Guys. I ran a half marathon. Two days after I turned 30 years old these legs straight ran 13.1 miles. All of them. Every single step. And so I wanted to take a moment to give my reflections and, dare I say, advice to anyone thinking about doing a half marathon.
First things first, though. You should know that I hated it. I did not enjoy a single moment of this run. There was no reason NOT to enjoy it. You know, except for the fact that IT POURED DOWN RAIN FOR THE FIRST HOUR AND 20 MINUTES. And when I say POURED down rain, I mean that for at least 30 minutes of that torrential downpour I couldn’t see more than 8 feet in front of me. And so, because I am slow, that left me ANOTHER HOUR AND A HALFISH after the rain ended to have to keep running in soaking wet clothing, shoes, and socks. My husband said he was sitting in the car with the kids waiting for me to text him my coordinates to get me the heck out of there. Which I would have done were the race not up into a the back trails of a giant wilderness park with no roads.
So no. I did not love it. I feel like if it had been a beautiful and perfect day I may have tried to convince myself that this distance running thing was, in fact, a great hobby choice. But alas, the Lord provides. And He provided rain and that convinced me that my body, these bones, these jiggly thighs, are NOT meant to run these distances. And I’m fine with that.
But I did it. And I’m glad I did it. Because now I don’t have to wonder if I would ever be able to do it. And also now I don’t ever have to wonder what being soaking wet and running in a sports bra for that long does to you. The following 2-3 words (depending on your preference) became such a real part of my life that I fear I’ll never emotionally recover. Those words are: under.boob.chafing. And I don’t say those words lightly. I understand the weight of making people I know and love, including my own grandparents, read that very personal bit of information just because the Pacific North West decided to open up a flood gate of water on me during my half marathon. I was left with not only a medal at the finish line, but also a line of chafing directly under my sports bra that extended from one armpit to the other. And the scabbing that ensued thereafter was nothing to scoff at either. So rain-runners beware. Underboob chafing is real and it. will. come. for you.
All that to say. I did it. Didn’t love it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give it ago. Which is my first piece of a advice:
1: YOU CAN DO IT. Please don’t think that you can’t do it or that this goal is not attainable. Because it absolutely is. I spent two years telling myself maybe I wasn’t cut out to run that kind of distance. But you know what? I was. And I knew I was because I once experienced 36 hours of labor and then watched nurses code my non-breathing son, race him from the room to do CPR on his tiny little body, and then load him up and ship him off to a children’s hospital 2 hours away before I ever even got to touch him, let alone meet him. He’s so great and healthy and perfect now (Praise the Lord). But that was top 3 hardest things that ever happened to me. And I’m not saying that you have to have had that same exact experience to be able to run a half marathon. But trust me, almost any trauma you have experienced, especially childbirth (can I get an amen?) will be or has been harder then running a measly 13 miles.
Where can you start? I used a Hal Higdon Novice Plan and really loved it (Shout out to Dana Davis- the most intense and best runner I know for that advice! She runs obscene distances. Sometimes in snow-covered mountains. And so any plan she swears by is a plan you can trust). This plan was easy to follow and took out all the guess work. Plan here: https://www.halhigdon.com/training-programs/half-marathon-training/novice-1-half-marathon/
2: Tell people. When I first started training I didn’t really tell anyone but my husband. But then I realized that I needed to tell more people because I wouldn’t care about telling my husband I was doing it and then not…because if you’re going to be comfortable letting anyone down it may as well be the one you live with so they can see you not follow through and you can tell them to “Shut it” if they bring it up. But when I started telling people it gave me a little more accountability and A LOT more encouragement. Friends were so wonderful to believe in me and no one ever seemed like they thought I couldn’t do it, or if they did, they kept it to themselves because, thankfully, I’m not friends with jerks.
