Recently I’ve been able to take part in two Inaugural Half Marathons in my home state of North Carolina! Each was different in its own right, but both were amazing experiences. While in the past I’ve given tips on half marathon preparation here and here, I decided to compile a small list of random tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the past three weeks. Take ‘em or leave ‘em, they won’t make or break your marathon experience, but they could be good to have under your belt.
Just a few things to know before we start- the first race I finished was on March 29th in Emerald Isle, NC. Growing up, my friends and family spent many a summer there on the coast. So when we learned that they were organizing a 5K and Half Marathon to benefit the community and local charities, we decided to join in on the fun! It was also a good excuse to have a good old fashioned beach house weekend. This was a much smaller race (1,300- but more than the race organizers were expecting from what I heard) and it rained the entire time (more on that later) but it was still awesome.
Here I am in all my rainy glory.
The second race was the Rock and Roll Raleigh Half/Full Marathon two weekends ago on April 13th. I was suuuuppperrr duuper excited to experience this one. I’ve heard great things about the RNR organization as a whole, so when they announced they were having one so close to home I immediately signed up. It was packed out (12,500 participants) and involved the two most dreaded “H’s” in a runner’s vocabulary (or at least in mine) – Heat and Hills. Even with these two H-words, the energy was contagious throughout the race, and unlike anything I had experienced before.
What I’m trying to say is, I will most definitely be doing both again next year.
The entrance to the expo the day before
Panoramic shot of the expo at the Raleigh Convention Center
Me and my parents, who came to offer their support!
With Amanda, another Rec employee who ran in the race!
Below are my random tips, tricks, and remarks on the half marathon experience:
1. When it comes to clothes, less is more- The only other Half I’ve completed is the Marshall-St. Mary’s Half last November. Meaning I had yet to experience distance running in even half way mild climates. With the last minute addition of my rain jacket, I quickly realized I wore too much during the Emerald Isle Half (thick(er) lululemon pants, a dri-fit shirt and a jacket). Boy was I cookin’, thus making me feel extremely overheated and more sluggish. I might as well have just wrapped myself in saran wrap…would have had the same effect. That being said I wore much less during the RNR Half. If you reaaalllyy realllyyy can’t stand being cold at any time, before or during a race, consider layering with an old shirt that you don’t care to lose (or go buy one from Goodwill/Salvation Army). When you get too hot, just take it off and toss it (preferably in the trashcan, show mother earth some love, people).
2. You don’t always need music- For a variety of reasons, I started out the Rock and Roll Half without music. At first, Amanda and I knocked out the 5K distance together (which she PR’ed in, by the way- go Amanda!). After that there were still so many people around and things going on that I didn’t even need my music. When I put my head phones in, I felt slightly claustrophobic, like I was cutting myself off from the RNR experience (see #7 for more). Maybe the whole “no music” phase was a one-time thing. But I suggest trying it every now and then. I’ve got a lot coming up on the old ‘Life Platter’, and with that I have a lot to mentally sort through. During the Half I focused on a lot of that, and it was amazing how much clearer I cognitively felt afterwards. Didn’t find the cure for cancer or world hunger, but in that moment I felt pretty darn close.
3. Hydrating is as important as carbing- This might be a no brainer to some, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it. The night before a race, you always hear about how important it is to “carb up”, by eating pasta, clean carbs, maybe a beer or two, etc. Everyone has their own pre-race ritual in terms of what they like to eat. As it starts to get warmer outside, it is as important to hydrate well the night before. The RNR Half was the hottest race I have ever ran in, and I was feeling it the day of. I focused on carbing more than hydrating the night before, and on the day of the race the water stops couldn’t come fast enough.
4. You can’t hold GU packs in your waistband (they will cut you) - Pretty self-explanatory. Before the RNR Raleigh I forgot my Sprigs wristband wallet, which is normally where I keep my GU packs when I run. I thought (for about 2 miles) that I could maybe keep them in my waistband. FYI: You can’t. I have some extremely unfortunate chaffing marks on my hip from only those two miles. Solution: I had to carry them the whole way, until I consumed them of course. One way to avoid this is to lay out what you’re going to need for the next day, the night before. I normally do this, so of course the one time I don’t I forget something.
5. Get fitted, seriously- Like I talked about in the Robert’s Running and Walking Shop post, it’s important to get sized and fitted for the proper running shoe. Now that I have completed half marathons in shoes that I have and have not been fitted for, I feel like I’m a little more of an expert on the subject. Bottom line, GET FITTED! I had so many knee and back problems with my first, unfitted pair. Now, with the shoes I got at Robert’s, I knocked out both Half’s without any of my old pains.
6. Mental, mental, mental (In the Glad Forceflex commercial voice)- So that’s more of a mantra than a rule, but whatever. I know I’ve brought this tip up before, but distance running can be (and is) SO mental. I’m going to go ahead and admit that I was very bad at training for these Half’s (like, if this was a class, I would have gotten an F–, bad…and yes, that’s an ‘F minus minus’). I still worked out over the past 8 weeks, sure, but I did horribly at following any 8 week training plan, like the one I used for the MU Half.
But guess what- I’m still here, and I still finished both races. Maybe it helped that I’m naturally a stubborn individual and I didn’t let myself quit, but before each race I had a mental talk with myself and just said, “you’re here, you can do it, you’re GOING to do finish”, and then I cranked them out. It basically happened like that.
7. The Ferris Bueller Rule – We all know the line, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”, from the 1986 classic, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This quote also applies to race day, and it’s something I learned during the RNR Half when I went sans music. With my first two half’s, I got in the zone, listened to my music and pushed through it all. With this third Half I took the time to pay attention. Listening to the crowd and hearing random strangers offer their support can be so uplifting. I also liked reading the signs. Some of my personal favorites: “Run now poop later: Never trust a fart” or “You thought they said ‘Rum’ didn’t you?”
On average, you spend eight weeks prepping for something that will be over in about 2-2 ½ hours. That ratio is a little off-balanced if you ask me. Yes, that 2-2 ½ hour time slot might be grueling, but embrace it anyway. It will go by with the snap of your fingers. When I look back on it, I remember wayyy more from the RNR Half than any of the others (and that’s not because it was my most recent one).
And now I’ve developed carpal tunnel- shew! That was a long one :)
In addition to my previous tips, I hope that this post was helpful to you all in some way. Running any race distance is a huge accomplishment, and being properly prepared is the best thing you can do before that start gun goes off.
What do you guys think of these tips? Do you have any random tips for when you run and train?