My first half marathon taught me more than how to run a race
I have never been into running. In fact, I have never tried running even a full kilometer. Despite the hype and mutiple races, I have never been jealous of wanting to be part of it. I always thought running is too tiring until I found it fun. In Lexmark Dash this year where my love for running started, I signed up for 5km and for my first attempt, I ran it nonstop. It was as if the heaven opened and I heard angels singing. It came as a euphoria to know that I can achieve it. It was a slow pace but all I wanted was to complete it. My strong yoga background and strengthening exercises must have helped.
This year I am turning 40 and I wanted to conquer my first race. What could be more deserving than traversing the iconic Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEx) by foot? CCLEx is the longest bridge-way structure in the Philippines and for the first time, it is open for runners of Cebu City Marathon 2023. A close friend convinced me to signup for 21km instead of a shorter safe distance, and believed in me that I can finish the race for as long as I do the work. That confidence propelled me to believe in myself. I could not have done it without the support, guidance, and the run tips.
My first half marathon taught me more than just how to run a race. Here are my lessons:
- A personal coach is preferred but you can do it even without one. Although not having a personal coach is doable, it helps to have someone push you, remind you, and check on your progress. There are several resources online for a training plan that is free or for purchase. A smart watch is helpful to guide and track your progress. You can also ask some running friends around you to assess your run results virtually. Listening to someone you trust helps.
- Follow social media of running enthusiasts and coaches for tips. I follow run.nrg for tips, and running.yana for run drills.
- Run with friends around. Run at designated jog area. I train alone 90% of the time. There is no one to pace with me and no one talk to but having other runners around seem to give a sense of belongingness. It's motivating to be in the presence of fellow run lovers.
- Run even if you don't feel like it. Run in any weather condition. It's only difficult at the start. Run with music, if it helps. For long runs, I prefer listening to audio books. Consider this time your "me" time. Be ready for any weather condition. I find my sun visor very useful especially on the changing sunny-rainy conditions in Cebu. Its visor blocks my eyes from the glare of the sun or from drizzle. The cap stops my sweat from running to my eyes and face.
- Run easy on easy days It is tempting to get Personal Records all the time or be mayor at a loop. However, run easy 80% of your training time. What probably helped me in my training is that I follow instructions very well except once and it caused me an injury.
- Take note of your training. I use Notes app sync'd to all my Apple devices and use Strava app for the graph analysis. Be watchful of going over or under mileage.
- For race day, target a goal time and plan your pace. Pick a time to target and determine the average pace to get there. That way, during race, you can adjust your pace depending on the terrain (uphill, downhill, flat). You also know if you are on target.
- Nutrition is important before and during race. 2 days before race, load on carbs. The day before the race, load on electrolytes. Plan your endurance gels and salt sticks so you know how many pieces to bring. I took one gel and one salt pill every 40mins.
- Get emotional but stick to the goal. At 18km, I felt overwhelmed as I'm almost at the Finish line. It was probably also exhaustion. I was at the verge of crying. It helps to know that there are many of us running this race and that many are not giving up so why should I? Keep running. Sprint the last 400m.
- Enjoy! You can do whatever you set your mind into. Change your mindset before you can change your body. Determination and grit got me to the finish line.
Out of 3,731 registered runners for half marathon, I ranked 1,438th. That means I bested 2,293 of them. Yey!
As for my goals, I achieved them all:
✅ finish sub 3 hours
✅ finish gwapa (that is, smiling, not pale and not dying LOL)
Jesse Owens was right when he said, "It takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self discipline, and effort to make your dreams a reality." This is true, not just in sports, but in anything in life. Just take the first step!