Spoiler alert: It was not quickly. If training “hacks” or tips are what you’re looking for, this post isn’t that. I played the long game, and I’ll be successful because I wanted to earn it, and I put in the work.
I haven’t run my half marathon yet, but I am 100% confident that eight days from today I will, and it will go smoothly. My body will hurt, my mind will get tired, but I will finish and my time will be decently average. Everything I read when I first started researching runs was that the goal of your first race should be to finish. Just to finish. And honestly, that’s great advice and an amazing goal. Typically I function from a fairly competitive standpoint and this would never be good enough for me. It’s just too low a benchmark. Finishing is fine, but beating my previous time on each training run is better. Finishing the half marathon in record time (for me) is the only way to do my best. These are the thoughts I’ve battled over the last six months I’ve trained to be a “runner” – The real accomplishment I’ve found is in quieting those thoughts and learning to settle into the discomfort week after week, keeping a steady pace straight to the finish.
I started training mid October as a post-wedding fitness goal. Up until our wedding I had been weight lifting six days a week for about a year with the goal of muscle-building and body re-composition. It was working well but I was on the verge of burnout from that routine so I knew I needed to change my goals. The idea of a half marathon popped into my head – something completely foreign to me. I hadn’t run more than a few miles at a time ever. If I did, it was in sprint/walk intervals with absolutely no emphasis on pace, form, or long-distance endurance. Or it was with one of my dogs, casual with rest breaks as needed. At one point all cardio was cut out of my routine entirely so I wouldn’t burn off my hard-earned muscle, and I rejoiced. Just the thought of running took me back to elementary and middle school track team. I was taller than everyone, with the longest legs. My dad thought that meant I should be fast so I’d run short and mid-distance races, miserable because I really wasn’t fast. I’d dread relays, always feeling like I’d let my team down. Turns out I would’ve been much better at something like cross-country but that never seemed like an option to me. Finding self-discipline and learning to quiet your mind just for the sake of being a better person weren’t big in middle school sports. Winning was, from what I can remember.
I rested for about a week after we got back from our honeymoon and then I began. I asked my clients who had run a half marathon how they trained, and eventually I liked one of the plans. It was a six week training plan, which I knew for me would be misery. I believe with every fiber in my being that you can train your body to do almost anything if you can get your mind right. So yes, I could’ve trained for six weeks instead of six months, but I was interested in taking my time to enjoy the process, hopefully not getting injured, and finishing. I never doubted that I could do it, but I did have an expectation for how difficult it would be. It’s funny how our minds create a completely fabricated gauge of how “hard” something will be even though we’ve never done it before, and really have no idea. That just goes to show that retraining your mind in the other direction (to be positive) can be just as big a factor in your success as actually putting in the physical work to get there. If you tell yourself it will be impossibly hard, it will be. If you tell yourself it will be difficult at times, but you’ll do it. You will. It’s that simple, almost always.
Every time I have a new goal that I want to pursue, but that scares me, I say it out loud so I can’t take it back. From the universe, from myself, and from other people – it’s a real, tangible thing once it’s outside myself. I’m also the type of person that has to complete a goal once I tell other people about it. I have to follow through and be held accountable, otherwise your words start meaning nothing. So I started telling people I was running a half marathon. Not “I want to” or “I might” or “I’m going to try to” but “I am.” I like to set my intention early. I’m going to put in the work and time necessary to actually do this. Excuses don’t exist. With the exception of injury, if I don’t complete this it’s because I didn’t really want to, period. And I’m the only one to blame.
I decided that I would run each segment of the training plan for six weeks each, and instead of running four days a week, I’d run three, omitting the long run until I got closer to my half marathon. Once this became “easy” I’d run the next segment for only four weeks. For example, “Week 1” which consists of a three mile, four mile, another three mile, and a seven mile long run, I’d run for six weeks in a row but do only the 3, 4, 3. And in the beginning, this was difficult. I had to stop and walk during my first few weeks of running three and four miles at a time, and I’d let myself. My mindset was: Do your best and it’ll get easier. Don’t cheat yourself out of running, but also don’t kill yourself. Stay consistent. This seemed to work for me and eventually I’d walk less and less, and then not at all. Once I was done with my first six week segment of running three times a week, I could complete all my runs without stopping.
