In 2014 I ran my first half marathon in Oxford. It was an amazing experience in many ways, but it also taught me a lot about running and about myself. This blog will relate to you whether you're running a 5k, 10k or even down the shop!
Here are a few things I learned from my first half marathon.
1. It will be chilly and you need the right kit
I was not prepared for how cold I would be waiting for the race to start. It was a fresh October morning and I’m hovering around in a T-Shirt. My sister was there, cash in hand and brought me a bright pink long sleeve running top from one of the little stalls that are set up in the runners ‘village’. If you’re running your first half, or any race, in the colder months, make sure you have something warm to wear while you’re waiting for the race to start.
2. There’s lots of waiting around
They say to get to the race for a 9am start, however you need to arrive early to park the car, go to the toilet and case out the area. Chances are the race wont start bang on time, so make sure you are warming up while you are waiting.
3. You need fuel
The day before a big run you need to make sure you eat right and fuel your muscle stores. Eat carbs around lunchtime (pasta) then have a small dinner in the evening. Along the way I wasn’t prepared for how depleted I’d feel. I even accepted a jelly baby from a local child because my body was craving something sweet and there was nothing on offer besides sweets. Make sure you have a gel, or a couple of dates with you if your race doesn’t have fuel along the way. NOTE: Try eating dates/gels on your training runs, last thing you want is a bad reaction during a race!
4. You need the right shoes
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. It is so important to have the right shoes for your run. Otherwise you could land yourself in all kinds of trouble, blisters, knee pain, hip pain- not what you want.
5. You’ll probably struggle to walk afterwards
Take the next day off work and have a chill day. Treat yourself to a massage, have a bath. I went to NYC the next day and I’m not sure walking around the airport, then sitting still on a plane for 6 hours helped my muscle soreness.
6. Take your headphones out
Races like the Oxford Half have such a great atmosphere! People cheering, bands playing it’s fantastic! I had my music on most of the way because it was awkward to carry otherwise, but I did pause my music so I could enjoy the bands.
7. Use the toilet just before you start
Not even 1km in and I could see people dashing off to the side of the road for a wee. Before I set off I didn’t need the toilet. Soon as I saw people going I suddenly started to think “maybe I do need to go…” Then for about 3 miles that was all I could think about.
8. Plan your meet up point
This was the most stressful part of the race. I finished the race expecting to see my family all at the end waiting to hug me and take pictures… but I crossed the line, got my tee, water and medal and there was no one. Not only that, I didn’t have my phone. Thankfully, after 10 minutes of panicking that I’d never see my family again, I remembered that I had my sisters number on the back of my race number. I borrowed a fellow runners phone and finally caught up with her. Make sure you scope the area pre race and tell people where to meet you and about what time, when you’ve just ran 13+ miles your mind doesn’t feel too clear to handle the stress of loosing everyone!
9. Don’t eat something too heavy too quickly afterwards
I made the mistake of eating something from my goodie bag right after I crossed the line. My stomach wasn’t quite ready to start digesting food and it left me feeling pretty uneasy.