The Half Marathon Guidebook

When you get out of college and into the working world, it can be tough on your personal health. Gone are the days of post lecture naps, mid day gym routines, and hangover less alcohol benders. Instead, most of us find ourselves coming home from a long work day, barely able to muster up the energy to decide between risking illness at Chipotle or swallowing an In n Out Burger whole.

You have two options at this point. You can let the slow, inevitable crawl to a dad bod envelope you in a pool full of shame and cheese sauce.  Or you can prolong this American rite of passage by committing yourself to a fitness goal. Fortunately, I chose the latter.

Back in 2014, I set out on a personal goal to run a half marathon. Since then, I’ve completed two half marathons, a few more competitive runs, and have successfully avoided looking like this. Here’s what I learned in the process:

Find Your App & Training Plan

There’s a ton of apps you can download to your smartphone. Personally, I use Runkeeper. You can cross reference your runs to see your improvements, however small, in time and distance. It also gives you updates on your average rate per mile and calories burned.

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Another great advantage to using an app is they have preset workout plans. Most plans involve a four-month training period, but may vary based on your timeframe. You don’t have to stick to them 100%, but they’re a great guidebook and can help you slowly increase your mileage from 2-3 miles per day all the way to 13.2 miles.

Get a Running Buddy

I’ve always been in fairly decent shape, but going from someone who goes to the gym a few times a week to running two hours straight is no joke. Luckily, I had two weak-minded friends that I convinced to join me in my foolish quest. We started a group chat, gave each other  It’s good to have friends.

Baby Steps

Look, it’s going to suck running hundreds of miles during training. There’s no way around it. Most of my first month I looked eerily similar to Andy Dwyer during my nightly runs. But you’ll slowly get better and take small victories in adding a few minutes or even a mile to your runs.

But it’s a hell of a lot easier if you do a few competitive runs along the way. Sign up for a 5K, 10K, or even a mud run. A few months before my half marathon, I did a practice run with my running buddy where we participated in a half marathon relay (#teamguylove). I did a 10K mud run with my other running buddy up north.

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Seconds before realizing we had nowhere to shower and a three hour drive home

It’s something that breaks up the monotony of your daily runs and also gives you some race day preparation. You get a test run weaving in and out of people like something out of the Lion King (RIP Mufasa).

Diet?

Come on, we’re not Olympians here. The glory of running is that you can be a glutton post workouts! I’d advise being a little more conscientious the week leading up to the race and doing the normal carbo-load the day before. But when you’re burning 1000 calories in a run, you can enjoy the hell out of some Epic Meal Time worthy feasts.

For my second half marathon, I actually lost a lot of weight. I’m a pretty healthy 160 pounds normally, but dropped to about 145 pounds by race day. It sucked. (Cue the collective eye roll from women). I know people’s metabolisms are all different, but I was definitely not taking in enough calories per day to offset my runs. I also wasn’t doing my normal weight lifting routine. It took a long time to get my muscle back. So if you’re all about getting yoked, be forewarned.

Race Day

Race day arrived in San Diego, CA. We all had a gallon of water the night before the race and queued up our playlists to distract us from the task ahead.  Luckily, your adrenaline kicks in on race day. Make sure you stick to your comfort zone of rate per mile. There are a few variables you probably haven’t accounted for – random hills, a dude next to you dribbling two basketballs the entire damn race – but roll with the punches.

Race day is actually a blast. There are people cheering you on, dressed in crazy outfits, and even a few offering tequila shots at water stands (tip: avoid at all costs). Believe it or not, you get a huge surge of adrenaline when you pass the checkpoints (also – “The Kenyans are drinking your beer” sign was a great motivator to keep pushing). Odds are, your training plan had you max out at 10 or 11 miles. The adrenaline can get you to push yourself past the finish line.

Though my buddies and I started the race together we eventually separated. I found a lot of strength in finding one or two runners going at my same pace and focusing on keeping stride with them for as long as possible.

The dreaded wall will hit you. For me, miles 7-8 were a huge struggle. But by focusing on small landmarks, your pace, and the old lady keeping stride next to you – you can get your second wind.  With hoards of people cheering you on and with the end in sight, you’ll be ready for your all out sprint. Having said that…

There Will Be Blood

I don’t care what health nuts say, the modern man isn’t supposed to endure 2 straight hours of running. For us normal folk, there’s going to be side effects.

One of my friends had a bloody toenail from friction with his shoes. My nipples were the victim. Them bad boys were RAW. Word to the wise: invest in nipple tape.  There may be puke, an emergency bathrrom explosion, or excessive amounts of swamp ass.

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Exhibit A

Just know that your body is going to fight you. Don’t let it beat you! The fun part is that despite momentary pain, you really don’t feel the after effects until you’ve crossed the finish line. You’re an Unsullied warrior during a half marathon.

THE EUPHORIA:

Despite all the pain, it’s all worth when you cross the finish line. The medal, the crowds, the post run beer. You’re going to feel amazing. There’s no better feeling than to have challenged yourself physically and mentally and to come out on top. Set up a goal and keep running until you hit it. If you have ever considered running a half marathon, do it. You’re going to have a blast.

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