Here are the things I did this time around that made running 13.1 miles more enjoyable:
For my last half marathon, I trained too much. Between my 2013 half and this one, I signed up for two other half marathons that I didn't run because I got injured from overtraining. In the past, I ran five to six days per week when training. I tend to get on a running kick and want to run all the time, but I have to remember that pounding the pavement every day isn't the best thing for my body. Now when I train, I aim for running three times per week-- two runs per week minimum and four runs maximum. The majority of my runs are between four and six miles, and starting about six weeks out I do one long run per week that increases in distance every week. The furthest long run I will do before a half is twelve miles.
Don't Under Recover
This time around I was super diligent about my post-run recovery. Immediately when I finished a run, I would stretch and use the foam roller on my legs. Then, I put my compression socks on and plopped down on the couch with ice packs on my knees for about 20 minutes.
Before The Race
Eat Smart 24 Hours Out
The day before the race, I paid a lot of attention to what I ate to make sure I felt good the next morning. This was difficult because we had a barbecue at our house the night before for a friend's birthday and served up sausage, pork loin, baked beans and endless beer. I knew the pork and beans would be poor choices before a race, so I had half a sausage, veggies, a Quest Bar and one beer. The morning of the run, I ate a Clif Bar. I knew a Clif Bar would give me enough fuel for the race but not feel too heavy in my stomach while running. Nutrition win!
Plan Your Playlist
I made a new playlist on Spotify the day before the race with new songs that I knew would keep me motivated. I also downloaded a couple podcasts to listen to. My "audio strategy" was to listen to podcasts the first half of the race and switch to my playlist at the halfway point. I tend to get sick of anything I am listening to after about an hour, whether it be an audiobook, podcasts or music. Switching up what I was listening to halfway through kept me from getting too bored.
Half an hour before the race, I started warming up with dynamic stretches. I also stretched out my hip flexors quite a bit since I have been having problems with them lately. After stretching, I walked around until the start of the race to keep my legs moving and my body warm.
During The Race
Find A Buddy
This is something I have done during every race I have ever run. Once I am running and have found a comfortable pace, I choose a random person as my running buddy. I don't talk to this person or acknowledge them in any way. I just follow them. When I get bored, I make up random details about their life-- how many races they have run, if they have kids, what they ate for breakfast that morning.. anything to keep my mind busy. After a few miles, I reassess my imaginary relationship with this running buddy and speed up or slow down depending on how I feel. During this race, I broke it off with my first running buddy and sped up to find a buddy who was more my speed.
Run On Dirt
The Danville Half Marathon was almost entirely on a bike trail, and I was SO glad that there was a dirt path next to the paved trail that I could run on. Running is hard on my knees in general, and running on pavement is especially no bueno. I am convinced that the dirt path saved me miles and miles of achy legs. Although my knees are hurtin' today, I know from past experience that it would be a million times worse had I run the whole race on concrete.
I carried Clif Shot Bloks with me and had one at miles seven, nine and eleven. I really believe this mid-race fuel gave me an extra burst of energy, and it was nice having a treat while I was running.
There were hydration stations every two to three miles along the route, but I didn't stop for water at each one. During my last half, I drank two much water and got a terrible cramp in my side that lasted for a good six miles. This time, I only grabbed water at every other station. I made sure to hydrate really well the night before the race and the morning of with water and coconut water, and that definitely helped as well.
The Danville Half Marathon was a small race, and it made me that much more grateful for the volunteers who helped out. There were a lot of crosswalks along the trail, and at each crossing there were volunteers, Boy Scouts and people from the Semper Fi Foundation managing traffic and cheering for the runners. There were also six hydration stations along the route, with volunteers offering Gatorade, water and motivation. I made sure to thank all the volunteers and talk to them as I ran by. I really appreciated all the people who came out to make the race happen, and knowing that they were there to support us runners definitely made 13.1 miles less miserable.