13.1 Things I’ve Learned Training for a Half-Marathon

My first half-marathon is now only 2 days away, I’m excited, I’m nervous and I’m raring to go!  I’ve learned a few things over the past months of training: 

1. I’ve allowed myself enough time to train

I personally gave myself 20 weeks to train for this race, I signed up back in October and I was keen to get started with training. Most training plans are 12 or 16 weeks, but I spread the training over a longer period and increased my distances more gradually. I’ve found this has worked well for me, as I wasn’t overwhelmed by the increases in distance and I was able to take a week off for illness and not fall too far behind on my training. 

2. I’ve made time for running

Training for a half-marathon (or any race) is a huge time-commitment, and I had to make a solid plan of how I would fit the runs into my week. One way in which we made more time, was by taking on a cleaner to do our housework, freeing up hours on the weekend. I’m not saying this is for everyone, but it was the right decision for us as I’ve loved being able to use this time for running, instead of doing housework! 

3. I’ve explored new areas 
One of the most enjoyable parts about half-marathon training has been exploring new places on my weekend long-run. Myself and Glen have chosen a new location to run every week and have now covered pretty much every country park, river, canal, forest and much of the coastline around Essex! I would never have ventured out to some of these places if it was not for running. The beautiful views make a change from the monotony of the gym!

4. It’s brought me and Glen closer

I’ve been training for this half-marathon with my husband Glen, although he is much faster than me, we start our long-runs together and meet up at the end. It’s been lovely having a partner who is as obsessed with running as me, always willing to get up at 6am on a weekend to run and always keen to sign up for more races. Having someone to talk running with when I am boring my colleagues, friends and family to death, is a definite bonus!

5. I’ve connected with the running community
I only signed up to Twitter in November and have since discovered the huge community of runners sharing running tips, support and advice. I love reading everyone’s tweets about their latest training runs, PBs and new kit, it really gives me the boost I need when I’m lacking in motivation.

6. I’ve bought a lot of new kit!
My collection of lycra has expanded massively over the past 5 months of training, so much so that I’ve broken my chest of drawers! My job is designing sportswear, so checking out the latest ranges from Nike, Sweaty Betty, Lululemon is all in the name of research for me!

7. I’ve learned something about women in running
I read ‘Running Like a Girl’ by Alexandra Hemmingsley and was shocked to discover that women were banned from taking part in organised races until the 1960s, as it was believed that the female body could simply not handle running, and our wombs might fall out from the exertion! I take it for granted that I am able to sign up for any race that I fancy, and that is thanks to pioneering women like Kathrine Switzer who flouted the rules and ran the Boston Marathon in 1966 despite attempts to forcibly remove her from the race. 

8. I’ve got a decent pair of trainers

Before I started half-marathon training, I would just buy whichever brightly coloured Nikes were on sale at Sports Direct, but after getting niggling shin pains and black toenails I knew it was time to go for a gait analysis and get pair of trainers which fit well. Sweat Shop fitted me up with a pair of Brooks Ghost in the correct size (turns out I was wearing a size too small) and these have given more support to my feet, ankles and knees as I slightly over-pronate on my right leg. 

9. I’ve met new people and ran in a group

Through Twitter and Facebook I’ve hooked up with a group of ladies from Team Naturally Run to do a Nativity 10k and a few long training runs around London. I’ve loved running in a group- chatting as we run helps distract from the distance and the miles seem to fly past. I’m looking forward to seeing a few of the Team Naturally Run girls at my half-marathon on Sunday. 

10. I’ve learned the importance of strength training

I was in to weight-lifting before I got in to running, but it was easy to let this side of my fitness slip as I focused more on getting in the miles. Building up the strength in my legs with squats, lunges, dead-lifts has improved my running and helped to avoid injury. My inner thighs were particularly weak, so I’ve focused on strengthening my adductor muscles over the past month and already noticed improvements. 

11. I’ve taken time off for illness
Over Christmas I had a chesty cold and had to take a week off from running. I found it extremely frustrating to be forced to rest and unable to get outside and do what I love. It really effected my mood, I worried about loosing fitness, I worried about getting behind on my training- but it turned out to be fine. The rest was what I needed and I soon got back to training once I was feeling well again.

12. I’ve learned to love treadmill runs

The ‘dreadmill’ used to bore me to death and I couldn’t imagine enjoying pounding away on this machine for longer than 5 minutes, but I’ve mixed things up by incorporating speed work and pyramid intervals. The time seems to go much quicker when I’m mixing up the speed and inclines, and I’ve actually found myself enjoying treadmill running!

13. I’ve learned the value of a good sports massage

I’ve had a few niggles in my shins, knees, and groin while I’ve been training, and whilst I’ve been tempted to ignore them and hope they get better, I decided it was better to get some advice from a professional. Lee at Sports Massage Therapy has worked his magic (but painful) touch on my legs and advised me on strengthening exercises to support to muscles around my knees.

13.1 I’ve really enjoyed myself! 

After a run I feel less stressed, clearer headed, more alert and better within myself. I’ve not enjoyed every single run, but for the majority of the time I love getting outside for some me-time. I honestly thought I would never be capable of running a half-marathon, it felt like such a huge challenge and such a long distance. I’m proud of myself for committing to this race and following through with the training, I’ve ran the full 13.1 miles in training so I know that it is possible. 

Bring on the half-marathon! 

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