My Super Sweet 13(.1)

A 1st Half Marathon

13 Days Until… (The Last Long Run)

Just keep running. You'll get there... wherever your "there" might be, you'll get to it:)

Two weeks from today, I will be lining up to compete in the Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon! All the training – since December! – is now coming to an end. We did our last long run today (it rained at the end – I missed the Blue Mile Group Run by about a minute because I got up too late, but I ran anyway – solo runs are still my favorite thing); from here to the mini will be tapered runs. I enjoy the long runs more that I ever thought I would – you get to mile 2 and you find a stride, and by mile 5 you’re groovin’, then, for me, the 7th mile is when I finally let my inner thoroughbred out of the gate (hey, it’s the Derby miniMarathon – I can throw in horse metaphors:)). I’m looking forward to the end of training, if only for the reason that I’d like to do things other than run for exercise. I still do yoga, and I hit the gym once a week to cross-train and do my weight training, but I do miss more flexibility in my routine. But man, running has become quite addictive. I definitely don’t want to stop after this miniMarathon – I would like to do a full marathon (I have a dream) at some point, and I would love to run some races in other cities; the Cooper River Run in Charleston, as well as the Reedy River 10k in Greenville, and a Tough Mudder or similar would be nice to do. So would the half marathon part of Cincinnati’s Flying Pig Event. Oh, ach du liber – I resolve to keep running.

Today’s long run was pretty good, though I’m plenty sore from it – I did about 9 miles, meaning my longest run actually came in the form of the Papa John’s 10 Miler. I noticed today that I’d gotten faster – it used to take me about 55 minutes to get from the Blue Mile Highlands store through Cherokee Park to the edge of Seneca Park, but today it didn’t even take 45 minutes. While running along this morning, I thought today about stuff I’ve learned while training for this half that I think is worth sharing. Other than food that I find conducive to good health and good runs, here are the top five things I’ve learned while training:

1. Listen while you train. Then stretch.
Is your right knee acting up? Are your hips really tight at the end of a run? Are you stopping to stretch your left calf, which has gotten too tight to keep going? Are you getting an ache in your lower back? Listening to your body while you run really helps you know what to stretch (you should aim for the whole body, but doing “square pose” is likely a must, as well as anything that loosens up your hamstrings) when you’re done with your run. You can do yoga, you can do other regular P.E. stretches, you can get a foam roller, grab a sports massage – but make sure you are noticing what is aching and tight and address it and be gentle with yourself. A friend of mine ignored a bad knee and had to drop out of a race he’d been training for because the knee just gave out in mile one. Don’t hurt yourself. Stretch.

2. Cut to your core.
Your running posture, stride, and whole body will thank you for doing core work. Any type will do, vary it up – I do hula-hooping, I work on an exercise ball, I do Pilates, etc. – but take really good care of your core. Keeping yourself upright will help your with your breathing, and keeping your stomach tucked in while you run will also help your lower back. Running does work your whole body, but I’ve found that doing extra core work makes my run much stronger.

3. Steady as she goes.
If you’ve been running for a while, you probably know this one, but as a beginner writing for beginners, I can’t stress enough how important it is to find what I call “gorilla pace”; it’s a sort of lumbering jog, with loose arms and light feet, that makes me feel like I’m barely running, but keeping that pace through about 1/2 of a long race ensures that I can speed up and go hard the other half. You don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot by racing off at your fastest pace from the starting line – take it easy and let your mind and body adjust to running, especially at races.

4. Get some gear.
I don’t mean the latest app for running or a GPS watch or any of that. What I’m talking about is shoes. And then grab some good stuff for different weather conditions; running leggings make an hour run in 18 degree (F; -7 C) a lot easier, and a moisture-wicking tank with movement panels makes a long warm run hella more comfotrable. But shoes are the most important thing. Invest. Ask questions. Run a little in them. They don’t have to be the coolest looking shoes, they need to be the best shoes for you. You might still get a blister or two (I have a hellish blood blister right now, and I got my shoes in February) because you are running and on your feet all the time. So take care of your machine and outfit yourself – the machine – properly.

5. Play!
Do interval training (or fartleks as the running magazines say – a Swedish word for intervals) and go up hills. Go on a long flat run and run a shorter, hillier one later. Walk a little. Sprint. Do side-winder steps up a hill when no one is looking (or when they’re looking, who cares?). Do a football crawl (bend knees 90 degrees, put chest to thighs and step feet together-feet-apart, keeping low) for five minutes, then break into a jog. Run on trails. Make sure you turn in different directions if you have to go on the same loop – sometimes turn left when you start, sometimes turn right. By keeping your run fun, you keep enjoying running, I think. Also, don’t forget to cross-train. It really helps your body get used to the training you’re doing on the road. I never ran on the treadmill while training, and I don’t recommend it unless you must; running on the road works your legs far better for longer courses, and you need to get used to the elements – sun, bugs in the mouth, rain, etc.

These past couple of weeks (I skipped a week, sorry!) were good. I didn’t run on Wednesday because I was really tired (pollen? end-of-semester chaos? who knows…) but I did all my other runs and added five minutes to each of them, except the 45 minutes after the 10 miler – I did 35 and called it a day ’cause I was still sore – and I’ve been yogaing and gymming. I’m feelin’ strong and excited for the miniMarathon – it’s almost here!

Happy Running!

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