What I Learned Running A Half Marathon
Running a half marathon served as a huge learning experience both personally and professionally. My wife and I went into the race with only one half marathon under our belt and that was 11 years ago when I was in PT school. We knew that we could run the half marathon distance and wanted to have some sort of time associated goal with the race. We decided we wanted to run the race in 1:45 or less (under an 8 minute pace/mile ideally). We came very close to that goal as my wife ran an 8:01 pace with a total time of 1:44:52 and I ran an 8:03 pace with a time of 1:45:18. Below are some things I learned along the way!
Bring a variety of clothes in preparation for weather! We went to Savannah, GA in early November with expectations of sunny weather with temps in the low to mid 60’s. We ended up having a downpour of rain that lasted two straight days (and the entire race), weather in 38-45 degree range, wind gusts up to 45mph and absolutely no sunshine. Because of this, we had to run to the store and buy an entire outfit so we could even tolerate being in those conditions running for two hours. Luckily, we found something and had time to shop. The other hiccup we had was that my wife’s Apple Watch randomly quit working in the first mile of the race, so we ran the whole race not knowing how much time had elapsed or what our pace was. In the future, we will bring at least two methods to track time to avoid being oblivious on the course. Lastly, get information regarding the course setup and pre race conditions. We did not know exactly where our corral was going to be or how early we needed to be there. Because of this, we waited unnecessarily long before the race when we could have waited indoors. We waited about 45 minutes pre-race in the cold, rain and wind which was more uncomfortable than actually running.
The biggest revelation I had with training was how important it was to legitimately create, utilize and track a running program. It eliminated the day to day decision making fatigue of trying to figure out the running routine. It also eliminated any emotional or subjective decisions based on how you are feeling and trying to make decisions exclusively on that. The running program I utilized tracked weekly mileage, chronic mileage and acute to chronic work ratios. These are all factors highly correlated to most running injuries and keeping this data helped me make more educated decisions on whether I should modify my workout and not relying exclusively on how I felt. Which brings me to my next point, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY AND IT IS OKAY TO SKIP A WORKOUT. I skipped two runs on my shorter running days because I wasn’t feeling great physically and from a scheduling standpoint we had things pop up that didn’t make it feasible to run that day. Mentally, it can be tough to miss a workout, but in the long run it won’t jeopardize your training if you maintain consistency throughout the whole program and adjust your mileage accordingly on the random days you need to miss or reschedule. I will also point out that the days I did not feel great were because I did TOO MUCH on my off days. One day, I did a 9 mile hike and another day I did a 5.5 mile hike/jog with my kids while they rode bikes. This drastically increased my mileage those weeks and my training program that was tracking this mileage easily predicted that I would be worn out and run down (and I was).
The running community is vast, varied and extremely supportive. Everyone is there for different reasons and everyone is running for a different purpose. This race forced accountability from a training standpoint, pushed my wife and I into various exercise routines we would have never pursued and ultimately opened us up to a way to travel the country and teach our kids the benefits of running and exercise. We look forward to seeing where this journey takes us and we will share our experiences along the way!
–Dr. Zach Baker, DPT, SCS