Why My Half Marathons Went As Well As They Did

I’ve been anything but quiet on here about how proud I am of myself for completing two half marathons.  Just over a year ago I hadn’t started running, and now as I contemplate registering for my third, and possibly fourth, half marathon, I can’t help but think back and reflect on what I did that allowed for my half marathons to go as well as they did.

1.  I followed my training plan.

Four and a half months of training mapped out

Four and a half months of training mapped out

Back in August Preston and I mapped out our 19 week training plan for Marathon Weekend, and I started my training plan the first week of September.  Although some weeks had to be adjusted due to my schedule, the weather, and my overall health, I didn’t skip a single long run during my training cycle for half marathon #1, and kept on track with my eight week conditioning plan for half marathon #2 until my body prevented me from continuing to do so.  Keeping to the training plan required focus, dedication, and lots of hard work.  Some weeks were easier than others, but having a plan also kept me focused and on track towards accomplishing my goal.

2.  I didn’t do anything different on race day.

Often times I hear about runners who ate something different for breakfast on race morning, tried a new fuel in the middle of the race, or decided to change their run intervals mid race.  For both of my half marathons, I didn’t do a single thing differently.  Both at Disney World and here at home the morning of my half marathons, I ate the breakfast that has worked for me: a peanut butter sandwich with a banana.  About 15 minutes prior to starting the race I took a Gu Energy Gel.  After crossing the start line I took another Gu every 30-45 minutes.  I wore my hydration belt so that I had access to water when I wanted it.  Everything that I was used to during training I made sure to mimic on race day, both when away from home for half #1 as well as at home for half #2.  The bottom line is: don’t do anything on race day that you haven’t already done during your training.

3.  I utilized run-walk intervals instead of trying to run without any walk breaks.

From the start of my training, I have been practicing Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method.  For shorter runs my run intervals are longer, but for the most part I utilized either 3:1 intervals or 2:1 intervals for my longer training runs.  I opted to run both of these races conservatively, and ran 2:1 run-walk intervals as best as I could (walking more frequently when necessary).

4.  I listened to my body during the race and made adjustments as necessary.

Around mile 10 of the Disney World Half Marathon, I couldn’t maintain 2:1 intervals any longer, and knew that in order to safely get across the finish line I needed to cut my run intervals down to one minute each.  As for Rock ‘n’ Roll, because I was still recovering from my possible TIA (and still am today), I knew it was more important than ever to listen to my body.  When I felt the need to walk, I did, and I didn’t get on myself for not being able to maintain 2:1 intervals for the entire race.

5.  I ran my first half marathon with my best friend.

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon! Photo Credit: MarathonFoto

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon!
Photo Credit: MarathonFoto

Preston and I ran the Disney World Half Marathon side by side.  While we didn’t complete all of our training runs together (he is after all a much faster runner than I am), he ran my first half marathon with me at my pace.  This was partly to force himself to conserve energy for the full marathon the next morning, but also because he wanted to encourage me when I needed to be encouraged.  His encouragement gave me the motivational fuel I needed when I wanted to give up.  Although he ran his own race at Rock ‘n’ Roll, his frequent texts and words of encouragement when I needed them most made me feel as though he was physically there with me on the course.

QOTD: Why do you think your first major races have gone well (or not well if they haven’t)?

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25 Responses to Why My Half Marathons Went As Well As They Did

  1. Kristin says:

    Wow, congratulations!!! That’s so phenomenal and wonderful to read!! I love it!!! For me, sticking to a running plan is a bonus plus running with my husband never hurts either!! 😉 😉

  2. Lianna says:

    Great entry! Regardless of how long one has been running, it’s always great to go back to basics.

    I agree with following a training plan! My last half marathon went really well and that was due to the triathlon training I’ve had on my plate lately. Despite having the typical minor aches following race day, and even though there was no PR, I was able to finish in an upright position and go consistently with 30-second walking “breaks.”

  3. My best races are ones where I stick to a plan. Now that I have been running a while, I tend to develop my own, but still put a lot of thinking into mapping it out. My worst races are ones where I eat something different the night before race day. Morning of food doesn’t mess me up like that night before dinner.

  4. Juliana says:

    Great post! For me I think its nutrition and sleep. If I eat clean all week before a race as well as get 8 hours of sleep and as much as I can on race day (as you know as well, getting that before a Disney race is crazy!!) then I run a good race.

    And of course training. As long as I stick to a plan that works for me and weight train. I am good to go!

  5. Got a little teary there on #5 :). I ran my first half with my then fiance, and we stuck together until the very end, when I still had some fuel left in the tank. I ended up finishing two minutes ahead of him, but the fact that we pretty much laughed our way through the first 12.5 miles, made it go by so much easier. I haven’t been able to run a half with him again since then and definitely miss having that company. It does make a difference!

  6. Following your training plan is definitely important! I also think that mixing in at least two days of strength training to any training plan for any distance helps to increase speed and prevent injury.

  7. Sticking to a plan is key. My best races come from sticking to a proper training plan. And, surprise surprise, some of my most miserable races have been when I have slacked on my training! Go you for sticking with a plan and nailing your race

  8. Follow a training plan is pretty important for me! I also use the Galloway method and it’s a huge reason my marathon was so much fun! I had a great half marathon two weeks ago and I’m still trying to figure out what I did different!

  9. I also love to run with my husband! I think it is a huge help to have him there for support–plus mine helps to pace me out at the times I want to hit!

  10. You’re very lucky to have your hubby next to you throughout your journey! I’m sure he’s been a huge help in addition to well mapped out training plans. I think someone to lean on and a good plan are imperative for training!

  11. kristenk says:

    Great post! Although it’s making me a bit nervous…I ran Disney Princess as my first half, and I trained well, stayed super hydrated, and ate well before/during the race. I did really well and recovered quickly, so I know I did it right! But I knew I had my second half 5 weeks later and had no idea how to keep training for that, so I kind of wrote a plan that pretty much got derailed due to my grandfather’s death and my very sudden news that I’m moving across the country in April. Half #2 is this weekend and I’m terrified because I haven’t run anything over 8 miles since my first half! Let’s hope hydrating like crazy will make up for my shortened long runs…

    • I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandfather, Kristen. If it helps in reassuring you in terms of your upcoming race, I had a health setback two weeks before my second half, and was very worried about running the race. Despite the setback in my training I was still able to run it though. Your body is probably more ready than you think it is.

  12. i love love love your finish line photos from disney. so cute 🙂

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