“If your feet hurt, it’s cause you’re kicking too much ass”…read a sign that I squinted to read as I passed the 16K marker and felt my feet screaming of discomfort. Last weekend, I, alongside over 20 000 runners, took to the streets to participate in half marathons across Canada. Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal are but a few of the many Canadian cities that felt their pavement shake a little on Sunday morning as runners marched to the starting lines, got their playlists going and took off for a 21.1K journey that would test their mental and physical endurance.
Upon finishing my first race ever, a 10K run in May 2011 during Ottawa’s Annual Race Weekend, I remember coming to the realization that running a half marathon, let alone a full marathon, was completely unrealistic. There I was, at the finish-line of a 10K race with blisters, bleeding ankles, shaking knees and a mouth that felt so dry it made the Sahara desert seem like a rainforest. There was no possible way I could bring my-self to run twice the distance I had just ran, no matter how much I trained.
That being said, five months later, there I was again at the starting line of a race I wasn’t sure I would be able to finish: the 2011 Hamilton Road2Hope half marathon…but finish I did! With very little training and the most random playlist one could imagine (comprising of Eminem, Tegan and Sara and Taylor Swift), I found myself crossing the finish line feeling overwhelmed with feelings of pain, anger, pride and relief. The physical and psychological torment that my lack of training had put me through when running my first half marathon ensured me I would never run another race with such little preparation (or so I thought). That being said, despite my efforts over the past few months to prepare for last weekend’s race, Sunday morning and that starting line left me feeling yet again lost, out of place and completely unprepared.
So how does one train for a half marathon? At what point does a potentially impossible 10K turn into an achievable and, dare I say it, enjoyable half marathon? A common and popular quote among runners states that: “The hardest step for a runner to take is the first one out of the front door”. Though this may be true, there’s something to be said for the 50 000 steps that follow the first one when you’re running a half marathon, and these training tips will help to make those a little bit easier:
Never underestimate the importance of a good pair of running shoes
We’re all students, and we all know the budget constraints that come with living in residence or paying rent, working part-time jobs and buying new hardcover 8th Edition textbooks every September. With that in mind, spending over 100$ on a new pair of running shoes might not seem like a good investment or a priority. Trust me, if you plan on becoming a runner and training for any kind race, investing in a good pair of running shoes is crucial. Neglecting to invest in shoes that are right for your feet and running style can lead to avoidable injuries and unnecessary post-run pain.
What you put into your body reflects what you’ll get out of your run
As with any other physical activity, running requires a balanced, proper diet and ample hydration both before and after your run. Making sure you have enough time to supply your body with the fluids and nutrients it requires is essential in ensuring you have enough energy to get through your run, and to carry on with your day after doing so. Many runners and nutritionists have varied opinions regarding what the perfect “pre-run meal” entails, and in trying different variations, you’ll eventually find yours as well. In the mean time, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Be sure to leave yourself enough time for digestion before taking off for your run. Eating right before a run can lead to rapid cramping or bloating, while eating too long before a run can leave you feeling weak and tired before you even reach 2K.
2. Focusing on carbohydrate rich foods as opposed to foods that are high in fiber and fat can help you avoid severe digestive pain and discomfort both during and after your run.
3. Remembering to care for your body after a run will help you avoid painful muscle tension and assist your muscles in replenishing glucose, protein and carbohydrates. For the many (including myself) that find the idea of eating a meal after a run repulsive, chocolate milk can make for an easy, refreshing and effective alternative. With its rich carbohydrates, protein, sugars and B vitamins, it’s no wonder chocolate milk is being recognized as the new “recovery drink” by dieticians, trainers and runners alike according to iRun’s September issue.
Running is just as much a mental sport as it is a physical one
For many, running can be therapeutic. I know a lot of runners who enjoy hitting the pavement simply to have an hour to be alone with their thoughts either to think about the future or look bad on their day. As for myself, the idea of being alone with my thoughts for an hour while running…kind of scares me! The longest, most painful and unbearable runs for me are those during which I have no distractions and nothing to focus on but myself. Running with a friend or a killer playlist helps me get into a groove that distracts my mind and my body from the painful cramps that can sometimes set in around 8K. Whether you thrive on distractions or prefer to be in your own mind, making sure that you are psychologically prepared for whatever run you’re embarking on is essential in helping you cross the finish line.
What’s on my playlist?
-Just A Girl- No Doubt
-What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger- Kelly Clarkson
-The Story of Us; Taylor Swift
-Body Work – Morgan Page ft. Tegan and Sara
-Till I Collapse- Eminem (the best way to end any run)
…I warned you it was random!
Interested in training for a half marathon or any other kind of race? There are a number of options to get you off the couch and in the streets. You could start tomorrow and get a head start on your training for next year’s Ottawa Race Weekend!
Ottawa’s Running Room offers a variety of 16-week courses that walk (seems like an ironic word to use) you through the training process for your race. Be it a 5K or a full marathon, Running Room experts and trainers have all the tools and knowledge you need to be trained and ready for race day!
The University of Ottawa hosts it’s own training program right here on campus called “Stride to Success”. Focused on training for 5 and 10K distances in particular, this program requires a smaller commitment from participants. Registration costs for students are approximately 65$ and the program starts at various times through out the year. For more information regarding Stride to Success, check out the Gee Gee’s activities site:
If you’d rather spare the money that these courses cost and put it towards new running shoes, energy drinks or your Friday night at the bar (hey, I’m not judging), then consider starting a running club with a few of your friends. Beginners might consider running with friends who are also inexperienced as to ensure that no one is left behind or forcing themselves to keep up. If you want to push yourself, ask a frequent runner if you can tag along on their next run and try your best to stick with them. A post-race snack and jug of chocolate milk (maybe even a hot shower) is, after all, best when shared with fellow runners!