Last weekend, I did something I thought was IMPOSSIBLE. I ran 13.1 miles in BELOW freezing temperatures at the Louisiana Marathon, and it was seriously ONE OF THE BEST DAYS! So today, as a novice runner, I’m telling you my entire running journey from a zero-experience start to my first Half Marathon!
ALL ABOUT TRAINING:
Why did you want to run a half marathon?
Honestly, after watching the Louisiana Marathon two years in a row and seeing Conrad run, I wanted to give it a try! Seeing so many people at all ages and at all fitness levels made it seem more within the realm of possibility.
And also, I’m just REALLY competitive and wanted a challenge! I love the idea of setting a goal and working towards it — because that feeling when you reach it is sooooo good.
Did you ever run before?
No. I literally NEVER ran long-distance (or even short distance lol). I was never on the track or cross-country team and never went for a run “for fun.” I literally had ZERO running experience prior to 2017.
What were your thoughts when you first started running/training?
(1) I hate running (2) It’s too hot/humid to run in Louisiana (3) Running is punishment in sports, so why do people do it for fun? (4) I can’t run for longer than 30 seconds (5) I’ll never be able to run a mile… much less 13.1 miles.
How did you convince yourself these were ALL LIES?
First, I had to decide I was a runner. I had get my idea of a “runner” out of my mind and tell myself that literally anyone who puts on some sneakers and goes for a run IS A RUNNER — at any level. And trust me… seasoned runners don’t stand around judging you as a novice runner. They ain’t worried about you, so you shouldn’t be worried about them!
Second, I spent more time looking at the weather this year than I ever have. Usually early mornings or evenings were my friends. Plus, you can start training in early spring when the weather is cool and use the early mornings/late evenings in summer to keep yourself in shape, then use the cooler weather in the fall/winter to REALLY train — depending on when your races are.
Third, I always had to run in softball if I screwed up, so I hated running. But as an adult, I realized running for me wasn’t punishment. It was actually a time that was really special because it was ME time — where I could get away from work, get away from my phone and just disconnect from everything.
Fourth, it only took me a couple times out on the streets to realize I could in fact run for longer than 30 seconds haha. There were days I had to run a minute, walk a minute, but before you knew it, I was running a 5K.
Finally, once I ran a mile, I realized I could run two miles. Once I ran two miles, I realized I could run 3 miles. Then, something crazy happened around mile 6– I realized, heck, if I can run 6 miles, then I can definitely run 13.1 miles!
It really is ALL mental.. your legs will keep going (most of the time), it’s just your brain that gets in the way.
How long did you give yourself to train?
Basically, 11 months (February 2017 – January 2018). But it wasn’t all hardcore training. Lemme break it down:
With no running experience and not being able to run a full minute without stopping, I gave myself 9 weeks to train for my first 5k — which was 11 months before the Half Marathon. I did the standard Couch – 5K program that you can find all over Pinterest.
I had my first 5K race in April — and I actually had to walk for 0.25 miles because I screwed up my knee. You can read my first 5K story here.
May 2017 – August 2017
It’s HOT outside in Louisiana, so I didn’t get too crazy during the summer. I ran only 1-2 times per week — and skipped a lot of weeks due to travel. I mostly ran in the early mornings around 6AM or late evenings around 7PM and got up to 4ish miles. I kept running mostly a 5K distance though.
It was also this time that I downloaded the Nike Run app and let it put together a training program for me to be able to run the Half Marathon by January.
September – October 2017
I ran the Pumpkin Pie 5K downtown around Halloween, so I made sure I was FULLY comfortable with running 4-5 miles before then, so the 5K wouldn’t be too much.
I finally beat the 6 mile mark this month — several weeks before I would run my first 10K. I actually got up to 8 miles this month!
Ran my first real 10k race on Dec. 3 — The Tiger10K — which I realized was a good idea because it would give me an idea of what the marathon day would be like with THOUSANDS of people!
The next week, I pushed myself to 9 miles and almost KILLED my knee. Lots of tears were cried and lots of ugly words were said, so I took a couple weeks off from running until New Years.
New Year’s weekend, I made it up to 10.5 miles with not as much knee pain, so I knew that’d be my last long run before Marathon Day. I didn’t want to risk hurting my knee and not being able to race. This was about two weeks before race day.
(sidenote: I’m actually glad I only got up to 10.5 miles before race day — it made race day MORE special because I beat my personal record for distance!)
