Running my first half-marathon

About a month ago, a friend of mine casually asked me if I wanted to run a half-marathon in December. My initial reaction was “no thanks,” but I didn’t rule it out completely. That question hung around in my head for the next day, so I decided to get up off the couch the next night and go running, just to see what kind of shape I was in. That first night was tough. I was huffing and puffing about two minutes into the run and when I got home I was drenched in sweat.

Fast forward a month later. Now I can very easily run one mile and a decent pace. In fact, that distance seems very short to me today. My average run is currently over two miles long. I’ve also ran a five, four, and multiple three mile runs, too. It’s really pretty neat to see so much progess in such a little time.

Because of this progress I went ahead and registered for the White Rock Half Marathon here in Dallas on December 14, which gives me plenty of time to train and get in good enough shape that I can aim for a good time. I also have a hole lot more energy in general and I’m sleeping better at night, too. It’s been a great month.

If you’re thinking about getting back into running and are like I was (not in good shape), I’ve learned a few lessons that you might find helpful.

1. Run slower than you think you should.
That first night that I went out to run the biggest mistake I made was running WAY TOO FAST. I’ve been used to playing sports where running fast in short bursts is the norm. But distance running is different, especially when you’re a novice like me. If you run too fast, too early you’ll wear yourself out to the point that you won’t be able to run fast, if at all, at the end of your run. For me I had to be satisfied with not having good times in running, since I was not in great shape. The faster times will come later, but when you’re getting started you just need to work your heart and lungs out and later you’ll be able to pick up the pace.

2. Get a good pair of running shoes.
One of the things that has kept me running this go around has been the fact that I actually bought a decent pair of shoes that are specifically running shoes. In the other times that I’ve ran I’ve just slapped on my everyday cross-trainers, but my feet and shins would always be so sore after a run or two that I would quit. I’ve been able to keep at it with my feet and legs feeling great afterward primarily because of the shoes that I wear.

3. Stretch before and after your runs.
Even though my shoes have helped with my legs feeling good after my runs, the day after the run for the first few times I went my calves and hamstrings would be sore. I didn’t figure it out at first, but then I realized that I was stiffening up after the run. Once I started stretching when I got home this went away. Don’t skip this part or you’ll regret it the next day.

4. Register for a race at a distance that seems VERY LONG.
While I have a lot of confidence in my ability to run distances now, there were plenty of times in the first two weeks that I did not feel like I could make it very far. The only thing that really kept me going was knowing the 13.1 miles is a lot farther than what I was running that day. I knew that the more I ran early on the better I would be when race day rolls around. Having the race looming over my head has also given me enough motivation to go out and run on the days that I really don’t feel like running. Whatever distance seems long, whether it’s a 5-K, 10-K, half marathon, or longer, sign up for a long run and you’ll find the motivation to get out there and train.

So there you have it. Those are the things I’ve learned so far. I’ll update my progress as it gets closer to race day.

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