Dear runner friend,
First off let me state how proud of you I am for making this decision because not only is it a kick ass one but it’s one to celebrate!! Running 13.1 miles (or more) isn’t an easy task and yet you’re paying to do it. Yes you are as crazy as that sounds.
In the dedicated time it takes to prep and train for the big day ahead, it’s important to note that no matter what happens come race day, you are already a winner. I know what it takes to even wake up one day and say, “I think I’m gonna run a half marathon” then follow that pure thought up with researching and putting together a training schedule then actually following through with said schedule.
It. Takes. A. LOT!
You’ve removed your being from the couch in the evening or woken up early in the morning to get a run in and be ready for your new found dream. Some of you have even turned down dinner and/or drinks with friends, family or coworkers in order to still make it to the gym on a rainy or too cold day to hit your miles on the dreadmill or to even make sure you don’t drink too much or stuff yourself full of nonsense because you know it’ll ruin your run at the crack of dawn.
Trust me, I’ve been there; I thought I’d lost friends from putting my running before them. All runners go through this and we welcome you with open arms!
This is no small feat and while you’ve probably tried reading every blog imaginable on how to train, how to carboload, how to not get the dreaded runner’s feet or whatever the hell else your pretty little mind correlates with running extremely long and grueling distances, there are still some things that you just haven’t been told before your first time.
I know I did all those things and I’m still figuring different stuff out, every single race that no one ever told me could happen – or read that could happen. The funny thing is, I know I’m not alone because I hear all the other runners joking about it…so I’m here to write about it – or about what I’ve experienced. HA!
10 Things They Didn’t Tell You About Running
- Training sucks more than you thought it would
BUT it’s totally worth it. While you want to hear that it’s oh so fun and you’re going to love it, nope. That’s not what I’m here for. Let’s be realistic. I’ve been running with a marathon mentality for 6 years now, training for various half and full marathons and there are still days where I dread a simple 3 mile run let alone getting up to the 9+ milers… all runners have bad days. Some of us even get them on race day…
But my best piece of advice is to just stick with your schedule. If you wake up one morning, start your run and just realize ‘it ain’t gon happen’, please try as hard as possible to work through it because your body CAN bare it, your body is challenging you to push beyond the limits it and you think are set – but you’re capable of so much more.
One time I started to lose my edge on a 16 miler when it started down pouring. My fiance came to find me and pick me up and I made him go home so I could finish. That wasn’t an easy decision but I knew I needed to finish. End of story.
Disclaimer: this doesn’t mean push your body into an injury. You should be able to tell the difference….
- You will chafe – thigh gap or not…
Whether you wear shorts or capris, long sleeves or none, there is a high chance you could still chafe somewhere! Think about it. No matter what your goal time is, your arms and legs are rubbing something for over an hour at least – even when you decide to walk. You have to learn to work through this, especially if you later decide to set the goal of completing a full marathon, because it’s 2x as bad then (get it? hahahaha) Just know that you could get lucky and not chafe at all or you can be like me and end up with sports bra burns at the very least. Chafing sucks but hey, don’t worry, there a cream for that!
- Running shits are a real thing
I know I know, people don’t like to talk about pooping, unless you become a dedicated runner then it seems to be the topic at the starting line on who has the Imodium or IBS pills so you can get yourself one before the gun goes off. Sometimes it can hit at mile 2, other times miles later or even not at all. The thing is, you never know if or when it’ll hit.
Trust me, find the bowel movement isle at your nearest Walmart or Target and just stock up! But whatever you do, do NOT take your first pill ever race day morning if you are so inclined to have to go #2 on runs. Chances are you’ll be fine, especially if you’ve trained (and gotten yourself past this) and are regular to where maybe you went pre-race 🙂
Either way, have fun with getting to know your body because you do not want to be this guy….
Runner’s feet…learn to love them
Oh you have pretty feet now but you say you want the glory that is completing half-marathons (or even marathons)?? Get used to blisters and fallen toenails man because it can happen to the best of us. You’ve heard the stories but now it’s time to embrace the gross and come face to feet with the hell you’re putting those twinkle toes through. While some don’t ever experience toenail loss (lucky ducks) you can still try to prevent this part by getting fitted for proper shoes and also not wearing the same running shoes all the time. While that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed safe at home plate you’re taking a step in the right direction.
As for the blisters, the same handy dandy cream I mentioned in the chaffing department earlier, can also be used on your feet to help prevent blisters! Also make sure to buy proper socks; dri-fit help a lot – so that if you’re prone to clammy feet or if training days (or even race day) turns out to be a little wet, your feet still stand a chance! I’ve seen HUGE success in using Bombas. They are seriously the best socks I’ve ever bought and the only socks I buy anymore!
