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I ran my first half marathon!

It’s just about a week past my SeaWheeze half marathon (first half marathon overall!) and I documented a lot of my training experience on Instagram but thought it would be a good idea to have everything culminated in one story/guide.

This is quite a long story so if you would rather skip my background and race details, you can also proceed to FAQs at the bottom. Thanks for reading!

Running Story

The best place to start is sharing right off the bat my Running Story. Running for me did not start with signing up for SeaWheeze though I kind of knew in my heart that it would probably be my first half marathon if I ever decided to do one.

Before I started running, I was one of those classic people who said, “I just don’t like it — I’m not a runner,” before ever really giving it a chance. This was even after seeing both of my parents run throughout my teen years. My dad had grown up doing track and field and my mom got into distance running with a couple of friends. I grew up playing soccer, but always fell back on the idea that if I wasn’t chasing something, why would I run? To be fair, I also ended up dancing a TON in my teens and running while maintaining your full flexibility is a challenge (which I only understand how to cope with better now.)

When I got back from study abroad Italy in April 2013, I was about 20 pounds heavier than I really wanted to be. I didn’t feel like myself. A good friend at the time also living in Spokane mentioned that she had really loved getting into running for fitness and this was also just about the time I discovered Tone It Up. They were doing a mileage challenge and I thought this would be great!

Shout out to Sydney Marcotte (now DAVIS!) for establishing a great morning run routine with me. We went on average three times a week in the morning and I worked up to a seriously epic six mile run — Sydney went on to train for a half!

School started and I stopped running in the frigid Spokane temps and switched to focusing on dance, TIU and developing some healthier nutrition habits. I say healthier because college is a really, really hard time to make a change but more power to you if you do!

Flash forward to 2016 and I am in Seattle with an amazing group of girlfriends that I met through fitness. We were all kinda runners at this point (some more than others) and decided that we were going to run Bloomsday in Spokane because so many of us lived there and never ran it! When I started training for this race, I was definitely in better shape than before but it was like starting all over again (more on how to do this later…) and that once epic 6 mile run was a climb to be able to reach. Bloomsday is a 12K so about 7.4 miles.

The weekend was also one that totally goes down in the books as incredible. I had never imagined having a group of girlfriends that would want to do these kinds of things together, support each other and still have so much balanced fun. The race itself was HARD. Bloomsday is a hilly course (Doomsday Hill being the only spot I walked which was up half of it) and it gets pretty warm and dusty by the end. But the energy was incredible. I just checked my results again from that race and I ran a 10:13 min/mile average pace. I felt hugely accomplished and looked forward to probably doing more!

Flash forward to January 2018 and I hadn’t ran a single race.

Now, that journey from 2016-2018 is something I could spend a lot of time talking about. Although I never raced, I did dabble in pretty much every exercise you could imagine. This is where I got comfortable with strength training, HIIT workouts, took my yoga practice to a new level, and though I didn’t race, I was doing enough cardio and even took on a few fair-weather runs where 3 miles wasn’t fast but extremely comfortable.

In summary, I was fit. But I had never trained for a race beyond a 12K. In fact, I wasn’t “training” for running at all. I was training for overall fitness.  

SeaWheeze

In 2017, three of my friends ran SeaWheeze and I went up as part of their Cheer Squad. It’s no secret I love lululemon. Besides the gear being incredible, I think the brand focus on individuality, following your dreams and giving back to the community is infectious. I was on a total high that weekend and I didn’t even run. At the end of the weekend, I told myself that if I got in (the race is intentionally limited to 10,000 runners), I was running it.

January 2018 – lululemon announced that rather than a “first come, first serve” system for administering registration which crashed their servers every year, they were moving to a random, lottery-based system. This was going to make it harder for group coordination and the possibility of buying an entry off of someone, but I kind of liked that I had to just leave it up to Fate.

Spoiler Alert: I got in on the first round of the lotto!

Knowing in January 2018 that I had my first half marathon coming up in September 2018 kind of informed my whole year. I tried running way more times than I think I ever would have, knowing that I had a 13.1 mile race waiting for me in the fall.

On nice chilly winter mornings, I would opt for a run rather than an indoor workout. I said yes when my friend Alyssa asked if I wanted to run with her. I made it to a few runs with Rainier Runners (the running club I am woefully inconsistent with going to but love!) and I even picked up treadmill running at my office gym, mostly to do sprint training.

I definitely did a couple of 4 mile runs in this timeframe and maybe even worked myself up to one 6 mile run when I discovered there is a great route from my apartment.

