3 weeks + 6 days. 27 days. 648 hours. 38,880 minutes.
That, my friends, is how long I have until my first half marathon ever – the Runner’s World Half & Festival in Bethlehem, PA. Two Fridays ago, I topped my longest distance ever run at 7 miles, and then the following Friday, I topped it at 8 miles. I mean, it took me 1 hour 20 minutes and 1 hour 31 minutes (respectively), but I did it! I want to take some time to share with you some of the realizations that I’ve had since I’ve started to push myself to run longer distances.
I’m pretty proud that I’ve been able to steadily increase my distance, and it’s interesting to take note of how I feel after each new distance.
This was after my 6 mile run:
I was thrilled with my ability to get through this run. I did the entire 6 mile loop of the Lehigh Parkway running path. I hadn’t run this distance since last year when I did the Runner’s World 10k during the RW Half & Festival. I did feel a pain the entire run on the medial side of my right foot from my heel to my ankle. It wasn’t debilitating, but it was just a nuisance.
This was after my 7 mile run:
I really don’t remember any bout of exercise being this miserable. To get the extra mile, I just had to circle back around one of the bridges along the path. It started with my left knee around 3 miles, then my left hip joint around 4 miles, and around 5 miles my back started tensing up and around 5.5-6 miles the balls of my feet were burning and my toes were numb. I wanted to cry several times, and finally when I hit the 7 mile mark, I dropped to the ground and um kind of maybe sort of cried a little bit? It was..an emotional experience.
And finally, this was after my most recent 8 mile run:
I actually didn’t cry at the end of this one. The whole time, it felt doable. The path I usually do my long runs at is about a 6 mile path if I park at fish hatchery. I used to park by the red covered bridge, which is about a mile into the path from the fish hatchery. For this run, parked by the fish hatchery, did 1 mile out, 1 mile back, and then did the whole 6 mile loop. Maybe that’s why it felt so doable? But I was still tired and my feet really hurt at the end. My back started tensing up by mile 3 so..that was miserable. Other than that I really pushed through it.
- I need to pace myself if I’m going to run a longer distance (5+ miles). The idea of running under a 10 minute mile consistently for a long distance sounds amazing, but for me, it’s not realistic. My pace for long distances tends to be between 11 and 12 minute/miles.
- When I’m reaching for a new distance goal, running is a solitary activity for me. I love the idea of running with other people, all motivating each other to keep pushing forward – however, when I’m striving for a new top distance, I need to do it by myself. When running with other people, I’ll start the run around their pace – maybe aorund a 9 or 10 minute mile. At that pace, I get burnt out by the third or fourth mile, and find myself stopping every so often. And then the run is ruined. And I don’t feel that sense of accomplishment.
- Seeing an attractive guy running is actually very motivating for me, even if he is passing me..
- Apparently, I am prone to chafing. In places.
- I realized I don’t need inserts. Or at least, not the type of inserts I had. I feel pain on the medial side of my right foot from the heel to the ankle, and on the top of my left foot. I don’t have flat feet, but I do have a slight natural turnout.
- The balls of my feet kind of start to burn a little bit after a few miles, and my toes go a little bit numb..not sure if that’s a problem..
- The muscles in my mid & lower back begin to fatigue and tighten up around 3 or 4 miles, and by 7 or 8 miles, it’s kind of unbearable. I have the energy to run but the feeling in my back makes it really difficult. I think I can remedy this by stretching out my hamstrings, doing more hamstring exercises, and doing more core exercises targeting the lower abdominals to assist my pelvis in maintaining the right alignment while running.
- Headwinds suck. Tailwinds are awesome!
- If I don’t do anything strenuous at all the day before a long run, I really do have improved stamina and endurance. Before the 7 mile run, I had done some lifting the day before and perhaps a short run (if I’m remembering correctly.) Before the 9 mile run, however, I did yoga the Wednesday before and didn’t exercise on Thursday (except for teaching ballet class to kids). I didn’t feel quite as miserable and in pain as I was after the 7 mile run.
- I’m probably going to have to carry a tiny water bottle as I aim for distances above 8 or 9 miles. I know they’ll have water stations during the actual race, but while I’m running on my own for long distances, I definitely need to bring some water along.
- Dates and almond butter. I’m finding that (for whatever reason) I feel that I run best after having a higher-carb lunch, then about 30 minutes later, having some dates and almond butter before I go. Dates are made of simple sugars that are quickly and easily digested and metabolized by the body, and the almond butter, high in healthy fats, serves as an energy-dense protein.
- Taking my time. If I’m rushing to get a run finished, I might not fuel up properly or I might feel slow or have to go to the bathroom mid-run, and I don’t want that. I feel that I do best when I can go for my run in a non-rushed way since I already feel pressured to attain a new goal. All of the variables have to be right!
- Time of day. I usually do these long runs in the mid-to-late afternoon. I try not to do long runs such as these before I have to be somewhere like class or work, because I know how exhausted I’ll be afterwards. On Fridays, I don’t have any classes or work so it’s the perfect day for me.
- Not consuming alcohol the night before. Occasionally, I like to have a glass of red wine with dinner – even during the week. (I work with kids, okay?!) But I won’t indulge if I know I’ve got a run the next day. Alcohol causes your body to retain fat slightly longer than normal, and I don’t want to feel weighed down and heavy before such a physically taxing endeavour.
- The perfectly paced playlist. I recently wrote a post about building the perfect running playlist. This was really a breakthrough in my half-marathon training because it helped me be sure that if I just ran to the beat of the music, I would be at a decent pace. I’ve found that I run best to songs that are 155-165 BPM (beats per minute).
- Holding my car key in my hand. Okay, this one is a little weird. When I went for my 6 mile run, I had to hold my car key in my hand because I didn’t have any zipper pockets in my workout leggings. For some reason, it helped me take my mind off the unpleasant feelings my body was experiencing. I did the same thing for my 7 and 8 mile run..I know it’s cray cray, but having something to hold in my hand and squeeze as I got more and more uncomfortable made it slightly more bearable.
- Sweat Guru Sunglasses. I got these orange sunglasses from my swag-bag from Sweat Pink during BlogFest, and I had another orange pair that I got when I was trying to start Sweat Pink at NCC. These sunglasses are my favorite because they’re inexpensive, not too fancy, and they stay on my face when I’m all sweaty. I usually prefer to wear sunglasses when I run because it makes me feel like I’m ‘in my zone’, you know?
- Armband complete with running playlist. I don’t know too many runners that run without music. If you’re a natural runner, maybe it’s a little easier to run sans music. However, If I know I’m going to be running a long distance, I definitely need some tunes!
- The right headphones. I don’t like the iPhone headphones – they don’t stay in my ears. I prefer the ones with the rubbery part that sticks in your ear.
- Headbands! I always wear a headband when I run.
What are some of your running/fitness rituals that guarantee you a successful workout?
And the winner of the Reebok SwagBag Giveaway is…..