I realized a year ago when I started training for my third Half Marathon that I’m really no newbie when it comes to running. Despite my lack of prowess or natural talent, I’ve been doing it a long time.
I’ve learned a few things along the way. The hard way. In the spirit of “if you can’t be a role model, then serve as a warning” here are the less-than-stellar moments of my running career:
- Starting out too fast. Everyone says they won’t start out too fast, everyone does it. Everyone. At least once. Possibly every race. I don’t – not anymore. I’m joyously starting at the back of the pack, running negative splits (first half slower than the last) and passing people eventually. I still have to resist the urge to surge at the start line though. Having a Garmin GPS-enabled sport watch to tell your pace helps stick with my race strategy, I’m so grateful I got one for Christmas last month!
- Undertraining. You’ve found Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon training plan on the Runner’s World web site? Go for it. Do. Not. Miss. Workouts. Leading up to my first and second Halfs, I only “half”-assed followed the plan I was on. Speed workouts? “Meh, that’s hard, I’ll do it next week.” Mid-week tempo runs? “Oh too bad I didn’t get up early enough, I’ll just do a 40-minute run then get to work.” Come race day I felt it. During my first Half Marathon, my SI joint seized after the first 5K. When people asked me how the run felt, I laughed it off: “Only the last 10 miles were painful.” They needn’t have been.
- Underfueling. During my second Half Marathon, I carried nothing with me. I took some water at the stations, that was it. No gatorade, no energy gels. The first 10-15 K were fine, but the last part of the race was pure hell: I had simply run out of gas. I watched my friends down gummy bears and gels, and refused their offers to share. Then I watched them pull away from me at the 15K mark while I struggled to keep the pace. You simply can’t run for more than 2 hours without refueling along the way.
- Changing your diet the night before a race. The day before I ran a 15K – my first – I decided I needed more fibre in my diet and ate two or three kiwi fruit with rye crackers for a before-bed snack. This was in the days before race directors’ S.O.P. was to rent port-a-potties and place them along the route. The “runner’s trots” threatened that whole race, most of which was through parkways and along a highway (believe me if I’d run past a house I would have knocked on a door and asked to use the bathroom). I actually finished (dead last) – dogged stubborn determination not to be humiliated by a DNF (Did Not Finish) got me there. I must have looked hilarious: running while trying to hold in a bowel movement.
- Wearing brand-new shoe inserts for a 2+ hour run. OK I didn’t do this; my friend did while we were training for the marathon last year. She was excited when she showed up for our Saturday morning run through Vic West, across the Esquimalt Lagoon, up to Royal Roads University, winding our way back again to Spinnakers on the waterfront. “Look at these new inserts, I think they’ll help with my hip pain,” she said. “Um – have you tried them out yet on a shorter run?” I asked. “No, not yet,” she said as she slipped them into her shoes straight out of the package. “Are you sure that’s a good idea? We’re running an awfully long way today if they don’t work out.” I said. “I’ll be fine,” she said: famous last words. I saw the blister afterward and I can’t believe she finished the run. Dogged stubborn determination, right?