Remember my pace for Bloomsday? 10:13. In the course of this very solo exploration leading up to “true” half marathon training I realized that I could probably really push that pace. Really. I set a goal for myself that I would run an average 9:30 min/mile pace. That’s a big shave of time.

SeaWheeze Training

Included in your SeaWheeze registration is a ton of stuff.  You get a pair of exclusive shorts in an option of two styles, and they create and send a full training manual.

Training started on June 17th, 2018 according to their plan. I was already well over halfway through the Tone It Up Bikini Series challenge with a heavy focus on cardio and yoga since I would be gearing up to add this training on top of my Yoga Teacher Training (I know – I’m crazy. Not sure I would recommend having both on your plate at the same time)

About four weeks in to the plan that lululemon gave us, I started to find myself struggling with it. I work out a lot but the sheer number of runs per week + cross training was getting to be a lot. Yoga is included in the training plan but it was super minimal compared to my preferences and was starting to be a lot more Restorative in nature. I love Restorative yoga, but I firmly believe that a Vinyasa practice is soooooooo beneficial for running! Lots of lengthening and stretching of the muscles plus it’s an unbelievable core strengthener.

After consulting a few of my friends who had ran way more half marathons than me, I decided to throw that training program out the window.

Instead, I used Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 plan as my new guide.

At about Week 6 of this program, 6 miles was starting to feel really good. I came back from a week-long trip in the Midwest and ran 6 miles at a 9:12 pace. And it felt amazing.

[8 miles with Laura! My longest run ever at that point on July 28th]

That Novice program is based around a required 3 runs per week, optional additional 1 or cross training, 1 required cross training workout and 2 rest days. From July through my trip to Poland and August I definitely did no more than 3 runs a week, probably honestly more like 2 + strength training + yoga.

Coming into my trip to Poland, I had two goals:

  • Run every other day, even if a short distance
  • Be mindful about my food choices — indulge in what is worth it!

 

I didn’t run once.

I did a few at-home cardio workouts and obviously we walked a ton but running is truly so different in your body than walking.

When we got back, it was only a few weeks until race day. I wanted to get back in the swing of things, try to find my pace again and work in a couple of long distance runs in preparation.

It’s so cool looking back at all of my activity so I can accurately find and tell this story! I use Nike Run Club but there are a ton of other running apps that track your activity.

My first run back from Poland was was 5 miles at a 9:17 pace. Even with two weeks off, I still had my legs under me.

My last two long runs were 9 miles at 9:16 pace, and 11 miles at 10:20. That 9 mile run was tough and really struck me but to take down the pace a notch and run 11 with Alyssa and Jess who were also running SeaWheeze, gave me all of the confidence for at least getting through 13.1 miles.

Race Day

I already had a feeling I wouldn’t sleep well before race day. That coupled with nerves about how the weather was going to pan out made for an interest night and evening!

I played with bringing snacks with me on a few of my runs and figured out what would work in a pinch but ultimately decided to fast morning of the race and just have some coffee with almond milk. I personally prefer fasted cardio and knew that I could recover later in the course if I really needed to and packed a larabar in my pant pocket.

It was so dark and rainy when we got to the course. I tend to wear less clothing when running because I get pretty warm but with the rain, I opted for my Lululemon Swiftly Tech Long Sleeve and I’m so glad I did.

The race is extremely well organized so you line up based on your total goal time and they release runners in waves to help mitigate crowding. Luckily while I was waiting, the rain had pretty much stopped and it looked like it was going to be a gorgeous morning (the race started at 7 AM but I started running closer to 7:40.) However, once my group started, it basically started pouring and didn’t stop 🙂

Miles 1-4 I definitely felt myself getting into the groove. I actually didn’t  track this run on my app, only on my fitbit so I could quickly glance at distance but save my battery for listening to music. I knew I would get my splits in my results later.

Starting at about Mile 4, I sped up a bit and caught up with my Pace Beaver (what SeaWheeze calls their pacers) for the 2:05 total finish time (2 hours, 5 minutes.) Keeping pace with him actually felt so good. My adrenaline was high but breath steady. I did take a quick pit stop at about Mile 7 but caught back up with him.

Miles 8 to the end of the race are through Stanley Park on the Seawall which is some of the most dramatic, breathtaking cliffside views I have ever seen. I actually loved that it was foggy and rainy at this point because I felt at home in the PNW.

When I finally got to the official marker for Mile 10, my Fitbit had said I was closer to Mile 11. This was a bit of a mental struggle but at that point my legs were on autopilot. Mile 11-12 was probably the most challenging mentally as it was the longest run I had ever done at that point but by Mile 12, I knew I still had some juice in me.