- Post-race recovery is different from training recovery
I learned this one the hard way. Especially after ALL of my full marathons. For whatever reason, I’d finish a training run and sometimes I would have little to no soreness or I would only walk like a penguin for a couple hours post run. But holy hell, after the big race, I turned into a baby who lost its passy. Don’t be too hard on yourself if this happens – not only will it make me feel like less of a wimp BUT it’ll also give you a moment to remember and celebrate your accomplishment.In my non-expert opinion, I think this happens because of our nerves, excitement and adrenaline come race day. Whenever we’re in training mode, we’re focused on hitting the miles and more so dreading what we’re doing. There’s no excitement really. If you’re lucky enough to have a running partner there might be some excitement and even conversation but that’s really it. On race day, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of people around you. You could have upwards of 10 thousand running partners and did I mention the snack/drink stations and all the funny signs people are holding and the volunteers making sure you’re doing okay and cheering you on?? You also have that little voice in the back of your head saying, “don’t walk, don’t walk, keep going, sha-na-na-na-nahhh, don’t be a wimp in front of all these people!!” So you end up pushing yourself wayy harder on race day than you do during training, which isn’t really the smartest because your training should be pushing you just as hard but hey, endorphins baby!
Moral of the story is, try to stick with a pace during both training and the race day. Figure out what you want your end time to be and do the math. Maybe that leaves you with running along side a pacer or meeting someone in the crowd that has the same goal time as you while you’re in your coral. Either way, get a watch and watch your timing. It’s easy to speed up during the race as you’re getting excited from everyone around you or maybe you feel defeated as others start passing you.
Never forget that unless you’re going for first place, this is an individual race, you are the only person you’re racing. Don’t worry about any other runner around you unless they need help and/or encouragement along the way. Stick with your goals, you’ve got this!
- You’ll actually feel guilty about missing a run
Yep, unbelievable huh? Regret not going for a run? The thing is, you create (or find or buy) a schedule, pay for the race with your hard earned money and tell all your family and friends about your new goal and get yourself amped for the accomplishment to come. Your schedule will become a part of you; long runs turn into a date night with yourself. Your loved ones start asking how training is going and how you’re feeling. You know that if you don’t train your hardest and/or follow a schedule, come race day you won’t perform the way you wanted to, which if you’re anything like me, this could leave you feeling disappointed in yourself. The worst.
When it came to my second marathon, I honestly didn’t train as much as I wanted to. Come race day, I did still complete my longest training run I had scheduled but I had several runs in-between of various distances that I never did. This was due to letting myself get sick and traveling a lot and my body giving in from not carboloading enough – just excuses really. Because of this I missed my goal time by a landslide and while I was still proud for finishing and working through the pain from being undertrained, I was embarrassed and disappointed and I ultimately felt like I disappointed everyone that supported me throughout my “training”.
So as nutty as it sounds that you’ll feel guilty for missing a scheduled run, think about it like missing a date night or a friends night because you just don’t feel up to it or your body says “mehhhh” and then later you’re just fine, eating ice cream on the couch but now you actually feel like poop because you know you could’ve just not flaked. It’s the same concept. While the entire run might suck and you might even feel sick afterwards or even more tired than before you started, at least you won’t regret missing your run and hitting that goal when the big day comes!
- No matter how great you feel, you’ll still need some extra energy so taste test away!
You’ve seen them in the stores and heard you’ll get some for free during your race but make sure you actually try some of the energy beans, sports gels or bloks throughout your training so you know what you like and what gives your body what it needs. Because you will need something during the race no matter how much you carboloaded. The worst feeling is when you’re coming up on a snack/drink station and they’re handing out those freebies, you grab without looking and it’s a flavor that instantly makes you want to toss your pre-race cookies! One time I grabbed a chocolate goo and it was awfffffullllllllll. I regretted it the rest of my marathon! Your safest bet is to go to your local sports store, buy a bunch of flavors and do a taste test. Once you know which ones fit your palate, try them on a run and make double sure they won’t make you sick.
Be aware of the drinks too! Most races will let you know ahead of time how many water stations there will be (and what miles they are located) and if they’ll also be providing gatorade or another drink with some electrolytes. Some runners can’t handle those juicy, sugary drinks, though so again, know what works for you and where your stations are. Use this to your advantage so you can plan on carrying your own water and snacks if need be.
On the flip side of that, you also want to try and prevent cramping pre-race, during and post-race. Here are a couple of my favorites!
