last kilometre, the 4km event sprinters came flying through, but by that stage I didn’t care. I just wanted to get across the finish line.

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The last kilometre was the hardest. I just wanted it to be over. My legs were tired, my body was tired, and my head was tired. I think this was mainly due to the hill at the start. When I reached the 1km to go sign, it felt like such a long distance away. I could see the finish line with about 500 meters left to run, and I didn’t know how I was going to get there. I could tell my form was off, leaning forward and heel-striking, but my focus was purely on crossing the finish line. I told myself if I could run the previous 20.6kms, I could run another 500m. In the last kilometre, there was a man in front of me from the 12km event who would sprint, then stop, sprint again, stop, have a lie down, get back up and sprint again. The first time I saw him do it, I planned on stopping to see if he was okay, but he was off again before I reached him. He was running the last time I saw him, so I don’t know what happened to him. I know that if I had stopped then, I wouldn’t have been able to start running again.

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So close, but so far. Surrounded by 12km runners.

I crossed the finish line and stocked up on all the drinks and food being handed out. I sculled a bottle of Gatorade Zero pretty quickly, I’ve never drunk it before, but I wasn’t saying no. An apple and banana had never tasted so good. I collected my medal, then headed for a stretching session and free leg massage. I think the massage made a huge difference to my muscle recovery. I asked the massage therapist to concentrate on my calves because they were the most sore, but in the coming days, they were fine, and it was my quads giving me the most grief. Next time I’ll book a post run sports massage.

My official time was 2:12:12, but that doesn’t account for toilet time. I was hoping for a sub-2 hour time, but considering it was my first half, and I wasn’t prepared for the hills, I think I did alright. I was 1893rd finisher out of 2945 half-marathon participants, and 669th female. I’m hoping to do better next time.

The mental fatigue set in pretty quickly. I borrowed my father-in-law’s car to get to the train station in the morning, and when I got back to it to drive home, I couldn’t figure out how to start it (it’s one of those keyless cars). About 20 minutes, a few phone calls, a few swear words, and I was on my way. I got home and had a long hot shower before climbing into bed. I didn’t sleep because running gets the digestive system moving, but I rested for a few hours while the little boys napped, the big kids watched a movie, and my husband went out for a 4 hour run (he’s training for an ultra-marathon). I also ate just about everything in sight. LCHF went out the window that afternoon.

I took a few days off running to recover, but discovered on my first run back that I had an injury that wasn’t apparent previously. My physiotherapist has diagnosed fibula stress reaction, so in order to prevent it developing into a stress fracture, I’m not allowed to run at the moment. I’ve been tempted to sneak in a few runs, but I’m planning another half-marathon in August, and a full marathon in September. I’d rather a few weeks off running now, with the ability to still do non-weight baring cross-training, rather than risk a few months off down the track and jeopardising my future events.

So, in the mean time, I’m processing the fact that I actually ran a half-marathon, I’m dreaming about running, and planning future training so next time I am better prepared.

Georgia Runs

Today I am 35. Today I am five days out from running my first half marathon. In the three months I’ve been training for this event, I’ve learnt some lessons that I hadn’t learnt in my almost 35 years prior. The physical training has been intense. Hard. Painful. But I think it’s the mental training that’s come with it that has made me a stronger person. Usually when I mention to someone new that I am training for a half marathon, I met with ‘wow! I could never do that’. The thing is, three months ago, I didn’t think I could do it either.

In February, on the spur of the moment, I decided to enter the HBF Run for a Reason half marathon. At the time, I was struggling to run 5kms. I didn’t actually think I could run a half marathon.

But here I am, knowing I can, and excited that I will be running 21.1kms in less than a week.

Some of the biggest things I’ve learnt on this journey have been vital to getting me where I am now.

  1. Having a goal to work towards is really important. The absolute turning point in my running journey was having an end goal to work towards. I signed over my money, and signed up for raising money for my nominated charity. When people started donating money, I absolutely had to make sure I did everything I could to make sure that I make the start, and finish line.

