As promised yesterday, here is my Guide to Running a Half Marathon for NonAthletes. Because we hold this truth to be self-evident: If I can do this, you can too.
(Remember, my sport of choice in high school = piano.)
So here are a few tips that washed up the shore of my conscious mind during the two hours and thirty one minutes it took me to run the Livestrong Half Marathon on Sunday. I hope they help you, because next year, I'd like some company: YOU!
1. The reason I got into this foolishness in the first place was that I needed a goal that had nothing to do with my darling children. Something with a logical algorithm: Hard work -----> Measurable, Obvious Results. I recommend this practice for all adults, but especially for full-time moms. MAKE A SPECIFIC GOAL. Write it down. Tell your friends and family, so you'll feel embarrassed if you back out.
2. Find a group. I trained every Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. with Austin Fit, where no one cared that I'd never run long distances before and had no idea what GU and Shot Blox were. If you lived in another town, search the Web, flip through a local magazine, or ask your athletic friends for a recommendation. The group provides support, momentum (most of us can run much farther in the company of others), information, and accountability. Austin Fit had a weekly schedule with three short runs we did on our own and then our longer group run on the weekend. Which brings me to ...
3. Have a schedule. Do you think I ever felt in the mood to run? Ha! Guess again. But I knew if I skipped my individual runs, I'd be lagging way behind during the Saturday group run. And if I missed or couldn't keep up with the Saturday run, I wouldn't be in shape for the half marathon. I didn't have years of stored-up running energy to fall back on. Every run counted. See how the goal, the group, and the schedule all work together?
4. Don't be afraid to walk. We always trained in intervals: run a while, walk a bit. My pace group did one minute of walking for five minutes of running. I completed the race in similar fashion. When I mentioned this to a friend, she responded with amazement, "OH! You mean you're not constantly running? Well, maybe I COULD do this." So now I'm telling it to you, too.
5. Build muscle with weight training. I probably could have saved myself considerable grief with my IT Band / knee if I had, well, more of a butt. (Hey, maybe my jeans would fit better too!) Running doesn't really build muscle, but weights too, and building muscle helps with endurance and injury prevention. I started weight training a bit late. Don't be me.
6. Surround yourself with plenty of cute cheerleaders! Like the runners, they come in all ages, shapes and sizes.
7. The best time to start is always the present, not tomorrow. We all have a million reasons not to tackle a goal like this. Back in August, I could barely run a mile without stopping. And I wish I had a bar of chocolate for everyone who's said to me: "Oh, I can hardly run around the block!" We define ourselves so often by what we think we can't do. But listen, as I surveyed my co-racers on Sunday, I saw all ages, shapes, and sizes. None of us were the cheetahs or even the loping gazelles out there. We just wanted to finish. And we did. You can too.
Or if it's not a half marathon, what is that crazy goal for you?