I flirted with being a “runner” my whole life, but during my Junior year of college I decided to make it official and run a half marathon. I was ambitious, eager and super nervous, and in my efforts to get the best time I could, I actually ended up making a lot of mistakes.
Since then, I’ve run more races, made more mistakes and noticed some downfalls of the people training around me. Here’s what I learned to not do along the way:
1. Talking about the race too much
It is one thing to be proud of a totally awesome accomplishment, it is another to put a bumper sticker on everything you own – and even worse, a metaphorical bumper sticker on your forehead. Even though training may end up taking over a lot of your time, it shouldn’t take over your whole life (see #2) and it especially shouldn’t take over every conversation. Unless you’re talking to another enthusiastic runner, keep in mind most people don’t need to know the nitty gritty of your training program.
2. Trying to balance it all
I admit that I am epitomizing the idea of #firstworldproblems, but balancing normal work life, social life and exercise life can be hard. Know that you will have to skip a few outings, and that is ok. I drove myself into the ground trying to stay out with my friends and then also wake up early to go for a long run; looking back on it I would have been much better off getting the sleep I needed and being a fun, energetic companion fewer times then a pooped-out polly all the time.
3. Wearing old gear
Just because you can wear shoes for a 5 mile run does not mean they can withstand 13.1 miles at an accelerated pace – invest in a good pair of running shoes and wear them for at least two long runs before race day to make sure they are comfortable and don’t cause blisters. Also, leggings that breathe and a shirt that doesn’t rub are so important. It sounds a little lame, but for my next races I tested out what I thought I was going to wear race day during my long runs to make sure that everything was comfy even at mile 10, and I was so happy I did.
4. Eating too close to a run
Probably self-explanatory, but there were a few times I tried to squeeze in training runs right after dinner and it did not end well. Runner’s diarrhea is a real problem (if you want to be grossed out today, see evidence here), so make sure that you pay attention to what and when you eat as food moves quickly for athletes in training.
5. Training at weird times
Sometimes you have to train at random times throughout the day to fit in your training regimen, but as much as possible try to run at the time the race will be. Getting used to your morning routine before a long run will help you mentally on race day and result in less obstacles to worry about.
6. Not resting
I have a bit of an obsessive personality, so when I commit to training for something, I train hard. Resting is really hard for me, but listening to my body and giving it the building time it needed was key in improving my times and mental state. Try practicing yoga or going for a walk on your “rest” days if you’re feeling antsy.
7. Going crazy on a pre-race meal
Don’t carbo load like a crazy person (save that for treating yo’self post-race). Listen to your body. Give it what you need and what you’re used to. Think fuel! Runner’s World addressed the question of fueling before a race on the night before and day-of.
8. Not caring about how I looked
This is going to sound extremely vain, but there are a lot of pictures that come out of races, whether from the professional photographer or with friends, and you’ll likely want to share them. Put on your favorite outfit so you can proudly proclaim #nofilterneeded.
9. Insisting it wasn’t a big deal
Never say that it’s not a big deal because it isn’t a marathon. Remember, 13.1 is still a lot of miles and is still way more than the average person does on their Saturday morning.
A half marathon should be a fun challenge. There is no reason to stress about your pace during the race. I wish that I focused more on being in the moment then worrying about my time.
11. Going too fast at the beginning
Crossing over the start line is exhilarating, but don’t forget you have 13.1 miles to go. Stay with your pace group and move up after a few miles if you’re still feeling the adrenaline.
12. Wearing fancy layers
It is a long race, so your body temp, and potentially even the temperature outside, will vary. Wear cheap layers that you can strip off and not worry too much if they’re never found again. My hands get hold really easily so I usually wear a pair of cheap cotton gloves from Walgreens that I can throw off a few miles in.
13. Leaving too quickly post-race
Enjoy your accomplishment, you earned it! Make sure to walk around the race vendors and stretch your legs … your muscles will thank you.