Why I decided to run a Half Marathon
After working my booty off in college for 4 years, I realized how few hobbies I had and how lame I’d become. I used to joke that Google Calendars was my favorite hobby (it was true though). My days and nights were packed with classes and projects, all of which were stripped away when I graduated. I had a job, but that only took up 8-9 hours a day. What was I supposed to do with the rest of my time? I wasn’t even sure what I liked to do for fun anymore.
A year went by, and I still felt stuck and directionless. Not knowing who I was or what I liked I decided to put myself out there and try something new. Instead of dying my hair blue or KonMari decluttering my life, I signed up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Madrid.
I am going to run a Half Marathon. Yikes.
Running is something I always wanted to be good at but never enjoyed. Whenever I ran I felt like I was going to drop dead, my calves were going to rip off, and my heart was going to explode. Despite my physical limitations + bad attitude, I had miraculously completed three 5k races over the past few years. Each race was as miserable as the last.
Jumping from 5k (3.1 miles) to 21.1k (13.1 miles) was daunting, but it was something I needed to complete as an arbitrary milestone on my Magical Millennial Journey to Self Actualization.
5 Months Out
I started training in late December, and the Half Marathon was April 27. I began telling people I was going to run the race so I couldn’t back out. My boyfriend agreed to run with me, and I was happy to have a running buddy / accountability partner.
What I learned the first few weeks of running long distance.
- The first few kilometers are the worst. But I already knew that. What I didn’t know was that after running more than a 5k, my body actually starts to feel good. Running becomes easier the longer you run? Who knew. I certainly didn’t. I thought the runners high was a myth.
- You can run longer than you think you can. If you can run a solid 5k, running a 10k is mostly a mental challenge. Having only ran a 5k, the 10k distance seemed impossible. But two weeks into my training, I decided to try it and see how far I could go. I was shocked how easy it was. Doubled my distance in two weeks? Piece of cake.
- Don’t get cocky just because you easily bumped your 5k to a 10k. Adding additional milage becomes a lot harder the farther you run. This might be obvious, but I definitely had false hope that doubling my 10k distance would be as easy as doubling my 5k distance. Nope, nope, nope.
4 Months Out
Despite the New Year motivation, I was running with no plan. The only run I was consistent with was my Sunday long run — everything else was easy to talk myself out of. After a few months of hoping I would be able to somehow complete a Half Marathon at the end of April by casually running semi-frequently, I decided to make a plan.
8 Weeks Out Training Plan
There are plenty of Half Marathon training plans online, and I should have followed one. They are probably really good. But I wanted to continue weight lifting a few times a week, and all the plans favored running over cross training (obviously). Running 5x / week? No way. I decided I could do 3x / week.
At a high level, this is what my weekly running plan looked like.
- 5-10k Run on Wednesday
- 5k Run up Montjuïc (hill training) on Friday
- 12k + Long Run on Sunday
I made this plan in early March, allowing myself about 8 weeks to train. I scheduled all my runs in my productivity app, and followed my plan perfectly…
For two weeks. Hah. Hahaha.
Whenever I didn’t complete a scheduled run, postponed a run, or didn’t complete the planned distance, I documented it in my app. Below is a photo of my Half Marathon project once the race was over. This shows all the training I managed to do in the 8 weeks leading up to the race.
Notice I did nothing Week 6, Week 8, and Race Week. I did almost no running Week 3 and Week 7. Our longest run was only 16k. Mind you, I was running ~1km to and from the gym several times a week… but 2k a day is not what I would consider proper training for a 21k run. Race Week, I didn’t even go to the gym. I was a total potato. And eating lots of potatoes.
What went wrong in my training
I definitely wasn’t covering enough miles each week to adapt to the impact running put on my body. It was very discouraging to be in so much pain after a longer run, and this significantly decreased my motivation to run throughout the week. Plain and simple — I should have valued my short runs more, and shouldn’t have used my sore body as an excuse to not run at all.
The Half Marathon
We flew to Madrid the day before the race to pick up our bibs and shirts from the Running Expo. I felt so out of place, surrounded by all these serious runners doing serious runner things. Nervous!!!
The morning of the race, we woke up at 6AM to get ready and eat breakfast. We walked half a mile from our Airbnb to our assigned corral. Rock ‘n’ Roll music was blaring, and I heard Eye of the Tiger twice. I watched people look into the porta potties in horror and disgust before reluctantly going inside. Everyone was dancing. I was getting excited to eat my vegan strawberry jellies and dates during the run (I love treats!!!). Then the crowd started moving forward and it was time to start running.
This is the elevation chart for Rock ‘n’ Roll Madrid. My dumbass looked at this chart and thought the Half Marathoners had it easy. But I didn’t know how to properly read an elevation chart… so the race was a bit surprising.
Let’s just say that if you’re going to run a race in Madrid, you better do some hill training. The first 4k was up a slow incline, which was a bit challenging. But the second half of the race was made up of a series of BIG ASS HILLS, which was exhausting. I desperately wished I had completed the weekly hill runs I planned for myself — now I was paying the price for skipping each and every one of them. Despite only training to 16k, we managed to finish the race in 2:23min. I expected to finish between 2:10-2:15, but considering the hills I was happy with our time. We did it!!!
What I learned from running
I wouldn’t call myself a serious runner (refer to my “running schedule” above lol), but incorporating occasional runs into my life has taught me a lot.
This is what I learned.
- To pace myself + calm the hell down. I am such a go-go-go type of person who likes efficiency, multitasking, and finishing things as quickly as possible. Distance training forced me to slow down and accept that I would be running for a long time and there is no sense in rushing.
- To focus on pain instead of ignoring it. My mentality is typically to distract myself from any pain I’m feeling, but with running I learned how to acknowledge the pain and breathe through it.
- How my body responds to certain foods when exercising. I never knew how to properly fuel my workouts, and would often go without eating to avoid an upset stomach. But with distant runs, I needed fuel. With trial and error, I learned what foods my body digests well while exercising.
- To be alone with my thoughts. Like many others in the generation of the 5 Second Attention Span, not being constantly stimulated makes me feel unbearably bored. Running helped me become more comfortable being alone with my thoughts, body, and environment.
- That my little legs can somehow run 21.1 kilometers. Crazy stuff.
I don’t know exactly what I was looking for by running this race, but I finished it with a massive amount of self growth. I set a challenging goal for myself that I thought was impossible, and I showed myself that it was possible. That’s pretty great, and now I feel more motivated to test other limiting beliefs.
And yes, I’m going to continue running maybe once a week. I actually kind of like it now. 🤷♀️ Who knows, maybe I will be back in Madrid next year for another Half Marathon.
If you’re interested in running a fun and well-organized race, I highly recommend the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series! Find a race near you here.