Ever dream of crossing the finish line? Running a 5k, 10k, half marathon or full marathon? I just ran my first marathon this weekend and while that doesn’t make me an expert I learned a lot during my six months of training. Here’s how I got there:
Last week I wrote an article about my 75lb weight loss after having two babies in two years. As I lost the weight I became a runner. I’m not sure at what point I decided that I could call myself a runner. It took a while but one day I realized that I could assume the title and it gave me a huge boost in confidence.
I started out doing the Couch to 5K program. It’s a really popular running program for the beginner runner and it’s what I recommend to my members at Stroller Strides after they have a baby and want to get back into some kind of running shape. I really like the C25K because it is perfectly designed for new runners of all fitness levels. I really like it for postpartum reconditioning because most women are heavier than their pre-pregnancy running weight. Postpartum women still have a good bit of relaxin in their bodies which combined with the extra weight makes for some achy joints when trying to start running again. The C25K eases the body into running and it’s ok to repeat weeks if needed.
After I finished the C25K I began a 10k training program. I need to have a goal to work on or I get lazy and I’m more likely to not run. Having a black and white schedule already written out for me makes it “Amy proof”. I am a big fan of Hal Higdon’s training schedules. He’s trained thousands of runners, he knows what he’s talking about. I started with his 10K novice training program. It was comfortable for the most part. I think to start this program a runner should be able to comfortably complete a 5k. I do know people that completed the C25K twice before moving on to the 10K schedule and that is just fine. Slow and steady is better than over training and injury.
I timed my schedules out to match a race to run in September so my planning began a year in advance. That’s a long time to plan and train for a marathon so breaking it up into training for a 5K then training for a 10K gave me mini goals and it conditioned me to be ready to start the marathon training schedule. The schedule that I chose is for beginner runners. Although I’d been a runner off and on for 8 years, I was not a distance runner. I’d never done more than my 10K training and certainly had not broken double digit mileage. It was daunting to think about so I just focused on one week at a time.
In March of this year I began the 26 week beginner marathon training schedule. I chose this one because it most closely matched up time wise with races available in Colorado and when I thought I’d be ready for it. I had a couple of extra weeks built in because life happens and I didn’t want to get behind schedule if something unexpected came up, especially since I have a two year old and four year old. I was about 90% true to the schedule but for the most part stuck to it. I did have a few off weeks and had to rearrange. I think it’s important to know that you will make changes and the flexibility is key. Planning the week, the runs, the childcare is all part of it.
I did do shorter runs with my kids in my jogger but their dad watched them during long runs. I had ups and downs in my training. I learned what my gut could handle, what my body needed to be properly fueled and hydrated, what NOT to do in some cases and over all what I am capable of. I had runs that left me feeling victorious and proud and runs that left me incapacitated and in tears. I just kept going though.
Two weeks before my marathon I got a killer sinus infection that kept me from running for a week and hindered my running for another so I made the call to reschedule to a run two weeks later so that I could regain my strength and conditioning. It was a good call. Going into the run feeling healthy was very important.
The race I chose was hard. It was much harder than I anticipated because the course wasn’t clearly described. It ended up being a 9-mile uphill run into the mountains followed by a 17-mile trek back to town. Half of the full marathon registrants didn’t complete the race. I came in about middle of the pack and I feel great about it. I feel like any ‘regular’ marathon will be a piece of cake now and I can wait to run a city run next.
Here are my top 10 tips for running:
- JUST DO IT! Seriously. Get up and run. No matter how fast or slow you are faster than the person sitting at home. We live in a beautiful state full of trails and a city that is very runner friendly.
- Get the right shoes. Most of the dedicated running stores can analyze your foot, gait and shoe and tell you what shoe will be best for you. This is one of the best things you can do for injury prevention whether you intend on running a 5K or a marathon.
- Make a goal. Start with the 5K. Find a friend to run with if it will help you. I’m more of a solo runner so if that’s what you prefer do that. Do what works for you.
- If you just had a baby take it easy. Build into it. Your body is healing. Your bones are weaker. Your joints are looser. Be gentle but consistent.
- Cross train. Build up your ankle and knee strength with weight training. It’s great for injury prevention.
- As you start to build mileage be sure to give your body what it needs. Electrolytes, carbs, proper nutrition. It really only takes about one time of eating the wrong thing after a long run to NOT make that mistake again.
- Learn your body and listen to it. There’s a difference between pushing through a hard run and pushing through an injury.
- Don’t make excuses. “It’s cold” “It’s windy” “I have a cold” Get out there and get moving. You never regret the run you did, only the one you didn’t do.
- Don’t let a bad run or a bad week get you down. Pick back up and stick to your plan.
- Believe in yourself. Even when you don’t believe in yourself fake it. Tell people what you are doing because then you are accountable. No matter what the length of race you are training for advertise it to your friends and family. Once you tell people you HAVE to do it so then giving up isn’t an option.