If you’ve been keeping up with my latest posts and follow me on social media then you might know that I signed up for a half marathon which actually happened two weekends ago now. As it was my first ever half marathon and only my second ever organised run I thought I’d give you a little run down of how I found the overall experience.
So I signed up for my local run which is the Robin Hood Half Marathon alongside my brother and cousin. The main driving force behind this crazy decision was that we wanted to raise money for The Stroke Association which is a charity close to our hearts due to my Grandma passing away earlier this year after suffering her third stroke.
I found the overall experience ridiculously challenging and there were times I definitely anted to throw in the towel but the feeling of achievement when you pass that finish line is like no other, I can 100% see why people get addicted! If you’re a newbie like me who’s about to embark on their first half marathon then hopefully you’ll find this post useful!
From the day we signed up we had eight weeks of training time so had to go full steam ahead to make sure we were feeling prepped and ready on the day. My basic training plan was to head out for two shorter runs midweek which would range from 5K – 8K depending on how I was feeling and how much free time I had. At the weekend I would schedule in a longer run, usually on a Sunday morning. I started at about 8k and continued to add 2k each week until I reached 16k (10 miles) two weeks prior to the half marathon. In hindsight I wished I had increased this to 11 miles as I found the last 3 miles a real struggle on the day.
In terms of my diet I really didn’t switch things up too much apart from making sure I had a more substantial breakfast than my usual cereal bar. I added in a few more smoothies and on days when I was exercising I usually had some sort of protein bar as an afternoon snack. If I were to do it all again I’d definitely make sure to drink more water as this was one of my real downfalls and the last thing you want when you’re gearing up for a long run is to feel lethargic and dehydrated. A colleague of mine actually suggested using energy gels which isn’t something I’ve ever experimented with before but definitely something to keep in mind for next time!
The Night Before
The day before the main event my whole family descended on Nottingham, most of my attention was focused on being a good host so I didn’t have much time to think about prepping. In my head I thought I’d have done a good stretching session or maybe even headed to a yoga class at the gym but in reality I treated it as a total rest day. The only part of the day I really planned was to head to the local pub for tea. I’d put all my hopes in the fact that they’d have some sort of pasta dish on the specials menu but sods law that wasn’t the case. In the end I managed to order some pasta to go alongside my vegetarian meatballs after pretty much pleading with the waiter but in future I think I’d plan to eat at home and make a monster pasta bake!
On the day I was surprised to find that I woke up feeling like a bag of nerves. The race was due to start at 9:30am so an early rise was in order! I dragged myself out of bed around 7am had a quick shower to wake myself up, popped on my running kit and then tried to get two slices of peanut butter on toast with banana down me. Walking down to the start line it was a fairly chilly morning so hoodies were a necessity until we’d warmed up! We explored the race village for about 15 minutes, got some pictures and squeezed in a last minute toilet stop before heading to our pens to take our positions.
Now I’d heard on the grape vine that the route was a pretty flat one which I thought would be a real benefit for my first half marathon as I’m not used to running on inclines but I think the course changed this year and let me tell you, flat it was not! Within the first two/three miles we hit some serious hills and by this point the sun had started to show its face too which wasn’t particularly ideal. I tried to take things fairly steady so I didn’t tire myself out too early which I think was a sensible decision.
I was running on the day with my brother and cousin but we actually all ended up splitting up throughout the course. Although it was kinda sad that we didn’t end up doing it all together it was definitely necessary as we all run at completely different paces so it made sense to split up and all run our best times.
The crowd is a real contributing factor to motivation levels on the day and I felt pretty good up until the nine mile mark but that’s when things really started to hurt. I tend to get a sore knee and hip whilst running and it’s something I can usually take my mind off but on this occasion I just couldn’t. The last three miles were a struggle mentally as I just didn’t see myself getting to the finish line. There were so many times that I thought about slowing down to a walk but I managed to push on as I knew my family were waiting around the 12 mile mark and I definitely wanted to be able to run past them!
That was my main motivator to get to the end as once I passed them I knew it was only a mile left to go. But let me tell you, that was the longest mile of my life. It literally went on forever. Running the final stretch with the crowds cheering you on was such an amazing feeling and one I wish I could bottle up forever although if you were to see my face I’m not sure you’d have been able to tell I was happy! I passed the finish line, collapsed in a heap and got covered in one of those tin foil sheets you see all the athletes on the telly wearing. Very stylish.
I honestly can’t explain the feeling of achievement after crossing that line. A year and a half ago I probably couldn’t even run 5k so the thought that I just ran for 13 miles was insane. The moment when I met up with my family was amazing too and the fact my Grandad was there to see it all too was super special. It was a truly amazing day and if I could do it again I probably would do, pain and all!