I’m back from my first half-marathon of the season. I finished well, and am happy to report that I’m still walking.
I’m not a pro, or even much of a weekend warrior. But I’ve been running road races, half-marathons, marathons and triathlons for about eight years. I’ve learned a thing or two. So here are some hard-earned insights on long-distance competition:
Lubrication. Chaffing is a major risk for any distance over six miles or so. Especially in the winter. So we lube up. I use Vaseline, and smear it just about everywhere that might chaffe or blister: the arches of my feet, between my toes, armpits, nipples, and unmentionables.
Hydration. I stop at every water break, whether I’m thirsty or not. I walk through most of ’em, as opposed to those guys who keep running while choking on a cup of water. I take long strides to stretch out, and I never stop cold. You stop cold and your screwed. Keep moving.
Break It Down. If you set out to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles en masse, you’re screwed. Break it down. Make it a bunch of shorter races. The first 5k is a warm-up. Then you focus on the 10k (6M), which is a totally manageable distance. Before you know it, you’re saying to yourself, ‘Only five more to go.’ And five miles are far more manageable than thirteen or twenty-six.
Pacing. It’s not really about speed, not for me anyway. I’m never going to win one of things. I’m just out for the activity, the company, and the view. So chill out. Find a pace that feels sustainable, and stick with it. I’d rather have extra energy at the finish, than run out prior.
Persist. Listen, I had no business running 13.1 miles this morning. I haven’t run more than six since the marathon, so my muscles certainly weren’t ready, and I can tell you from how my knees and hips feel, nor were my joints. So how did I do it? It’s all mental. Committ to it in your head, find a sustainable level of pain (‘cuz let’s be honest, it tends to hurt), and keep at it.
Support. Even if you don’t know whomever is clapping for you along the course, smile or wave. Thank them. Because every little bit of external support helps. And when your nephew’s clapping at the finish? Well, that’s the cherry on top. Finish strong.
Chris and I ran the entire race together, and talked quite a bit most of the way. Mostly we talked about work, but also things like girls and tv and movies and stuff. I was a little worried for the first three miles or so, but settled into it. It was a beautiful day. There were points when the sun really broke through and we were downright warm. There were other moments in the shadows where it felt like winter through to my bones. As we rounded the twelth mile, it became apparent that we could come in under two hours. I was feeling strong, so started to accelerate. Chris reminded me, “Don’t forget we have to do this again on Saturday. So what’s your hurry?”
“I wanna’ get in under two,” I said.
“Dude, he said, “It’s 1:55. We have plenty of time.” So I chilled out. We crossed the finish together at 1:57:25.
So know you know why I run. Yes, it’ll be fun to brag tomorrow. But I get to spend time with my big brother, I get to relish the beauty of a Sunday morning, and I get to remind myself of some fundamental life lessons: break it down, pace yourself, persist, and seek support. It’ll get ya’ through to the finish, ever if you didn’t think you’d make it. You will. You can. You have to.