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  2. Support is vital. My husband is also a runner, so he gets it. But I know that even if he didn’t run, he would still support me on this journey. Around the time I signed up for the half marathon, I also joined a national running group for mothers. The support from these women for all members of the group has been invaluable.
  3. Training your body is really important. Working on your form, the way you foot hits the ground, and where it lands under your body prevents injury. Building your endurance through frequent runs and increasing distance, but also through rest and recovery is important. Fueling your body with good food (for me it’s low carb, healthy fat, but you have to work out what works best for you), paying attention to your hydration, and getting decent sleep are all vital to becoming a better runner.
  4. Training your body is only half the challenge. Training your legs to carry, building muscle, learning how to breathe, improving your form, fueling your body for endurance? There’s science for that. Training your mind is harder. I’ve run 18kms non-stop. But there have absolutely been some runs where my head has beaten my body, where I’ve struggled, and where I’ve cut my run short.

    I find the first 3kms the hardest. I’ve read that it’s not uncommon, and is due to your respiratory and circulatory system needing to catch up with the increased oxygen demands your body is placing. Once I hit 3kms, I start to settle, my form smooths out and my breathing feels easier. By 5kms, I’m usually feeling pretty good. But getting through those first 3 – 5kms is a real battle with myself, lots of mental self talk happens. I actually find longer distances easier, and more enjoyable.

    During my long runs, me self talk sounds something like this:

    Starting out: ‘Just get through the first 3kms, they’re always the hardest. You have to do this if you want to run a half marathon, so just do it. Shut up, you’re not quitting. Just get to 3kms, or 5kms. If it’s still hard at 5kms you can go home’.

    3-5kms: ‘You’ve hit 3kms, is it getting easier yet? It should be getting easier. Just get to 5kms, that’s only 2 more’.

    5-8kms: ‘Just do another 3kms and see how you feel, you’re running really well at the moment’.

    8kms: ‘Round it out to 10, that’s only 2kms away’.

    10kms: ’10kms already. You’ve got this. What’s another 8kms when you’ve already run 10? You’re more than half way’.

    10-18kms: ‘I wonder what I’m thinking about? Oh, my legs are handling this hill really well. Now what was I thinking about again? It doesn’t matter.’

    18kms: ’18kms already? I could keep going for another 18kms. An extra 3.1kms on the day will be nothing’.

    When I stop and walk: ‘Yep, I just ran 18kms. I don’t know if my legs will be able to walk the 100m home’.

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  5. I run better in the early morning, even better when it’s cold. This is something I struggle with. I am a night owl. I feel more creative and more productive late at night. There have been a few weekends when my husband has been working, so I’ve had to go to bed early so I can go for an early morning run. I feel great for the whole run, and for the rest of the day. But after this, I fall back into my habit of late nights, and this usually feeds my crappy runs. A late night doing something, followed by getting up early with the kids and not having enough sleep leads to struggle town when I run.This is something I’m trying to work on. Sunday’s run starts at 6.45am, which means I will have to be up before 5am. I’ll make myself go to bed early because I know I have to in order to run a decent race on Sunday, I just need to transfer this to the rest of my life.
  6. I love my body more now than at any other time in my life. My body’s not perfect. I still have abdominal diastisis from when I was pregnant with the boys, I still look pregnant over 2.5 years on from having twins. I have no boobs, I had none prior to children, but having and breastfeeding 4 children have left them worse for wear. But it’s hard to dislike your body when you realise what it is capable of. I can run 18kms! In 5 days it will have run 21.1kms non-stop. My legs feel strong, they have serious muscle definition. I feel strong, I feel good. My mind can handle 18kms of running when 3 months ago it could barely handle 5. What’s not to love?
  7. Finally, I love active wear.

 

Image sources: pexel.