How To Cram For A Half Marathon
Photos by @tobiaswphotos
One summer night, my quiet bike ride home along the Lakeshore intersected with a friend's long run. After an impromptu catch-up (I talk a lot, Mark talks a lot), I left feeling inspired. So much so that I woke up the next morning and signed up for the Toronto Waterfront (half) Marathon. Shortly after, I was able to convince three of my girlfriends to run it as well.
Eight weeks to train wasn't so bad, except that I didn't actually start for another three weeks. There were a lot of variables, beginning with a summer of inactivity perpetuated by injury, and the rest stemming from fear - fear of not being able to finish, fear of being slow, and the fear of going out alone outside of daylight hours.
Finally, my friend Amy pulled me out of these fears and met me at 5:45am for a run along the Lakeshore. It was pitch black but Amy was my light - both figuratively and literally as she readjusted her headlight. This first run was deflating. I've been better than this.
For the next five weeks, we trained with Nike Running. Coach Inge and KC held us down once a week at 7am and that alone was inspiring enough to keep going.
As I reflect on the 21.2km journey I embarked on a little less than two weeks ago, I look back at what the last five weeks taught me. The first is that you can’t really cram for a half marathon but you can run 21.2km - yes, you.
Run with friends.
Surround yourself with people who hold you accountable and inspire you. Running with my girls was major. Even if you don’t run the race together, going through the experience as a group makes all the difference. Despite being at different levels, we all brought something to the table. If your friends aren't into running, join a run club. That's how I met mine.
Have realistic expectations.
Set your goals based on where you are at the moment, not where you used to be. Once I accepted that I wasn’t going to run as fast as I did the first time, I felt less anxious about how it would be. My goal, after not running for five months, was to finish strong and love running again. (Spoiler: I did).
Have fun with it.
For me, it’s the gear. Always. Sneakers propel a lot of the activities I enjoy and running shoes are always so interesting to me. I wore NikeLab sneakers (Zoom Fly SP - the white pair seen above) and a Nike x Off/White hat (green, below). Amy packed confetti in her running belt and threw it at every km. We talked about race day outfits for weeks prior in the group chat.
Stop obsessing about how you think you should do, and don’t worry about the people running past you. Our coaches actually recommended that we start in a later corral on race day to avoid the mental struggle of seeing people run past us.
Listen to your body. Fuel properly. Stretch. Drink water. Take long runs easy to build distance, and build pace with speed workouts. Run hills. Do your research. I listened to my coaches and was conservative with my training and expectations.
All in all, I got what I wanted out of this half. I didn’t PB (go ahead and check my chip time if you feel like being nosy, lol) but I reignited my love for running and I am looking forward to racing in the spring.
My friends and I came into this race with different intentions, and that was mine. Amy, Meghan and I ran the entire course together and we had fun doing it. Chloe finished her first half marathon and beat her goal time - couldn’t be prouder. We all experienced obstacles over the last year that coming together has helped us overcome, even on just a fitness level. Find some friends like that and you’re pretty much set.
Now get out there and stop being scared.