Three short alternative tips for first-timers and as reminders to seasoned runners.
Let’s start this post with a little picture. That’s me last June in Swansea (well-organised, flat & fast – great race), doing my third half-marathon.
Just a jolly runner, right? How about a closer look.
Let’s focus on those eyes.
That’s not how my eyes look like when I wake up in the morning (apart from very unusual circumstances). These eyes are filled with madness. Terror. They’re screaming why are you doing this to yourself? to us? when will this stop? heeeeeeelp.
With the season starting and Reading Half tomorrow (hope to see you there!), I thought about the alternative tips that I haven’t really read before any of my races (apart from no 1), be that the first ones or the subsequent ones. These tips seem to be true every single time and will probably be true for me tomorrow. Enjoy.
You will get super excited at the start line – watch out
You’ve been training hard (right?) for the last x months and this is the day when life says ‘check’. Hundreds of people thinking exactly the same thing surround you. You’re waiting in the queue to the toilets for the sixth time, because for some reason, even though you haven’t had a drink in an hour, your bladder seems to have forgotten that it’s got the power to close the floodgates (unless it’s a real flood coming). Then you’re heading towards the start line. Unless you’re an elite runner, your starting zone isn’t exactly at the very front and now you’re still surrounded by hundreds of people, still with one thought on their mind: I SERIOUSLY NEED TO PEE AGAIN. You ignore it, unless there are some bushes nearby. But back to the start line. Your Garmin / Polar / Suunto / phone / stopwatch (really?) is ready to go. You might hear the gun shot that starts the race. Then you wait until everybody ahead of you starts moving and finally you begin running.
That’s the point where you really need to watch out. With all that excitement in the air, with the feeling that this is it and that this is what it comes down to, it’s not difficult to get carried away. I wrote about it here already, in my post-Great North Run-thoughts, but it’s really important to repeat: remember what your planned race pace is and don’t let yourself start too fast. If you do, you will suffer – maybe not straight away, but maybe in the second half of the half-marathon. People might be overtaking you and your ego will go crazy at that – but keep it in reigns. Honestly.
Once you’re out there, it’s a battle… that will (most likely) hurt
Do you know that little voice that you hear during trainings that says to you how about we stop now? why so fast? I’m sooo tired, let’s not do this to ourselves and all that other motivating stuff (or is it just my head? I might need professional help). That voice becomes a lot louder during the race, especially in its second half, when you’re pushing yourself and trying to stay alive at the target race pace. And unless you’re ready for it and know that it’s coming, it might surprise you and it’ll be even tougher to ignore it. Therefore be prepared for a battle with yourself. However cheesy / cliche this might sound, once you’re out there, it really is mostly winning against your own weaknesses as opposed to the people around you. They don’t care about you – they’ve got their own fights internally – so why should you.
And one more thing – it will hurt. Races aren’t pleasant – the feeling after the race is amazing, but the race itself is hard work. Different parts of your body will start hurting at different times of the race and you’ll have to make judgements whether that’s an injury and you should probably stop or whether it’ll just pass. All of this with that voice shouting and encouraging you to just let go of the image of you at the finish line.
Every step gets you closer to the finish line. It gets you closer to the next mile-marker. It makes you stronger. Unless you’re injured, stay in the game and power through. Just be ready that it’s not going to be a walk in the park (unless that’s what you’re aiming for, then ignore me).
You might not achieve your target time – and that’s ok
Finally, this is something I very strongly believe in – even if you don’t achieve your target time, don’t let it overshadow all the hard work you have put into the preparations. It’s tempting to just go all of this was for nothing, I failed, but that’s just not true. Mark my words – if you’ll think that to yourself, I will track you down and kick you in an area of your choosing.
Time for another cliche – it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Sure, getting closure is a great thing and actually it’s scientifically proven that humans crave that closure (look up the Zeigarnik Effect and it’s implications). But that doesn’t mean that these x months that you have put invested into the preparations, all of those hours of exercising, all of the times you have stopped yourself from binge-eating and chose healthily – these successes don’t go away just because you missed your target time! Pat yourself on the back for all that hard work and be proud of yourself.
And then most likely sign up for a next race. Because once you get the buzz of finishing, you’ll want more of it.
Hope these were helpful. See you out there!
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Stay healthy and awesome!