My little sis Natalie ran the Long Branch Half Marathon with Zack and me this past weekend. Her training was a bit unconventional, and since I am so proud and love her to pieces, I asked her to write a guest blog about her experience. So without further ado:
This past January I teamed up with my big sister Tanya and brother-in-law Zack to take on my first big-time run, and registered for the Long Branch Half Marathon. As a born-and-raised Jersey girl, I couldn’t think of a better time and place to run my first race than at the start of summer, right along my Jersey shore. My only goal was to finish the race, and I did, clocking in at 2:43. The following is my step-by-step guide on how you should prepare for the biggest run of your life.
- Shoot for the moon – If you are a newbie runner and are selecting your very first legitimate race to train for, do not settle for a measly mile, 5K, or even a 10K. Why run 5,280 feet when you can run 69,183 instead? The idea is to impress everyone with your extreme and impulsive badassery. Go big or go home, I always say.
- Train hard and fast – Now that you’ve committed yourself to running nearly three times the longest distance you ever have in your life and told everyone and their mother about your harebrained plan, plunge headfirst into a brutally intense training schedule (bonus points for training before sunrise in sub-freezing temperatures). Less than 10 weeks to go? Haven’t so much as jogged half a mile in five months? If you peak at fewer than 11 miles in your first week of prep, you need to reevaluate your priorities.
- It is also essential to make sure that your daily peak mileage never exceeds half of what the distance of your race will be. For example, prior to running the Long Branch Half Marathon, I never ran more than five miles in one shot in my life. The first time that you even come close to hitting maximum miles should be on race day itself.
- Injure yourself – All the greatest and most admired athletes have experienced and overcome some sort of emotional or physical adversity, propelling them to fame as they became the envy of their peers and idols of the people. The key here is to emulate this behavior. The more severe and grotesque the injury, the more accolades will rain down on your strong, yet crippled shoulders. Me, I only managed to score a paltry stress fracture in my left tibia, but it was enough for my doctor to order me to halt all training and physical activity immediately.
- Taper, taper, taper – And halt training I did! The best way to taper prior to your first race is to cease training entirely about a month before you finally line up in your corral. This way, you are sort of following your doctor’s instructions, and you are also ensuring that you will be well rested, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on the morning of your run.
- Watch what you eat – A balanced diet is a critical component of healthy living, and gives your body the fuel it needs to be race-day ready. My secret for gearing up for the big day? #YOLO. If you want something, eat it. If you want more things but think that you probably shouldn’t, eat them anyway. Most people say you should carbo-load before a race, but I think what’s actually important is to cover as many food groups as possible until you’ve consumed about 3x your body weight. Per meal.
- I’m sure many people may caution against eating certain things immediately before a race for fear that your body will react in a negative way. In reality, is there really a better time to eat something that you’ve never had before than when you are right in the middle of your race? For example, I had my first-ever chocolate Gu around mile 9, and I had no idea what I was even stuffing in my face. I might as well have been eating a packet of chocolate frosting…which actually doesn’t sound like a bad idea.
- Dress to impress – Most people want to be comfortable and are unconcerned with their outfits as they embark on their hours of running, but do you want to be like most people? I didn’t think so. Pick out stylish, eye-catching running gear that you think will attract the attention of all the spectators and photographers along the course. You might want to consider what the weather conditions will be so that you can dress appropriately, then promptly disregard what the forecast is, as being fashionable should clearly take precedence. Fit is unimportant; in fact, it’s not even necessary to give your outfit a test run ahead of time! Fly by the seat of those chic new shorts of yours, and pray that they don’t cause chafing nearly as bad as the ones that I chose to wear did. But hey, some rashes and blood will only add to that tortured hero image you are going for.
Seriously serious disclaimer: do not abide by any of the preceding tongue-in-cheek advice! While this is inadvertently how I actually “prepared,” it is really EXACTLY the opposite of everything one should do to get ready for the toll a 13.1-mile run will take on your body. I had set out on a legitimate and realistic training plan, but my fracture completely knocked me off track. Given a choice, I would probably not do this again. Probably.
It is also important to note that no one pressured me into winging a half marathon. I became determined to finish the race of my own volition, whether I was to walk or jog it, after I was already in the corral and became overwhelmed with the emotion and adrenaline that accompanies a race of this magnitude. I took this race mile-by-mile and listened to my body the entire way, making sure I stopped to walk when I knew it was necessary. I’m also in good enough shape that I knew what my body was capable of doing. I hit the gym regularly, practice yoga, dance, and prior to my fracture ran short distances daily. Listening to and understanding your body is super important whenever you are engaging in physical activity, injured or not.
Some more pics for your viewing pleasure: