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What I Learned From My First Half Marathon

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments


I always viewed my race this past weekend as a “C” race – a training race.  Had I not raced, I would have done an equally long training run anyway, so why not jump into an organized event for the experience, and the fun.  The idea was to learn from it in hopes it will help me for my upcoming “A” race…

So what did I learn from my first Half Marathon?  Well…

February Races in Canada are Cold – No shit, huh?  But not cold like we’re all used to getting in and out of our car going to work in February.  Cold like it’s hard to figure out how to dress for the race.  “Do I wear Long Johns or not” kinda cold.  Which is fine, but it makes it hard to get the muscles to warm up.  Like any sane Canadian, I’ve been doing most of my winter training indoors on a treadmill – where I can stay warm.  If I’m going to race outside in the winter, I need to give myself more time to warm up.

Aid Stations are your Best Friend – There’s nothing like turning a corner on the race route and seeing a table with cups of water and some other branded sugary electrolyte replenishing-ish drink (no free plugs dropped here!).  When I do training runs by myself I carry a water bottle.  Even with my enormous 24oz bottle, it doesn’t get me through a 20km+ run.  And I have to carry it the whole time.  Supported runs with aid stations really do make running easier – they make more of a difference than I thought they would.

It’s Okay to Walk – I used to be quite embarrassed that I couldn’t run the whole distance of a race.  I used to tell myself “No walk breaks until I see someone else taking a walk break”.  That shit’s just not realistic.  Everyone (except those crazy-fast folks who actually win races) takes walk breaks.  In fact, walk breaks early help your legs stay strong late.  The trick is to listen to your body.  I’m not worried about walk breaks any more.

Hills Suck – Seriously.  Doesn’t matter if they’re early or late in the race.  If they’re early they trick you: you think you can attack them and they just make you more tired later on.  If they’re late in the race they tease you: you’re tired and just want to finish and suddenly you’ve got to climb one of those damn things!  Please!  There’s no shame in walking up the hills and running down the other side!

It’s Okay to be Last – Being last means you finished, and that’s seriously awesome.  It doesn’t matter how much I called it a “C” race – it’s really cool that I’ve finished a Half Marathon (so much different – better – than simply having done a 21km training run).  Doesn’t mean I didn’t race hard – but I gave it what I had, ran a Personal Best time that I was happy with, and I can’t control the speed of the field.

Race Day Will Make You Faster – I haven’t figured out what it is yet, but Race Day will always make you faster than your best training run.  And that’s a good thing.  Maybe it’s the crowd?  Maybe it’s volunteers, or distance marker signs, or pylons, or discarded cups along the roadside?  Maybe it’s knowing there’s a big clock ticking at the finish line.  Whatever it is, I find a gear on Race Day I can’t find doing training runs by myself.

After the Race, You’ll Want to Eat Everything – but you shouldn’t.  You’ll want to though.  I actually put on a pound after my race because I ate everything in the kitchen that day.  Sure, I just burned a shit load of calories, but it isn’t a free pass.  And really, when I want to eat everything in site, it’s not like I’m craving health food.  Seriously!  Gotta go a bit easier next time.

Recovery is a Bitch – The weekend before I did a 21km training run.  I was walking normal later that day and training again the next day.  But Race Day is different – that shit kills your legs for days.  Maybe it’s a byproduct of being faster on Race Day?  Who knows.  Either way, don’t expect to jump back into your regular training routine the next day…  unless you’re in a lot better shape than I am that is… I’m still hobbling.


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