Running – you either love it or hate it, and I’m definitely a lover. As soon as I put my shoes on and start moving, I feel great, and I feel even better afterwards. Sure it’s a challenge but that’s what I love about it. Running is something that you can compete with yourself in – challenge yourself to go a bit further or a bit faster than last time. I’m not sporty at all – I’m uncoordinated and clumsy! So running is something I can do, and challenge myself with. And that was my goal for this half marathon. To beat my last time and try and run it as close to 2 hours as I could. And I achieved that!
Here’s what helped me run my best half marathon:
1. Tempo runs
Every half marathon I’ve trained for, I’ve followed a plan fairly religiously, but for some reason not paid much attention when it mentioned “tempo run” under a distance. So this was the first training plan where I actually though, what’s this tempo business all about. A tempo run is at a “comfortably hard” pace. Comfortably hard sounds like a bit of an oxomoron but it’s just running at a pace that is hard but not so hard that you need to stop. Tempo runs train your body to better deal with lactic acid that builds up in your muscles during running. Lactic acid = fatigue, so clearing lactic acid faster means you can run faster for longer. You can read more about tempo runs here .
2. Using a heart rate monitor
I think I let off enough hints to my sister that she let me borrow her Polar heart rate monitor for the three weeks before the race. Thanks Soph!! This helped me push myself a bit more than I normally would in a run as I aimed to keep at around 85% of my max heart rate in those last few long training runs. Apparently you can run at 85-88% of your max heart rate for a half marathon, so I aimed to balance my heart rate with my pace.I was focusing on not going too fast that my heart rate jumped up too high as I didn’t want to get to the end and burn out. For the last 4 kms my heart rate was over 90% – I didn’t care as I knew it was almost over!!
3. Nike Running App
I’ve said this before, but I’m so in love with this app. You get an update at each kilometre to tell you your average pace and time and you can go back and compare past runs. You can read more about it here. Bonus is it’s free to download. Read more here
In the last few days before the run, I increased the percentage of calories in my diet that came from carbohydrates. This increases the amount of glycogen stored in your muscles to help stop you “hitting the wall”. I just did simple things like instead of eating my usual nuts for a snack, I ate bananas. I ate slightly more carbs at dinner and less protein. So not necessarily eating more, but just more carbohydrate.
5. Beetroot juice!
Beetroot is packed full of inorganic nitrate which is converted into nitrogen oxides. Studies have quite consistently shown that consumption of dietary nitrate improves exercise efficiency, allowing you to exercise at a greater intensity for the same level of effort – and I think it definitely helps!! It’s actually really interesting how it works, you can read more about it here. I ate beetroot the days before the race and I also used Beet-It shots. Just so you know, eating/drinking more beetroot changes the colour of what comes out the other end!! Don’t fret when you go to the loo, you’re hot haemorrhaging, it’s just the beetroot! Yup you’ll have red poos and wees!
I really truly believe that anyone can run a half marathon if it’s a goal they want to achieve. Before I ran my first half marathon, I’d never run long distance runs before. I was a sporadic runner. But I just build up my fitness, then followed a 12 week plan along with a couple of friends who were also running it. Completing my first one definitely gave me the running bug!
(PS last year I ran a full marathon – you can read about that here – can’t believe I did that!)
Who else has been training for an event? What helps you with your training?