The six weeks after that I began “Week 2” which was a 4, 5, 3. At the end I was completely capable of cutting the rest of my segments down to four week plans. From there on out that’s what I did. Each “Week” of the chart essentially represented a month of training time to me, but I only ever did three runs a week so I could incorporate lifting and Pilates on other days. After I completed the “Week 3” segment in four weeks, I decided if I could run six miles, I could definitely run seven, or eight, or more. So I moved into week 4 and 5 segments running two short runs and one long run instead, increasing incrementally to eight miles. I did this until I hit the real marker for six weeks out and then I’d complete the actual chart as intended. And that’s exactly what I did, and what I’m currently doing.
I understand that this is a lot of information. And honestly, I had no idea what I was doing when I began. All I knew was that if I had a plan I’d stick to it, and if I did that, I’d eventually get to a half marathon. I used the run chart as my guide and expanded on it in ways that I thought were reasonable. I also knew that spreading everything out over six months would make it nearly impossible to fail, and would make it less likely that I’d get injured. I went into it knowing not to rush myself, but just to let the process get me there. I broke the big goal up into a ton of miniature goals.
Below you will find my actual training plan:
Week 1-Week 6: 3 Mile / 4 Mile / 3 Mile
Week 7-Week 12: 4 Mile / 5 Mile / 3 Mile
Week 13-Week 16: 3 Mile / 6 Mile / 3 Mile
Week 17- Week 20: 4 Mile / 5 Mile / 7 Mile
Week 21- Week 24: 3 Mile / 4 Mile / 8 Mile
Week 25-Week 30: Use running chart exactly, as pictured above.
Tomorrow I have my last long run before the race – eleven miles, and I’m ready. Last week I ran a Ten-miler, and a total of 22 miles. That was my hardest week physically. I got sore and tired, my hips were aching, my hamstrings started to burn, and my pinky toes blistered. But mentally I felt dialed-in. Ready to run as much as necessary. Understanding of the fact that my mind will attempt to throw in the towel long before my body does. And after I meet this fitness goal, I’ll move on to another, but that blog is for another day.
1) Find a shoe that works for you. I was fortunate enough to have already found my favorite running shoes. Adidas Swift Runs. I was open to the idea of needing to change them, but as my runs got longer my shoes were just as comfortable, and my feet were almost never sore. I didn’t get a blister until I ran 22 miles in a week. If this isn’t the case for you, go to an expert at a run shop and have them assist you in finding shoes that work for you.
2) Supplements aren’t necessary, but they certainly help. I drink BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) before every run. They help me maintain my energy level, and aid in muscle recovery and soreness. I use the brand Truth Nutrition currently.
3) Know your physique goals going in and eat accordingly. I knew that I had worked extremely hard to build muscle prior to this race and didn’t want to lose it all. I also know that on average I’m burning about 100 calories per mile of running. On a ten mile run day, that’s 1,000 calories EXTRA that I’m burning. So, I’d eat at least 1,000 calories extra that day to make sure to not lose weight. And I will say this has been amazingly enjoyable and effective. I’m certain that my lower body has actually never looked better. I’ve definitely eaten more vegan junk food than I typically would, but I still try to have most of my calories come from whole plant foods.
4) Stretch and diversify your workouts. During this whole training period I’ve prioritized Pilates, going to two or three classes per week. I’ve also made sure to weight train at least two days per week as well. I think this has been a huge key to my success, maintaining strength and increasing flexibility and movement.
5) Don’t just plan your run schedule, plan your weekly runs into your schedule so you actually do them. Then stick to your plan, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you have to miss a run. I try very hard to keep appointments with myself because I believe that is one of the major keys to success. If I didn’t schedule time to workout, or write, or read, or take clients I wouldn’t get much of anything done. So I keep my plans. But, I’m learning to be flexible when needed. For example, Kanan and I had a planned out of town trip during my training period. Did I stick to my run schedule during the week we were gone? No. But I went to the hotel gym and worked out, and I did a couple of hikes. I stayed active that way I could ease back into running when I returned. Each Sunday before my week starts I schedule all my workouts around all my other obligations that way I know exactly when I’m doing them. That way, unless there’s an emergency, if I don’t keep those appointments with myself it’s because it’s not important to me and I should reevaluate my priorities.