Your new favorite race distance

This blog entry is in participation with Take It and Run Thursday at Runner’s Lounge.

Yes… It’s been a week since I posted.  I wish I had tons of good news, but unfortunately, not so much…

Anyway, I had to post to this one because after having run a race at every distance up to and including marathon, I have to say that half marathons are my favorite distance.  I ran 3 of them last year and enjoyed each one more than the last.  So here are my suggestions for making this your new favorite race.

Preparation:

One of the things that makes a half such an appealing race is that it allows you to “git yo respek” from the run community without having to sacrifice huge amounts of time to long, long… long distance runs (did I mention they were long?).  If you have a good base to start with (a long run of… say 5 miles a week and a total mileage of 20 or so a week), you should be able to build your self up to half marathon distance in as little as 6 weeks (your mileage may vary, consult your body for details, not valid with some body types…).  My first half was run as a part of my marathon training and I did it having run half marathon distance only once and was averaging about 30 miles a week with my Saturday runs being 10-13 miles.  The point of all this being that you can set a realistic schedule around a half marathon.

Long run:

If you can swing it, you should try to do at least one run of longer than half marathon distance before your first race.  Mostly for psychological reasons (like around mile 9 when you want to quit and you can say to yourself “C’mon… I’ve been WAY farther than this…!”)  I got one 15 mile run in before my first half and it REALLY helped my confidence.

Race prep:

Even though this is not a “Marathon”, it IS a long race.  Let’s face it.  MOST of us are going to be out there at least 2 hours.  Sports medicine specialists say that once you pass that point (2 hours), you need to carry fuel with you to eat DURING your run.  Practice drinking and eating on the run.  Whether it’s GU packs or peanut butter sandwiches (yes, I tried that… with some success), you HAVE to refuel or you will bonk.

Race day:

DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING!!!!  The tendency is to start the celebration a bit early, but you should eat (and drink… heh…) only those things you are used to.  Worst case scenario is to eat a fancy dinner and have a bottle of wine the night before a race and then unleash hell on yourself, the course, and your fellow competitors at about mile 7 the next day.

When the gun goes off:

Start SLOW!!!  You are going to be PUMPED.  Save some of it for the end.  REALLY try to focus on nailing those first few mile times dead on your planned pace.  If you are a bit slow, GREAT!  …but you won’t be…  What you don’t want to do is take off with the crowd.  In fact, it’s better to sit back and watch them go.  Don’t worry, you will be seeing most of them again later…

Miles 3-6:

Relax and settle in.  Enjoy the scenery, hydrate if you feel the need.  Plan your victory dance, etc.  STAY ON PACE.  You should be warm by now.  Enjoy the ride!

Miles 7-10:

Resist the urge to think negative.  This is usually the mileage that makes you question your sanity (“What the HELL was I thinking???”).  Stay focused here.  It’s hard to concentrate this long.  HYDRATE and eat if you can.

The home stretch:

STAY ON PACE!!  Where, in the beginning, you were trying to reign in all that energy, now you must fight the urge to ease up.  Yes, it hurts.  Yes, you are hot, cold, sweaty, sore, whatever.  You’ve only got 5K to go.  Complain when you get there.

The finish:

Smile for the cameras!!  Raise your arms and dance like you won it!!  Then walk.  DON’T STOP!!!  You will seize up and be miserable.  Keep drinking and eat a little if you can.

…Oh… and don’t forget your medal!!!

Have fun…!

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4 Responses to Your new favorite race distance

  1. Nat says:

    I too have had issue with the “go slow” part of the equation. (And the food, it’s hard to eat “normally” on the road. So I have to eat crappy food before my long runs.

    Pizza here we come!

  2. Tom says:

    Great post, Bob. You made me feel I was right there with you running a smart HM.

    It’s impossible to over emphasize to any runner–beginner or veteran–the importance of starting out slowly.

    Thanks.

  3. Betsy says:

    “Dance like you won it” is outstanding advice.

  4. Karl says:

    Great post! It’s always a great reminder to start slow. It’s way to tempting to try to be in near the front of the pack at the start. I always need to remind myself that if I line up at the back I’ll wind up passing more runners eventually…which is a great morale boost on long runs. Keep up the good work and good luck this year!

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