21 kms – 6 months back it would have been impossible for me to contemplate running 13.1 miles!
Your first half marathon is going to be an exciting event. Endurance/strength training and lots of practice runs is what helps you run your 21 kms. It is also essential to avoid some rookie mistakes people usually make.
How it felt during my half marathon
I arrived at the venue -Kanteevara stadium at 6 AM. A warm up Zumba session was going on. There were a four thousand HM runners in the venue. It was super crowded.
At 6:30AM they flagged off the half marathon. I knew my first 3 km was going to be the hardest. It is sort of a warm up and you get to the running pace during this time. This can be the most intimidating duration as well. That’s the time everyone runs at their full speed and no one stops for a kilometer or two. This is a time where most runners get discouraged ‘Come on, how is everyone running for such a long time, am I the only weak one here; I dont want to finish last’. If you feel this way remember it’s a marathon and not a running race. You need energy throughout your run. Its okay to stop and walk and slowly gain your pace.
Also, its essential to hydrate yourself during the run. I drank half a cup of electrolyte water at all the water stations. This is to make sure you don’t feel giddy after the run. Your body is losing lot of electrolytes and it’s good to replenish them during the run and after.
Positive attitude in really important. When you painstakingly finish your first 7 km, it is better to think ‘I have completed ⅓ of the race, one third chunk is done, pat on the back!’ rather than ‘Gosh, 2/3rd is left, 14 more km to go, oops I am never going to make it’
I put on some of my favorite songs on my sony headphones and heard them throughout the run. This helped me to focus. My first 3 kms were slow but my next 7 were fast. I finished my 7 km in less than an hour and my 14 km in less than 2 hours.
I only had 7 more to go. I had done a 15 km during my run in Ooty. After my 15th km it was unexplored territory. I must admit it was hard- my last 6 km was really hard. I couldnt get myself to run as fast as my last two hours. All my effort was in vain. I was doing the ‘fast walking’. I had 45 min to complete 6 km, which quite wasn’t enough. On top of that my watch GPS wasn’t aligning with the race milestones. I finished my 18th km according to Garmin and the race 18th km came a full 250 m later.
My last mile was hard. I had to use all reserve energy to run/sprint my last mile and finish the race. According to garmin I had ran 21.41 kms (the mismatch was about 400 m).
After crossing the finish line I removed my shoes. Pay heed to which body parts are aching. My ankles, sole and my toes were aching for me. I stretched a bit, hopped around, collected the medal and left the venue. Man, the line to click pics was very long and I really dint have the energy to stand in line to get a pic clicked (first time in my life).
Here are some tips and mistakes to avoid !
1. Arrive early at the venue
This is to avoid panic. I did this mistake during my first 10 KM. Roads were closed all around the venue and I had to walk/run to the venue for 2 KM. I had to also start the race just as I reached with no warm up. It was horrible. During my HM I arrived on time for the Zumba warm up. Took my time to use the loo. Stood with the runners before starting. This gives you a bit of mental preparation for the run.
2. Dont try something new on Race day.
- Hey I got new shoes let me use them on race day
- I bought this new energy gel let me try that
- Let me drink whey protein before the run
- Let me try to run my first 5 km at 5 min/km pace.
Big NO! As a rule of thumb ‘never try something new on race day’
3. Food and fueling up
- Carb loading – Eat carbs before the race day.
- Electrolyte- drink electrolyte water through the run to regain lost electrolytes
- Antioxidants – Eat them through out your practice month for immunity
- Stay hydrated- before the race day, before run, during and after drink lots of water
- Practice- Practice a month before at-least.
4. Never run your half marathon as a first race
Before your half marathon you should have run a 5 Km and a 10 km timed race. Good if you did a 15k too. This is to help you understand the setting of a marathon(Water stations, toilets, flag off, warm up, getting to the race venue early in morning, running in a crowd).
I did the TCS 10k -the most crowded marathon I will ever run and I sort of wasn’t intimidated by the crowd after that. Aim to do 21 km in a week for four weeks before the marathon. I was able to run 10 km peacefully without breaking a sweat a week before the HM which gave me confidence for my HM (Well at-least my first 10 is going to be easy I knew)
5. Pacers and the Cut off time
Look out for the cut off time and pace your race accordingly. In my race, the cut off was 3.30 hours (they need to start opening the closed roads and dismantling the race day equipment). We were expected to complete in 3 hours. If you are worried about the cut off time find a time friendly race(like heritage run etc).
There will be pacers in long runs who will finish the race in a specified rime and they usually have a flag with their finish times. If you want to finish the race within that time follow one of them.
6. Dont forget the Pacing
If you need to complete your 21k in 3 hours you need to run 7 km in an hr. While you train aim to run a 7k in less than an hour. Your last 7 k is going to be hard and you might take a but more than an hour to complete so in order to make up for it you need to run your first two 7kms in less than an hour.
Best to have a fitbit, garmin watch where you can look at your pace to see how fast you are running. Understand your pace during your practice runs. I can run 200 m without stopping. During a km I run 200m, walk for 100m, do this alternatively and sprint the last 200m.
7. Dont go on a weight loss diet before half marathon.
You need carbs to release energy during the run. If you dont have any in your body you will start losing muscle and before fatigued during the run. Its good to eat carbs before the run(three days). Do not do a weight loss diet before the run. You might just faint during the run.
8. Listen to your body
During the run : If you get a Stitch (Pain under your rib cage) – take it slow. Ease your pace until it goes away. If you continue to run with it it will worsen until a point you cant run anymore.
After the run: Having giddiness means you lost way more electrolytes during the run than you should have. Tummy upset means you ate something you shouldn’t have eaten before your run or the day before. Lots of cramps mean you have landed wrongly or haven’t practiced well enough before the run.
9. Run your own race
As I said before dont try to outrun someone. You take your time to get on track and keep your pace. Your GPS Watch might not match the mile stones. For me it just wasnt matching with the mile markers- they were 200m apart. It was frustrating, especially towards the end when you finished the race according to your watch but you have 400m to go in the race. Dont worry you are going to be the last one to finish. There will be many who just walk the entire race.
10. Final thoughts -Enjoy the race
Dont forget to enjoy the race! Its all about the journey. Crossing the finish line is one part of the journey. During my run I witnessed so many people running- Some running with their kids, elderly people, father carrying his son on his head, some physically challenged people pushing their wheel chairs, some running barefoot the entire distance, some dressed in Halloween costumes. There were drummers from Kerala who played the Dhol which was super motivating and entertaining. The 10 kms I ran inside cubbon park was heavenly, with trees and doggos walking past starring at the runners.
After my marathon I felt a surge of happiness on having achieved something I didn’t think was possible. My parents were quite anxious for me before the run fearing I would faint during the run. My mom advised me to take lots of glucose during the run. I was happy mostly because I dint have any huge muscle cramps or fatigue after the run- thanks to all the training.
Remember to train well before the run, stretch before and after the run, eat properly and most importantly hydrate yourself!
If you do not know where to start just go ahead and register for your next race – be it even a 5K . I am certain that, in the end, you’ll feel proud and accomplished, and you won’t regret it.
Here is a First Time Runners guide
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