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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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?
- Finally, I love active wear.