As I mentioned last week, I’m running in my fifth half marathon on May 3rd. It’s definitely an intimidating undertaking, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. The first half marathon I ran was in Williamsport, PA, and it was a benefit for ovarian cancer. I prepared as best as I knew how, aka: I ran a lot.
And then race day came. Now, I don’t know if many of you have visited Williamsport or any area in PA, but it’s all basically just one big hill. I was feeling great going down, but the back half was all up. And it sucked. I walked most of the back end because I couldn’t run up a hill for 6 miles straight.
The first time I did the Pittsburgh Half Marathon, I took my aunt’s bib because she hurt herself in training. It was in February and the race was in May. I again did the best I could, but it was still hard because I didn’t know what I was stepping in to and vastly different than in Williamsport. It almost felt like my first half marathon again.
So, in my best effort to impart the wisdom I wish I had known, I give you five things I wish I would have known before I ran my first half marathon.
1. Your toe nails will probably abandon you.
I wasn’t ready for this one. I got blisters under my nails and it damaged the nail bed. And there went a few toe nails. Yep, it’s gross, but at least it doesn’t hurt.
The best advice I have for you is to find shoes that don’t rub and are held securely to your foot. I like this post to help identify different ties for your shoes based on your shoe woe. Socks also make a big difference. I like good ol’ Hanes socks.
2. Take the solar blanket.
I didn’t do this after my first run in Pittsburgh because I didn’t have this option in Williamsport so I didn’t know how necessary it was. It felt like I was almost in shock after the run. This really helped the next time to gently regulate my temperature.
3. You will probably shit yourself.
It ain’t fun to talk about, but let’s get real here. I don’t know why or how to prevent this (although I did take some Immodium before the run last year, which made a difference).
I didn’t even know this happened until my mom asked me in hushed tones, “So…did you…crap your pants?”
I didn’t, but I realllllllly had to go soon after stopping. So just be prepared for that.
4. Eat the gummy worms.
Another point from the Pittsburgh half that I didn’t know the first time. Around mile 8, they hand out gummy worms. Take the gummy worms (or power bars or gel or whatever). It really helps to give you a boost.
5. Have someone waiting for you at the finish.
It’s nice to have people cheering along the course, but it’s really nice to have someone you know waiting for you. Or running right beside you like Jonathan and I did last year.
Either way, it really helps motivate you when you have someone waiting for you at the end to congratulate you and be amazed that you ran that far.
Bring another change of clothes. I needed to get out of the cold, sweaty clothes I was in. Bring a change of pants, shirt, and socks. It feels so great to get out of your running shoes, trust me.
A woman I worked with told me this one: drink water the first half, then switch to Gatorade. Your body really doesn’t need a boost of electrolytes after 3 miles, but it sure could use some water.
Another woman I worked with shared this with me: hills are easy for short people to climb. Our little legs don’t have to lift up as high to clear the road as you tall people. It makes me feel good going uphill, even if it’s a placebo effect.