As you know, I ran my first half marathon two weeks ago. It was amazing yet scary, exhilarating yet exhausting. I never imagined that running 23km would stir up quite so many emotions, but it did. If I’m being completely honest, I’m not a natural runner. I would describe myself as more of a plodder; I literally pound the pavements without any semblance of grace, as fellow runners pass me by with their gazelle-like movements, clocking up twice the miles that I do in half the time. But despite all of this, I’m still glad I did it, so much so that I’ve signed up to do it all over again next year. I even picked learned a few lessons along the way, that I thought I’d share with you today. If you’re thinking of running a race of any sorts, I hope this amateur’s guide will help you in some way, even if it’s just knowing that someone else has been there, done it and got the blisters.
1. Set realistic goals - Pick a race that will challenge you but is manageable and won’t leave you feeling overwhelmed. If you currently don’t run, pick a 5k local race to get you started and build on from there. I was already doing quite a lot of running when I signed up for the half marathon and was comfortably covering 10k twice a week, so I knew that a half marathon would be a good challenge without being overly ambitious.
2. Get a training plan - The internet is awash with training plans for every level of runner. Find one you like and don’t be afraid to tinker with it to suit your needs. Nobody knows your body better than you, which is why it’s important to tailor your plan.
3. Invest in the right kit - You don’t have to spend a fortune but there are certain things it’s worth paying a little more for. Unsurprisingly, trainers are a big one. I always run in Asics trainers. They’re mid-range on the price front, but incredibly durable and provide great support. Speaking of support, girls, a good sports bra is a must. My brands of choice are Shock Absorber and Freya. They’re not cheap but if there’s one area you really want to protect, that’s it.
4. Eat well, eat clean - You’d be forgiven for thinking that since you’re burning a heck of a lot of calories you can eat what you like. Sure, you can probably get away with eating a guilt free bar of chocolate safe in the knowledge you’ve just burned the best part of 1,000 calories, but it’s not going to do your body any favours. After running for long periods of time you need to feed your body highly nutritious food to help repair those muscles so you can stay on track with your training. One of my favourite post-run lunches is pictured above. Rye and pumpkin seed toast topped with houmous, an egg fried in coconut oil and a leafy spinach salad. It’s filling, nourishing and seriously tasty.
5. Stay motivated - It can be so hard to keep yourself going when you’re out running, which is why it’s a good move to have a little extra help. For me, that’s a strong playlist with lots of fast-paced, motivational songs. If you don’t like the idea of running to music, try audio books or podcasts. It’s amazing how quickly the time passes when you’re listening to a good book.
6. Taper your training - You must taper your training the week before the event. Do little by the way of strenuous exercise, eat well and get lots of sleep. The night before, avoid alcohol and think carefully about what you eat – the better you eat the better you will perform. I ate a homemade curry with chicken, greens and brown rice, which helped to give me the nutrition I needed for the following day.
7. Be organised - On the day of the run, be as organised as you can be. Have your kit laid out, know what you’re going to eat for breakfast, drink plenty of water and have your playlist organised. It will make the whole process less stressful and allow you to concentrate on your run, and of course the burger and beer you will have earned at the end of it.
8. Be kind to yourself - This is the most important thing to remember. As with everything in life, you’ll have good days and bad days. Some runs will just work, you’ll clear a great time and you’ll feel invigorated. But there will also be the times when your feet blister, your legs hurt and your time takes a beating. Those runs are most certainly disheartening but try not to dwell on it. Get back out there and you’ll find your next run will be far better than the last one.
I’m by no means an expert, but I hope these tips are useful if you’re thinking of entering a running competition. Would you add any other pointers to this list?2 likes