(I want to first state that I am by no means an expert on running, racing, or half marathons. I just love all of the above, and have completed 8 half marathons to date, all of varied difficulty, location, and size. This post is completely based on my personal experience).
I am beyond excited for this weekends half marathon. It’s definitely my favorite distance to “race”, each one is always a new adventure and challenge and I just really love them! Clearly I have made this known, and due to my “half crazy” enthusiasm I have convinced one of my girlfriends that she would love them too! So now race week is finally here, and her nerves are starting to set in. She’s put in the work and miles, and we have been strength training together since September, so her anxiety is totally stemming from the unknown of a race day. Physically she is definitely ready, but she has wrote down some super cute questions for me along the way and I thought it would be fun to make a post with my answers. (just a note-it’s actually her first race ever, not just her first half marathon!)
So here we go!
- Are there bathrooms??? Yes! There will most likely be at least 2 stops where port-a-potties will be available. Although, don’t be completely surprised to see someone veer off the course behind a tree or building!
2. Are there water opportunities like races seen on TV??? Yes. Prior to race day, you will receive a map that will tell you where those stops will be. Sometimes it’s emailed, sometimes it will be with your info at bib pickup, sometimes it will be posted at the start.
While of the subject of water stops…make sure you take advantage of them. Even if I am not thirsty at the first few, I have made a point of taking sips at these anyway. Better to make sure to stay hydrated. I also opt for gatorade or sports drinks offered later in the race to keep blood sugar levels in tact. Some runners prefer to use belts or hand-held water bottles and use whatever mix works best for them. That’s entirely up to you. On super hot days, these are probably your best bet.
When it comes to race etiquette, be aware of your fellow runners at race stops. If you are not going to take water, stay off to the opposite side of where they need to get in order to grab a cup. If you are going to grab one, I usually try and go for the middle of the line of volunteers holding them out, then run past the water table and move to the side as I take a sip. This is especially important if you are going to come to a complete stop for a drink!
3. Are strangers going to speak to me??? This one made me giggle! For the most part, everyone will be focused on their own race. If you run in a pace group, people will be more likely to chat. Some will offer some encouragement as you pass each other, but no one will be offended if you are not looking to make a new best friend along the way. For the most part, I wear headphones and get lost in my thoughts as I run. It’s a personal preference, but every once in a while I will connect with someone who can sense you need a little push. Last year, I was running a trail half marathon and a bug flew to the back of my throat. A man a few yards behind me saw it and sped up to make sure I was okay. It was around mile 10, and it was easily 95 degrees out at that point. I was ready to give up but he talked to me and kept me going until about mile 12. He was doing the full marathon and pulled ahead of me at that point. Never feel obligated to stay with someone during a race. They will understand if you pass them or slow down. Runners are a very supportive community and sometimes that can be a huge lifesaver on a day where you might be struggling. And one day, you’ll pay that forward.
4. I’ve had that “I can’t do 10” feeling, but did it anyway. Do you ever feel that during a race??? Of course! Everyone does. To be completely honest there have been times I have been in the first 3 miles and asking myself why the heck am I doing this??? But having those training runs where you feel like you can’t is where you will pull your determination from. It’s all part of the process. Trust in your training and realize that the tough, bad days are the ones that will lead you to that finish line!
5. How nervous will I be??? As a coach I tell my athletes, if you’re not nervous you’re not prepared. Knowing how much time and work you have put in, my answer is very! And that’s ok. If means you care, it means you have the desire to do it and it means you are excited! As much as I try and tell myself I only do this for fun and for myself, I am nervous every single time. In fact, writing this right now and thinking about Saturday is making me nervous! It’s all part of the process. Embrace it.
6. Will I get lost??? No, race volunteers are amazing people who will make sure you stay on track. Just follow the pack!
7. What if it’s raining and cold??? You run in the rain and cold! Every race is an adventure for many different reasons. They all become a great story to tell. I have ran in all kinds of weather, and as long as you prepare for this (usually I have 3 outfits planned just in case of a change in the weather) you will be fine!
8. What if I’m the last one to cross??? Here’s the thing. Someone has to be last,and although it most likely won’t be you, you are still crossing! Do you know how many people are not crossing the finish line of a half marathon at that moment? How many people think you are crazy for doing it? And most importantly, how many people are completely impressed and proud of you for getting to the point where you are crossing that line. The only person you should be running for is you. So where you cross compared to anyone else should be the least of your concern, just be so proud you did it.
9. What if I can’t make it to the end??? You will! No negative energy. I will make sure you get there, I promise.
Of course, if you are having a serious issue…pain, injury, dehydration, then you should never keep going. You need to listen to your body and know that there will be hundreds of other races and opportunities for you to get your 13.1. It happens to everyone and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Be smart and know your limitations.
Some other advice I have given her this week: Make sure you are eating well, enjoying lots of carbs, and hydrating the week of the run. Know when and where to pick up your bib, the parking situation, and any other odds and ends like bib placement, if there’s a chip that needs to be on your shoe, and particular race rules that slightly vary for each race. Familiarize yourself with the course (unless you like to go in blind like me) and watch the weather. Wind can be a huge factor so pay attention to which direction it’s blowing vs. where you will be running.
There will be trial and error at each race. It took me a while to get over the fact that many people will take off at the start, and I have learned to ignore it. I used to let myself get caught up and then completely freak myself out with my first mile split. Now I hang back and stay at the pace that works for me. And any one will tell you that the most important thing in any race is….HAVE FUN!