There was a downhill right at that point and I sped passed my Pace Beaver. I knew I could push it at the end. Kelsey unfortunately was dealing with an injury and couldn’t use her race entry but she joined me for about the last quarter mile. Turns out that last mile I finished at about an 8:35 minute/mile pace bringing me to 9:30 min/mile overall on the dot.

I was definitely tired and sore over the next couple of days but recovery was actually pretty easy and felt great overall.

What’s Next?

Before even running SeaWheeze, I registered for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Disney World, February 2019. I will definitely not be attempting to PR that race so that I can enjoy the experience. I also have found that I love six mile runs and plan on continuing to run 10Ks to keep up that distance.

I think many of my friends are considering running SeaWheeze next year and in that case I plan to go regardless and if I get in, do this all over again.

No Marathons. Definitely going to be selective with half marathons. Training was so fun and empowering but took a lot of time.

FAQs

  1. What shoes/gear do you use?

    I currently run in Brooks Launch 4 (they are now on the 5) but I will hopefully be getting a new pair of shoes for Christmas because these are trashed now! I have also worn Asics and enjoyed them. Definitely recommend seeking a professional for testing and don’t settle on your shoes if they’re not working for you.

    For pants, I highly recommend looking into leggings with a side pocket that actually fits your phone! This is game changer. The particular ones I love from lululemon aren’t being made any more but they have options as well as tons of other companies. I’ve also heard great things about the sports bras being made now with phone pockets in the back.

    For headphones, I now use these from Amazon and personally love them. Once you get them in the right place, they stay put and that price point is amazing.

  2. How to get started? What if I can’t run a mile right now?

    First of all, I would be honest with yourself if the running a mile is a physical or mental barrier. I can’t stress enough how mental running is and how so many of us have mental barriers up regarding what we are capable of doing — I was in that boat myself!

    If it is physical, know that whatever physical activity you are doing will make you a better runner. If you love spin right now, do that. If you love lifting weights, do that. Get consistent with any physical activity and you’ll be surprised of what you can do when you do decide to run.

    If you’re trying to start today, I have not followed the Couch 2 5K Program but have heard only good things. It looks like it is only available as an app now but worth checking out! You will start with walk/jog intervals and build your way up.

  3. How to fit in the training plan with your schedule?

    Just like anything you want really, really badly, you will make time for it. However, there are a few factors I didn’t expect would impact the time I spent training for the race.

    Weather conditions as well as amount of lighting are definitely something to consider. It’s unfortunate, but I’m really not comfortable running in the dark by myself so towards the end of my training, Weekday Morning runs (which are my fave) were out. Similarly, in the winter it starts getting dark early so I would prefer to plan with a friend to run together!

    However, as I mentioned in my story, you’ll have to gauge your individual fitness levels and goals but with my starting point and my goal, I did a lot fewer runs than was recommended by both of the training programs I was following. Had I done more, could I have been faster? Sure. Maybe. But I gauged my success as getting stronger, faster, and keeping away from injury on each and every run. If that’s happening, then I would say even less runs per week will get you to where you want to be especially if you’re supplementing with great cross-training.

  4. Do you actually enjoy running?

    I get this question all of the time and actually used to ask runners that myself. In short, yes I do. When it’s nice outside and I’m feeling strong and ready to work out, lacing up my shoes and hitting the pavement is the absolute best. And it’s an incredible workout. No workout is really “complete” but obviously running is amazing for cardiovascular health, leg strength and surprisingly you use a lot of core for stabilization.

    While training for a race has an added pressure of a time stamp, it also has the added benefit of tracking your progress. There is almost no better feeling than watching each run how you’re going farther and faster. There is instant gratification in those results and the satisfaction after each run is like nothing else.

  5. Was the race hard?

    Until Mile 11, it was literally the best run of my life. Everything felt great, race energy had me on a total high. My pace was just right.

    After 11, I was definitely ready to be done but as I mentioned, I knew I could push it at the end and that’s exactly how I wanted the race to go. You become so familiar with your body AND mind in the process of training that your self awareness becomes a tool you can use for strength and guidance.

    Like yoga, running is such a mental game. All of the techniques I practice in yoga definitely play out especially on longer runs and I love how they complement each other in that way.

Thanks for reading! I will continue to document my running journey and happy to take more questions any time. If anything, if you have ever doubted your ability to pick up running, I highly recommend revisiting that thought and giving it another try. Surprising yourself is kind of the best!

 

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