Louisiana Half Marathon Race Day:
How did you feel the morning of the race?
Um… terrified/excited/nervous — lots of adrenaline though!
My mom and dad came in town, so I rode downtown with them and met up with Conrad about 10 minutes before the race started. We were running a little late, so there wasn’t too much time to stand around and psych myself out!
Did you stay with a pacer?
Yes! Sort of — I started with a pacer that was actually about 10 minutes slower than I wanted to go. I was nervous about using all my energy so I settled into a comfortable/slower pace at the beginning. But once he started singing “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands” that was my time to MOVE ON haha. I actually passed the next pacer too and just got into my own groove and pace.
Did you fuel up during the race?
Everyone’s biggest piece of advice was to drink gatorade and water during the race. (And confession: I NEVER had any water/gatorade during my TRAINING). But I listened to everyone and got my first water around Mile 5. Then I got water/gatorade at every water station after that whether I felt like I needed it or not.
But I just couldn’t bring myself to throw the cups on the ground haha. So I made sure to throw it in the trash can at every water station — which probably used more time and energy than necessary lol.
Did you think you were going to die during the race?
NO! I had SO much energy — to a ridiculous degree. I was so excited and just the adrenaline and energy from the runners and spectators was enough to keep me going. I never once thought about stopping or walking and I never thought I was too tired to go on at any point.
I’m hoping this will ALWAYS be the case but I’m sure it was just the rush of my FIRST Half Marathon haha.
p.s. I will admit… the second I STOPPED running after the finish line, I did think I was going to die lol. I was pretty dizzy and then REALLY cold once I stopped moving.
What were some of the TOP moments?
There were really a lot — the entire day was such a high, to be honest.
(1) Hearing the gun shoot off and the beginning was a blur. It was one of those things that you’re like “Well, I guess this is happening… no turning back now!” I don’t think I actually realized I was running until around Mile 2.5.
(2) Maybe 3-4 miles in, I took a minute to LOOK around at how many people I was running with and it was CRAZY. And knowing that we all had the same goal in mind is really a special feeling.
(3) My parents were out on the course and moved around to different spots so I had that to look forward every few miles. They also had made signs for me and Conrad!
(4) One water station had a DJ and they threw confetti in the air!
(5) Seeing all the folks who came out to stand on the road in the FREEZING weather and the people cheering for you who don’t even know you. And the houses along the route that had put signs in their yards for us.
(6) Super cheesy… but Spotify started playing “We Are the Champions” by Queen as soon as I hit the 12 mile mark. It definitely made me laugh and gave me that extra boost.
(7) Passing 3 people in the last 0.1 mile and hearing Taylor Swift playing “Shake it Off” at the finish line!
Post Race Thoughts:
How was the after party?
Not that I have a ton of experience in post-race parties, but The Louisiana Marathon definitely has a good one! We had Bloody Mary’s, Abita beer, and LOTS of jambalaya/gumbo/pasta/po-boys — and there was a live band!
Were you sore after?
I didn’t feel too many feelings on race day, honestly. But I took an epsom salt bath when I got home. Then, during the night, I had SERIOUS knee pain, but that went away within a day or so. I was back to regular exercise within a few days.
Are you going to keep running?
Yep! I’m already signed up for the Mardi Gras Mambo in February, The Great Inflatable Race in March (5k), the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in March, and will sign up for the Crescent City Classic soon!
(….and I might be considering a full marathon in January 2019!)
So why do you like running/racing now?
As stated above, I like that running is a way to disconnect, clear your head and just focus on nothing else.
I also like that you can physically SEE and FEEL yourself making progress toward your goals.
And I like that even if you have a bad day, you just try again the next day.
I like that it’s LITERALLY a competition, but at the same time everyone is mostly competing against his or herself — whether that’s just to finish or beat a personal time.
And I like that even though you’re racing to BEAT someone, everyone is cheering each other on and supporting each other.
Oh, and the adrenaline. I’m pretty addicted to that. Apparently, it was 20-something degrees on race day (and I was in shorts) but didn’t feel a thing haha. Adrenaline is a magical thing.
Any advice for anyone who wants to run their first Half Marathon?
Yep, just register for your race and tell everyone you know!!
I signed up for my race almost a YEAR in advance with NO running experience. If I wouldn’t have signed up and paid for the race, I probably would have quit. But knowing my name was on the race list and I had a certain amount of time to train helped push me. (all about setting SMART goals!)
Plus, telling everyone you know holds you accountable!