3: Music That Moves You. This is important if you are a music listener. For me it wasn’t just important to have pumpin’ music, which I do think is important. I unashamedly have several Taylor Swift songs to get. things. going. But it is also important for me to hear songs that move my soul, which, in turn, move my body. For me this includes lots of Rend Collective because they have so many good songs about how amazing God is that also make me want to run a little faster. Their song Life is Beautiful is especially moving for me because of one of my all time favorite lyrics: “You take my sin and all of the mess/ As far as the east is from the west/ Everything has changed, I stand amazed/ My every breath is grace.” My every breath is grace. Man what a great reminder when you are 10 miles in, your lungs are burning, and you want to quit. By God’s grace your lungs are still going to be pulling air into the body he has given you. So stop complaining, be grateful, and run. Also Fight Song by Rachel Platten is on my running playlist 3 times. Because you know what? I DO have a lot of fight left in me. Thank you, Rachel.
More Favorites: I’m Going Free by Vertical Worship, Am I Missing by Dashboard Confessional, Live Alive, Joy, and Resurrection Day by Rend Collective.
And if you’re someone who doesn’t need music. That’s great. I personally can’t listen to my lungs possibly giving out and and my feet pounding out “You’re so slow” in Morse code. Carry on and you do you.
4: The Runner’s Runs. Oooooh this. No one told me about this. FYI graphic stuff ahead, ok? Maybe turn back now because it’s worse than underboob chafing. OR DON’T BECAUSE YOU’RE TRAINING FOR A HALF MARATHON AND YOU NEED TO KNOW!!!!!! Runner’s Stomach happens to some people. My friend Madison affectionately renamed it “The Runner’s Runs” which I think is more appropriate. Gastric distress. Which means, sometimes after long runs you will be in the bathroom…for several hours. I won’t go into detail here. And your threshold may be different. Some people don’t even experience this. But I wish I had read these words before the first time I ever ran 9 miles- and then yelled at my husband that I was going to poop my pants WHILE I WAS ON SPEAKER PHONE and he was around people HE WORKS WITH (you cannot even imagine the terror of that situation). I just wish someone had said to me:” For the love of all things holy, cut out your fiber for like 2 days before a long run.” I did this before race day and did not fall victim to TRR (The Runner’s Runs) like I had on two previous long runs (thank you, Jesus).
5. Ask for help. And this is a huge one that kind of goes with #2. I knew I wanted to do this. And so did I sit around and ask all my friends who love cookies as much as I do and couldn’t be paid to run a single mile, let alone a half marathon how to do it? No. I reached out to my most fit and supermodely looking friends. And you know what? They were SO helpful. Stacey helped with nutrition. Sara helped me with strength workouts. And when I thought about cancelling my race because my husband would be gone for the last month of my training I asked some friends to help watch my kids so I could get runs in; and even better: friends OFFERED. Because, again, thankfully, I’m not friends with jerks.
#6. Hopes and Goals. I think running a half marathon, or ANY distance is a worthy and noble and wonderful goal. But I also think it’s good to have a goal within that goal. Maybe it’s finishing under a certain amount of time. Maybe it’s only walking every 3 miles. Or maybe it’s not walking at all. But with that I think you have to examine hopes vs goals. For example, I am super competitive (I almost broke up with my then-boyfriend now-husband over a game of Scattergories). And so I thought about making the goal to run the entire race. But then I thought “What if I need to walk? What if my body is telling me I need to take a moment to reset, regroup, or TRR strikes? Because the word “goal” will mean that I did not make my goal and that I failed. (What a ridiculous line of thought, I know). So I decided to hope to run the entire thing. The simple wording change in my own mind gave me the freedom to know that if I needed to walk, I could, and I wouldn’t disappoint myself. Because what is the point of doing something like this if I were to walk away being let down by my accomplishment? That doesn’t seem fun at all. So. Hope or goal. Have something to work toward.
Well. That’s me signing off on all my half-marathon life lessons. I sincerely hope that if you are considering running you just know that despite it all. The chafing, TRR, the rain… Despite all of the things I didn’t love at mile 12 I looked over the bridge I was crossing and saw my guy and our babies cheering for me. And then after crossing the finish line and getting my medal my 2 year old little love said “Mom! You ran far!” And friends. That made it all worth it. Mostly….