And I ran, and ran, and ran.

This past Saturday, December 6th, 2014 I did something that I honestly would have never bet any money on happening. I ran my first half-marathon. And yes, I did say first. Because as badass as I felt the moment I finished? I will definitely be doing another.

Keep in mind, that for the first 18 years of my life I couldn’t run a mile. I remember the first time I ran a mile without stopping – I was 22. So this was a huge personal challenge for me. I picked the Trackshack OUC Half Marathon in downtown Orlando, FL. I wanted a smaller race that wouldn’t be so crazy as some of the disney ones are. I was terrified the night before. And terrified the morning of. And as soon as I started running, all the nerves left and I just went!

Now before running this race, I wasn’t naive. I did my due diligence. I researched, and read, and planned. I saw plenty of good advice. Plenty of (what sounded like) bad advice. And everything in between. I had a training plan and did my best to follow what I assumed would be the right path. And I’m sure for someone out there, what I did would have been perfect. But let me tell you, you will learn things about yourself on race day that you never knew before. Your body will do things you’re not expecting. And you might just be surprised at exactly what you’re capable of! Looking back on it, I have a few tips for any first time runner that might just save you a cramp or bad split or two.

Morgan’s post-half marathon tips:

1. Train longer than you think you need to, but don’t beat yourself up if you miss a run or two. The more you train, the more prepared your body will be, the lower your risk of injury. But if you wake up one day and think “I cannot put on those shoes right now” – then don’t. And don’t beat yourself up about it! A good friend who’s run many more races than I have had to remind me this isn’t work, it’s fun. So listen to your body.

2. Eat carbs. You need energy. Carbs give you energy. Period. The race week food might have been my favorite part of this whole thing. PASTA!

3. Be realistic. I trained at 10-minute miles and ran slower than that. And that’s ok. It’s probably why I finished successfully! Which leads me to my next tip…

4. If they have pace groups, join one! I was running alone. Training alone sucked, but I needed to make sure I didn’t get caught up in the hype of race day. I’m not the best pacer, so leaving that to someone else felt like a good idea. I joined the 2:30 pace group which was below my training pace but I figured would be a great start for me. I met some great people and the pacer was very experienced and offered great motivation and advice throughout the race. That advice came in handy when I learned how to …

5. PINCH THE CUP. this seems minimal, but you need to learn how to use the water stops. That might mean walking through it. That might mean learning to run and drink. And if you choose the run option, you pinch the cup in to make a narrow spout to avoid drowning in your water cup. Trust me.

6. Your elbows will be sore after the race. 2+ hours of flexing them results in sore elbows. There may be other random parts too. For me it was my traps and one tow on my left foot. Regardless, prepare for some weird soreness and don’t slack on your posture EVER.

7. Don’t be surprised if you do something amazing on race day! You could wind up way fast. You could talk through the first 7 miles (like I did). Enjoy and embrace it. 🙂

There’s way more that I could tell you (and trust me, I’ve made many friends sit through a play-by-play). But bottom line, if you want to do it do it. You really can. I’m planning to do at least one next year and if all works out as planned maybe a destination race in 2016. I mean really, what better way to see Paris than running?

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