1. Pickle Juice
2. Hot Shot – now I haven’t personally tried this one but I met a girl in my last marathon that worshiped it, so I’ll be giving it a try this year! You can either purchase through their website or on Amazon!
3. Bananas! They are rich in potassium and B6. This can help stop you from not just feeling bloated (who knew?!) and retaining water but with cramping too as not consuming enough potassium can cause those nasty muscle cramps we all dread!
4. Slow down and stretch during!
- Use your supporters during the race
Again, you’ll be given a course map pre-race so plan out spots for those coming to support you to be at throughout the race. If you know that at mile 5 you start to doubt yourself, have them there around the 5 mile marker to encourage you along. If you know that at mile 7 you need something of substance for a swift kick of energy, have them there ready to pass along something to help.
You should also be very aware of the weather once you get closer to race day! If it’s going to be colder in the morning, you may want to start in long sleeves, gloves, and headgear but then not even halfway through the race you start getting overheated and want to rid yourself of those extra layers without losing your items. Well you can either have supporters planned to meet you at a certain mile to snag your threads OR you’ll see a lot of runners ditch the pieces with no care in the world. Some runners will write their name and address in hopes someone will drop it in the mail but know that if you do decide to leave anything behind, most cities have people come through and collect everything once the crowd has passed and from there all is donated to a local thrift store or to the homeless. So if you choose to leave anything behind, make sure it’s pieces you that aren’t your fave and know that you’re doing good for the city you’re in.
If you’re going at it alone, which is totally cool – I have many times(!) – use other runners support systems. I know this sounds kinda weird but everyone in attendance at these races are there to support and help if needed. So don’t be ashamed to ask for help or food, chances are they’ll feed you a 7-course meal if you said you needed it!
Here are some of my favorite sign examples I’ve seen in my day:
View some more awesome signs here.
- Carboloading, more than a one-night stand?
So the point to carbohydrate loading pre-race is to increase your muscle glycogen, the primary source of energy used during intense endurance events. The more you use this, the weaker you become but the more you have stored the longer your endurance may last. Makes sense right? Thanks science!
Now a lot of people assume that if you just eat a ton of spaghetti and breadsticks the night before your race, you’ll be fine. Well they aren’t wrong but that might not be enough. You should really look at your tapering time as a chance to build up that energy in your muscles over a course of time rather than in a single night. There are typically 3 methods to tapering: 1. Long (2-3 weeks out), 2. Medium (6 days pre race) and 3. Rapid (1-3 days) – simple eh? I’ve tried all three and personally found more success with the medium taper and carboloading method. Not only because then I didn’t have to overload the night before and pray I had enough even though I was stuffed full or make myself sick but also because I just felt better. I was able to ease on into the race, a little bloated, but feeling good rather than sick.
So again, figure out what works best for you. Maybe there’s a certain carb heavy meal that fuels your long runs appropriately (for me it’s pizza) and use that during your training. Make sure you are carboloading before every. long. run. and don’t for a single second think that you’ll lose weight training for a half or a full….because you won’t and that’s a whole other conversation..
- Smile at the finish line
Not just because there’s usually a photographer there capturing the many faces crossing the finish line throughout the race but because you’ve just accomplished something amazing, something you nor your body thought it ever could at one point in your life. So smile. Celebrate. YOU DESERVE IT! You ran a hell of a lot to work yourself up to being able to tackle 13.1 miles (or more), hell you might’ve even cross-trained when you didn’t know what it was or when you didn’t want to. You endured crappy weather, sore nights with an all inclusive visit from your epsom salt bath and a marshmallow muscle stick and those long runs on the treadmill because you couldn’t get outside. Take a walk down memory lane and know that every moment of it was worth it and go get yourself some pizza and ice-cream.
So now what?!
Get to your training, duh! Remember that while training will help your muscles prepare for some of the hell they’ll go through come race day, there will be factors on that day you won’t be able to control for a multitude of reasons and that’s okay! Each race is a lesson and because of that you’ll be even better the second time around (if there is one)! Whatever you do, never question your ability to succeed in this because you can do it if you believe in yourself and work hard for it but you have to work for it. Not all of us can be the amazing Barney Stinson and complete a full marathon with no training – it is on a tv show for a reason!
Know that you have people cheering you on and supporting you all the way through whether they are your loved ones or someone elses. You are achieving something that the majority of people in this world have zero desire to even consider, let alone the dedication to go through with it.
So now that you’ve read the same articles over and over again about how to train and now you have the hidden tools of what those articles leave out, you’re all set to go kick some ass because you got this!
Don’t forget to have fun!