Disneyland Half Marathon 2009 – my first 1/2 marathon.
I don’t claim to be a running expert. Heck, I’ve only been running for a little over 2 years. But to pass the time as I was running my last 1/2 marathon, I started composing a few tips to share with my fellow mother (and non-mother) runners. I’m sure there are far more comprehensive lists around the internets, but here are my random tips:
1. You can do it! Barring medical problems or serious physical injury, anyone can do a 1/2 marathon. Even if you can barely run down the street right now, you could be ready to run 13.1 miles in 6 months….if you wanted to. If you are already running up to 3 miles now, you could be ready in less than 4 months…if you wanted to. Not saying it wouldn’t take hard work. It would. But you could do it. So stop saying you could never do it. You may not want to do it, but you could.
2. Mark your calendar. Once you’ve decided to train for a 1/2 marathon, make/pick a training plan. Schedule runs in your planner, online calendar, phone organizer, whatever. If you don’t have it on your schedule, training will surely get bumped for “more important things”. I’ve found when I include training runs on my calendar, they carry more importance and I schedule around them. And be careful not to over train. In a good training week I only run 3 days a week, crosstrain 2-3 days (bike, swim, boot camp, etc) then rest 1-2 days.
3. Be flexible. Even with training runs on the calendar, expect that not many of your training runs will be done under perfect conditions. A mother’s life is all about juggling and changing plans. Kids get sick. Mom gets sick. PTA needs help. Baby is up all night. Weather turns bad. Husband has to work late. Don’t bail on your training because you can’t do it perfectly. If I waited to train until I could do it perfectly, I’d be waiting a very long time. Sometimes you’ll have to bail on a run, but sometimes you just have to be creative. For example, I calculated that 8 laps around our cul de sac equals one mile. I once ran 6 miles around that circle while my kids played out front. Another example: on a day when I supposed to do an 8 mile run, plans changed and I had all 4 kids home. It would have been easy to bail, but instead I decided to throw 2 kids in the jogger and the other 2 on bikes, knowing full well we’d have to stop at the playground and a few other points on the route to keep everyone happy. Was it the perfect 8 mile training run? Nope. In fact we only made it 6 miles. But it was better than nothing.
4. Training runs are not just for running. Use your training runs to experiment with hydration, nutrition, & clothing. By your last, long run, you should know exactly what you are going to wear, eat, and drink during the race.
5. Look good, run good. There are a number of things to think about when picking your running outfit. While comfort is obviously important, wearing something that helps you stand out in the crowd makes it easier for your cheering section to see you. Of course I opt for the Sparkle Athletic Running Skirt.
6. Set a goal. Set a realistic but attainable goal and don’t be afraid to change your goal during training or even the race. Towards the end of the training for my first 1/2 marathon, it was clear I hadn’t been getting in the miles I needed to meet my original goal. I had not anticipated how hard it was going to be to train through the summer with my kids all home from school (I had not yet become creative-training-mother-runner I am now). So, I decided to set a more realistic goal for myself. Don’t be afraid to raise the bar either.
7. Listen Up. If you must to music while you run, opt for one bud in, one bud out or else you’ll miss the cheers of the crowd and the camaraderie of the other runners. And those are two of the best parts of the race.
8. Don’t underestimate the power of a cheering section. Hopefully you can talk family and friends into coming to the race. While they will want to see you at the finish line, I think the most important place to have a cheering section is 1.5-2 miles from the finish. That’s usually where you are really starting to feel it & the extra encouragement really helps you over the hump as you charge to the finish. Here is where wearing a stand-out outfit can also help. Eye catching attire can help you win the cheers of strangers in the crowd along the entire race route.
9. Find a Buddy. Running with a friend is fun and motivational. If you don’t have a friend to race with, don’t be afraid to chat it up with a stranger running near you. A friend made during the race can be just as fun and motivational.
10. Stay on Pace. If you decide to run with a pace group, don’t be afraid to run right up to the front of the group and introduce yourself to the pacer. Their job is to help you stay on pace and they can do their job better if they know you by name and know you want to finish with them. My last 1/2 marathon was a perfect example of this.
11. Just breathe. When you feel like you want to stop, concentrate on taking long, deep breaths, relax your shoulders, and soak it all in. You’ll be surprised how you can run straight through those walls and come out on the other side feeling good again.
12. Post Race Food. If you need something to take your mind of pain or discomfort during the race, brainstorm what you’d like to eat post-race. Then follow through after the race. I’d recommend stuffed french toast, a side of hash browns and a tall orange juice. But that’s just me.
13.1. A Word of Warning. Half Marathons are the gateway drug to full marathons. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.
See, I told you they were random. Feel free to add your own randomness. I look forward to it.
P.S. Here are a few of my favorite running products ranging from totally practical to unbelievably motivational:
1. Run Like a Mother – the book. It’s funny, it’s motivational and it’s full of super helpful tips for moms who run. It’s total nightstand material for any mama who runs.
2. Run Like a Mother (the book) witty running shirts. Personally, I like the one that says “Are my kids still chasing me?” And after my recent battle with the Baby Blues, “The more I run, the less I want to run away” is especially poignant as well.
3. Yurbuds – I don’t know what it is about my ears, but I could never find a pair of earbuds that would stay put while running, until Todd got me a pair of Yurbuds. They are personally sized and they totally work. In fact, at the end of a run, when I go to pull them out, I often yank the earphone out while the bud piece stays put inside my ear.
4. Nuun Hydration & U-Hydration tablets – I love Nuun for the electrolyte replacement I desperately need while running & the delicious, light, flavors encourages me to drink enough to keep properly hydrated which, as a breastfeeding-mother-runner, is uber important to me.
5. KT Tape. This stuff has gotten me through numerous running injuries from shin splints to ankle pain to an achilles strain. And because I don’t really know how kinesiology works, I’ll just say it’s magic.
6. Team Sparkle Skirt. I NEVER wear anything glittered or rhinestoned in real life, but I HAVE to sparkle when I run. It’ll take your race to a whole new level. I promise.
7. Words to Sweat By towels. No matter your athletic leanings (even Zumba), there’s a towel ready to motivate you to sweat and mop it up afterwards. My favorite: “No Excuses.” Reminds me of the mantra I say when I come up with excuses: “But it doesn’t matter.”
8. Bondi Bands – I picked up my first Bondi Band at the San Diego Marathon Expo. At 16 weeks pregnant and getting ready to run my second marathon, when I saw the one that said “Run Like a M*ther” I was sold. Not only do they make a statement, their wicking fabric keeps hair and sweat out of your eyes. No matter what your sport (spinning to snowboarding) or your cause (cancer to cupcakes) there is a Bondi Band made just for you.