Running a half marathon literally awakens every single emotion in the book.
This marks my third half marathon to date, and my best one at that! I ran the Savannah Publix Half Marathon with my roommates and fellow dietetic interns. I started training in January when I signed up, so that gave me 3 solid months to get into half marathon shape. I absolutely love running–it gives me a chance to relax, not think about anything else but the run ahead of me, listen to music, and destress. No matter what emotions I’m feeling before the run, I can guarantee I will feel incredible afterwards and my stress level disappears. Running is SO much more than just a physical feat–it’s a mental one as well. Throughout a long run, there are so many thoughts that pop up, anything from “OMG this sucks why am I doing this?!” to “Holy crap I could run for days!! I AM SUPERWOMAN!” It takes mental vigor to get through 13.1 miles of straight running.
I was completely shocked when they called my name for third place in my age group!
It was supposed to thunderstorm the morning of the race…100% chance. After praying to God for a break in rain, He delivered and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect–not too hot, not too cold, and NO rain! 🙂 My amazing brother drove all the way up from South Florida to cheer me on, and I couldn’t have done as well as I did without him. He sneakily popped up at various corners (such a ninja…like how…?) holding a sign and encouraging me. It was awesome. I ended up killing my previous time, and finished third in my age group. My final time was 1:56, when I didn’t even think I’d make it below 2 hours. I was shocked! I felt great the whole time and ended up running my best pace to date. The biggest thing that helped me this race? Learning how to fuel, refuel, and hydrate properly.
Tips for fueling and hydrating for a race:
-Eat a carb-rich snack 15-30 minutes before running.
This is to ensure you have enough fuel in your tank for your run. When you run, you either are running aerobically or anaerobically. At the beginning, you have enough oxygen to reach your muscles (aerobic), such as during a short easy jog. But when you go harder or for a longer period of time, i.e. during a half marathon, your body starts to break down your glycogen stores to use as fuel since there is insufficient oxygen being delivered to your muscles to create the fuel you need. This is why fueling during an extra-long anaerobic run is important so you don’t break down and get tired. Fueling helps bring the glucose back to your muscles to be used for energy.
- Good snack ideas before a run: 1/2 a banana, a few crackers with peanut butter, a piece of whole grain toast with jam, or a small container of yogurt.
-Depending on when you run, eat a meal consisting of carbs, protein, and fat either 2-3 hours before you run or after your run.
Don’t eat a heavy meal right before a run. You’ll feel heavy, lethargic, and your digestion system will still be working on overdrive when you need it to be happy and calm. Work out in the morning? Plan your breakfast for after your run rather than before. Work out after work? Eat lunch at least 3 hours before and save dinner for after your workout. It’s all about planning, peeps!
-Drink water, all. day. long.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. This one is a no-brainer. Water is your best source for hydration. Aim to drink half your body weight (in kg) in ounces of water per day. For super intense exercise and long runs, increase that a bit until your pee is clear or very pale yellow. Dark yellow pee? Drink up. Save the gatorade or electrolyte drinks only for runs longer than an hour. Be sure to walk through the water stands during your race and alternate between water and gatorade/powerade. They both are important during the race. Walking through the water stop helps you regroup, catch your breath, and avoid chugging down the water (small sips are best!).
-Eat carbs within 30 minutes after working out to replenish your glycogen stores.
Right after we passed through the finish line, we were handed a bag filled with a bottle of water, a banana, an orange, and a bag of mini muffins. This is exactly why they gave us these foods (carbs for days!), it’s important to reach for carbs right after to replenish those glycogen stores you depleted during that long run!
-Drink an electrolyte-rich sports drink for runs over an hour long.
-Don’t be afraid to salt your foods (unless you have hypertension).
When you sweat, you’re losing both water and salt, so if you replenish with just water, you may have altered sodium levels in your body. Low sodium levels could lead to headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea/vomiting, muscle cramps, confusion, etc. So if you’re craving salt, go ahead and salt your foods! If you’re going on multiple runs throughout the week and sweating a lot, it’s important to replace that lost sodium.
-Don’t restrict your carbs. Don’t be afraid of rice, pasta, bread, or potatoes close to race day!
Choose a mixture between complex carbs (oats, veggies, fruits, potatoes, whole grain bread) with simple carbs (juice, honey, cereal, white pasta)
-Fuel during the race. Gel carb packs or glucose jelly beans are awesome to stick in your pocket, in a sports bra, in a zipper, to simply grab and take starting at about 45 minutes into the race when your glycogen stores start to get depleted. I had two strawberry banana (yum!) gel packs that I took at the 45 minute mark and close to the end.
My fave picks:
Hold up…Completely new to running?
Here’s an awesome 8-week Couch to 5K guide from my favorite fitness app & blog, PumpUp — click here to download it.