What I Wish I Knew When I First Started

Now that I have my first half marathon under my belt and am getting ready to run my second, I have some random tips for those  starting their first half marathon training plan, or just new to running. These are just a few of the things outside of the obvious (buy a good pair of sneakers, find a good training thing) that completely took me by surprise. These are my unscientific observations, so make sure to consult a physician when you begin any athletic training!

Stretching and foam rolling are musts!

Even if you have been running sporadically for years, running regularly puts a lot more strain on your body. I know this seems obvious, but having been fit and active my entire life, I took for granted that I was prepared to start training for my first half marathon. Sure, I did fine. I found a training plan online, and followed it. Generally, I ran 5 miles twice a week, and did one long run on the weekend. I did not feel like my training was intense, so I did not realize all of the harm it was doing to my body. Flash forward to a couple of months after my first half marathon, when I was getting ready to train for my second. I could barely run. The culprit was muscle knots. Apparently, more stretching after runs and using a foam roller before and after runs would have prevented these bad boys from forming. The knots are so bad, that they are causing knee and hip pain. A trainer predicted 6 months of aggressive foam rolling to work them out. So the moral of this story is to start foam rolling when you start training, before the injury occurs! Foam rolling is painful and slightly horrible, but important for any runner!

Running is expensive and requires a lot of strange gear

When you first start out, you think you can just put sneakers on and take off, but running has turned into an extremely expensive hobby. Once you start half marathon training, the gear literally piles up. You should see my guest bedroom, AKA random running gear storage room with a chaise. Here is an example of all of the items a female runner needs:Sneakers (multiple pairs, replace often)Running socks (I like mine lightly padded)Clothes (assorted skirts, shorts, capris, tanks, etc)

  • Sports brasFoam Roller
  • Hydration pack or water belt
  • Gu or another energy gel
  • Sport ShieldRace Entry feesOptional
  • Compression Socks or calf sleeves
  • Compression shortsCompression sleeves
  • Case in point – a nice pair of compression socks can set you back $60 alone, and most of the half marathons

I’ve looked into running have been anywhere from $80+. I’m slightly shocked at how much a seemingly inexpensive sport can set you back.

Good shorts are hard impossible to findI might run, but I’m also a few pounds overweight and short to boot. Finding flattering shorts has been a nightmare.  Shorts that don’t ride up, don’t make my legs look like mini sausages, and don’t cause unnecessary chafing apparently don’t exist. Maybe these shorts exist for the thin, long-legged girls.

Running skirts are the answer to my prayers

Running skirts have solved all of my shorts woes. I can get a nice pair of compression-type shorts that make my legs look horrendous, but they are covered by an artfully placed strip of fabric known as a skirt. My favorite running skirts are by Lululemon.

You learn a lot about self-acceptanceRunning is hard, and can be extremely frustrating! It takes time to build miles and speed. I’m almost a year into when I started my training efforts, and I’m not much faster. But when I started, I could only run 3-4 miles. Now I can run 13.1. Yes, I could have worked harder and added in some tempo work, and I’d probably be faster. No, I shouldn’t have taken so many rest days. No, I shouldn’t have eaten that (fill in the blank). The most important thing I learned about running is that you need to accept that you have bad days and good days, slow days and fast days, and keep on working to improve.