If you have read this blog since this past Spring, you know that I ran a half marathon in May. It didn’t come easy. I overtrained, hurt my knees, barely made it to the half marathon, finished the half marathon, went through 6 weeks of physical therapy to fix the knees so I could run again. After the half in May I took a break from running to truly rest my knees. I ran one race in June, it sucked. 10 miles in the hot sun was unbearable. I almost puked, I got a sunburn, and I swore off of running for a long time.
I believe it was the ABC Dinner night with Allison and Heather where I decided that I was ready to run again after talking to the two of them about marathon training. That week I went to the gym and one of my gym buddies convinced me that I should run the River Run half marathon this past weekend. I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it from the beginning and I didn’t tell very many people because of the knee problems that I ran into back in April. Needless to say, my training went FANTASTIC! I was back to my pre-injury pace, I was having great runs, and I was super confident. My plan for the past two weeks was to write a blog entry with my best tips on how to train for a half marathon. I wanted to emphasize the different approach I took for this half and demonstrate how much better the run went. So, here goes my list of tips….
1. FOLLOW THE PLAN! For my first half I didn’t think that a 3 mile run was enough cardio, so instead I would add another 20-25 minutes of biking/ellipticalling/etc. Bad choice. The training plans are designed to gradually increase your running over the course of a week, not in one day. Also, taking the gradual approach helps keep the body injury-free.
2. Ice, Ice, Ice. For my second training I knew how bad my knees reacted to the first time I trained. So, regardless of the length of the run, I ALWAYS iced after every pavement run.
3. Train outside. This time around I knew that my knees would acclimate to the harder ground if I practiced on pavement vs. treadmill. I think I only did one run on the treadmill this time. This really helped my knees to get adjusted, and they were able to recover so much more quickly after each run.
4. Leg strength is up the utmost importance. Inner and outer thigh strength really works to keep your hips and knees functioning properly. The reason for my earlier knee pain was that my inner thighs were stronger than my outer thighs and were therefore pulling at my knees unevenly. Also, leg strength REALLY helps with hills.
5. I am a much better runner in the morning. I tried to do a few runs in the evening with miserable results. I have learned that I am 100% a morning runner and anytime I don’t have time in the morning to get in my run it is far better for me mentally and physically to push the run to the following morning. Same goes for anyone that is an evening runner. Do what your body likes and you will feel so much more confident. This is not to say that I had no bad runs whatsoever, but the morning runs were just ok runs on a bad day, whereas the evening runs ended up just dropping my confidence majorly.
6. Camelbaks are AMAZING!!! I invested in one about halfway through my training and it was my #2 best running purchase to date. It is awesome on long runs to have a large supply of water hands-free. I didn’t even notice the backpack, if that is what you are worried about.
7. The #1 best training tool is a GPS with a heart-rate monitor. The GPS is great for tracking mileage and pace. The heart-rate monitor is the best for making sure you don’t push yourself too hard in training. I really used it to gauge how hard I was working when there was a ton of humidity and I didn’t want to overheat, even though I wasn’t going super fast. Also, I did a few training runs at altitude in Colorado, so knowing my HR really helped me watch for the effects that the altitude had on me because I know what HR I train at when I’m NOT at altitude.
8. The long runs are SO important. That being said, the pace of the long run isn’t as important as getting in the miles. Two of my long runs involved some walking due to humidity and altitude. But, that’s ok… I got in the mileage that my body needed to adjust to.
9. You don’t need to train the full distance of the half marathon. For my first half I only trained to 9.5 miles before I hurt myself. For the second I did 3 different 10 mile runs. Your adrenaline will carry you through the rest!
10. Most importantly I learned that anything can happen… for my first half, my knees rejected me. With some healing time I was able to run the race anyway. This time, I had an AWESOME time training. My 10 mile runs were flawless and easy… but still anything can happen. Here is my race recap from this past weekend:
-about last Wednesday the top of my foot started hurting a little bit. I figured it was because I work on my feet 8 hours a day.
-I decided that resting for a few days with very light exercise would help my foot enough to run the race.
-race day came on Sunday. I was READY TO GO! 100% confident. The foot was a little bit sore, but I knew I could stick it out once I got moving. Sometimes I need to stretch really good before I run and the kinks get worked out during the first mile.
-I ran into my gym buddy, Rick, right before the race and we psyched each other up. He is training for a marathon in November, so this was a great training run for him.
-The race started, the first distance was a little rough because it was over-crowded and I needed to find my spot. I wove in and out of people a few times and then got in my groove. Strangely, whenever I run I brainstorm different baked goods to make the time go by. This time I was thinking about cupcakes since I may be doing them for a wedding coming up. The foot was a little sore, but I chugged on.
-I was making really good pace… but the foot pain kept getting worse as the miles went on. I trained my long runs at around 9 min/mile and I was running in the 8:20′s/mile – and even 8:18 min for one mile – SWEET! But the pain kept getting worse…. and I kept trying to stick it out.
-It was around mile 7 that I started to think that maybe walking for a few minutes would help calm down the pain. Seriously!?! I had trained for 2 months, done three 10 mile runs and I wanted to walk at mile 7????
-At 7.5 miles I walked…. I tried running again… and the pain only got worse. At mile 9 I gave in, talked to security guard, and another girl (who was sick) and I rode a van to the end of the race… I was mortified.
-I really should have just not run the race, but I’m to stinkin’ stubborn to throw away two months of awesome training.
-Luckily, Rick passed by me walking and waited for me at the end, drove me to my car, and wished me luck on feeling better.
-So, back to my initial point #10 – anything can happen. I trained for 2 months with no problems, and the week before the race I developed a mild stress fracture that I only made worse by trying to run the race. So, here’s to being on crutches for the next week or so.
Final tip on training:
11. Listen to your body. If your body hurts, listen. If your body is tired, listen. Don’t be the hero! There will be more races. I think that my body is trying to tell me that distance running isn’t for me right now, but I’m not sure. At least for now I plan to recover, gradually get back into some running and go from there. I know that missing a week of work and lying on my couch is definitely not where I want to find myself again in the near future.
Good luck to all of you runners who are training. Just remember to follow the plan and listen to your body. You can do it! I have once, and I may again, but as I said… anything can happen and your body knows you best