I wanted to write you guys a little list of what I learned during this half marathon, in no particular order.
- Have a plan. This may have different meanings for different people. For me, it meant having a goal time and then blocking out my goal splits for each mile to achieve that time. My coach also gave me "focus phrases" to think about during the different parts of the race. Does that sound "type A" to you? Maybe. But remember that distance running is just that: lots of time and lots of miles. It's easy to get "lost" mentally and forget what you're doing and why you're doing it. Focusing on splits or key phrases helps to cut through the fog that you will eventually hit at some point in the race.
- Be prepared. This is simple stuff. Set out your clothes the night before. Pack your bag. Pin your race number to your shirt or bra. Put your timing chip on your laces. Set your shoes by your bed. Put your gels/bars/energy substances in your pouch/belt. The morning of the race is not the time to pack. It is the time to focus on your race, not the contents of your bag.
- Be early. Many races are huge events with thousands of people. You will have to look for parking, then walk to the start line. You might get lost. You might have to use the bathroom. You need to warm up. Not only does an early arrival ensure that more parking spots are readily available, but it also means that the port-a-potty lines are relatively short. Do yourself and your spouse/cheering section a favor and set the alarm one hour earlier than you think you'll need. Today is not the day to catch up on your sleep.
- Be confident. It doesn't matter if this is your first race or your fiftieth. You have every "right" to be here as everyone else. One of the most common things I've heard from runners at the starting line are the words, "I don't feel like I belong here." Do you know how to run? Then you belong here.
- Be committed. Maybe you trained seriously for this event. Maybe you intended to train, but slacked off despite your best intentions. At this point, you can't train any more. Get focused on the race at hand and run it to the best of your ability. If you make excuses at the starting line, you're handicapping yourself before the race even begins.
- Have fun. I ran the race with my best running buddies (pictured above). Even though we didn't finish together, it was nice to know that they were going through the same race that I was. We were together at the starting line and we waited for each other at the finish. I loved having their support. Whether you listen to music while you run or not, pay attention to the crowd. Look at the handmade posters, laugh at the themed outfits that other runners are wearing. Enjoy this moment, and when the pain comes, try to enjoy that, too. You've earned all of it.
That's a little bit of what I took away from my race. I hope it's helpful for you guys. Coming up, we'll cover: "What Now? The Next Steps After a Big Race."