The other day I was thinking back over the past year, pondering the hardest (and easiest) parts of training for the Mighty Niagara Half Marathon.
Why? Because now that it’s over, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. Pieces were harder & pieces were easier.
If a half is on your bucket list or your next running goal… Here’s what I found…
1. Reaching a base level of fitness was more work than actually training for the half. I had let myself get out of shape, it took some work reach a point where running a half was reasonable…. without doing harm. Some yoga, couple times a week morning exercises and running 3x a week for a year or so was what it took. Working through foot tendonitis. I’m not hung up on age but have noticed the impact of time on my muscles… Seriously, getting fit seemed like it took about a week 10 years ago.
2. We didn’t run as much as I thought we would. We found that three days a week was the right amount of training for us – basically what we had been doing for the past couple years. Anything more than that was too much for our conditioning level. Cross training for me was important. Porter not so much. As we got about a month from the half, I pulled a muscle doing yoga so stopped because I didn’t want to risk the day.
2. The long runs were easier than I thought they were going to be… and I enjoyed them more. A good route, a good playlist and the opportunity to just let my mind wander. The time passed quicker than I expected. Two hours sounded a lot longer than it ended up being. Love the feeling the long run gives me for the two days after.
3. It was hard not knowing what to expect… the amount of time, energy, nutrition, hydration, weather, etc. The long runs either drained me or energized me. Or a crazy weird combination of the two. That was the biggest time sink – the uncertainty. Not knowing what to plan for the rest of the day… But now that we know, training for the next half will be easier. Understanding running longer distances in the heat of summer, hydration, humanity… it’s always harder the first time you do anything.
4. Having a running partner was, for me, the key. Well, it wasn’t just a partner but a support system. With Eldest as Coach, Porter, Youngest and I were a solid summer running team. Porter rarely runs with me, which is OK. Do love running with Youngest though. Besides spending the time together, he pushes me to run faster and stronger than I might by myself. Everything is more fun with other people, especially people you love. Reach out to your local running clubs or running stores to find group training in your area. The support of others who have been there… well, it was key for me.
5. We started with a couple plans and found what worked for us. Having the confidence to deviate from a plan was key for me. Just having a plan meant being able to put it on the calendar and shift as obligations came up. We started running 4-5 days a week and learned with our schedules, the amount of time we were willing to give to running and our fitness level… it was too much. So we changed it up and found what worked for us. There are many different approaches to half marathon training. I used a run-walk, running a mile and walking a minute for anything over 5 miles.
6. Your first half is to finish. Unlike Porter, I stuck by the advice that your first half is to finish. Especially with my foot sprain the week before, it was about finishing, not the clock. Porter is so competitive… well… that concept kind of offended him. No worries… each to his own.
7. Plan on disruptions. Injuries will happen, you’ll get sick, other obligations will interfere. Life happens. That we were actually able to collect all the people we did to run, finish and share the day was amazing. Life happens. Expectations rule, have a backup plan! 🙂
In the end… like everything… it was all about expectations. It was easier than I expected and more fun.
And I did it!