I am currently helping to coach a friend of mine to run a half marathon in a few months time, and it reminded me of my first half marathon and how I didn’t train for it…
Going back to when I first joined the Lytchett Manor Striders running club, and I had signed up for my first 10k race. I had about 4 months to build up to it and I started training properly and building up my distance. I used to do my weekend long run with a few other ladies who were all around my pace, but who were a lot more experienced than me and had already ran half marathons and even marathons before.
It was great to have some mentors to keep me on the straight and narrow. Because they were training for longer events I had already done training runs way longer than 10k, my longest being 16k (10 miles) so I knew distance wise I was ok to complete the race.
The weekend before my race it was my birthday, and my partner and I had planned a weekend away to celebrate in Jersey which is in the Channel Islands. A couple of weeks before we were due to go I was browsing the Runners World website and noticed that the Jersey half marathon was on my birthday weekend – in fact it was actually on my birthday… this planted a seed. Could I go out and run a half marathon on very little specific training?
Back in the pre Facebook days runners used to chat on forums, and I remember that I had been chatting with a lady Glenda who lived in Gloucester. I mentioned the HM to her and she said she was actually going over to run it with a friend of hers who lived in Jersey, and that why didn’t I come and run it with them.
I loved the idea of challenging myself to do something that was way out of my comfort zone, and to have someone experienced running with me helping me through was too much of a temptation to resist. So I signed up there and then! (I have always been a very impulsive person!)
I remember going to the running club the next week and mentioning to the ladies who I had been running with that I had signed up for the half marathon and they looked at me in shock. Clearly they didn’t think that I would be able to finish. This just fired me up even more, a chance to prove them wrong!
One of the ladies asked me what my longest training run had been to date, and when I told her that it was 16k she said to me that the last 5k of the half would feel as hard as the first 16k, so I was very prepared for a hard slog.
I was so inexperienced that when my friend Glenda asked me what nutrition I was going to use during the race I drew a blank – people actually had to eat during the race? I thought they just went out and ran! She explained that I would need to keep my muscles fuelled and so I went to the chemist and bought a pack of dextrose tablets to carry with me. I had never tried them out on a run before (rookie mistake) but everything went ok luckily!
We lined up at the start and straight away we were onto a hill (Jersey is very hilly!) I had set myself a goal to run the whole way and I was determined not to walk a step. Glen was great keeping me going, unfortunately her friend dropped away so it was just me and her, and it was like having my own private pacer! When mentally I started to lose it she kept me going and I honestly do not think I would have managed such a great run if it hadn’t been for her.
I had told my partner that I was hoping to run around 2.5 hours as I thought this was realistic, and he had planned to be at the finish in time to see me come over the line. Clearly I underestimated myself, and I was amazed that I finished my first half marathon in 2.11 🙂 And I ran the whole way! To make things even better they announced every runner as they came over the line – I felt so special and was so proud of my accomplishment.
The moral of the story here for me was that determination and mental strength plays a big part in racing – I am not sure had I specifically trained for that race that my result would have been much different – who knows? But this is the race that set me off on a journey of challenging myself to complete longer and longer distances…
The other thing I realised is that when people try to tell you that you can’t do something, this says more about them and their own fears that it does about you ❤