Losing my half marathon virginity

20 April 2017 by
First published: 12 June 2016

From running for the train breathless to losing my half marathon virginity: here’s how I did it.

Prior to the big day, my experience in running was limited to breathless jogs to the train station (I’m that person who always thinks they leave enough time) and We Heart Living’s own #RunYourCity run club over the summer. In fact, I chanced the 8K route one week and ended up having to head back to base after struggling to keep up. Needless to say, I didn’t fancy myself the ‘running type’, but I was envious of those who were. I wanted to experience that same feeling of contentment and escape that my running friends spoke about. So towards the end of the year, I decided I’d make it my New Year’s resolution to run a half marathon in 2016.

Team Hackney
I chose the Vitality Hackney Half Marathon for several reasons: firstly for convenience as I work in Hackney; secondly, I was recommended by a few birdies who raved about how the flat terrain and amazing atmosphere made it the perfect first half marathon; and lastly, because I didn’t have long to go and wanted to challenge myself. Training didn’t commence until the last week of March, which meant I had six weeks until race day rather than the recommended eight weeks (had a mentioned that I have poor sense of time?).

Time to train
I opted for the Asics training plan, as it syncs to your email, app and Google Calendar, which meant I was notified daily of scheduled runs and given a weekly overview of what training would be like. The plan was split into six stages: Pre-conditioning, Getting Faster, Going Further, Race Simulation, Tapering & Race Day and Recovery. While each stage is as important as the other, Asics allowed more days for ‘Getting Faster’ where you start to build speed for long distances and ‘Tapering & Race Day’ to allow your body to recover while meeting the speed required on race day. Due to time constraint, I managed about one, two or sometimes three of the scheduled runs per week, so I focussed more on distance than speed. I was more concerned about being able to complete the race than achieve a good time. Stats started to show that no matter the distance, my speed continued to average at nine to ten minutes per mile. At least I knew my stamina was improving!

The right fuel
I ate fairly clean for the most part of the plan and had no alcohol in the week leading up to race day. I topped up my carb count the day before with rice and vegetables (for lunch and dinner) and on the morning of the race, a smoothie with a generous helping of oats, bananas, natural chocolate protein, almond butter and almond milk.

The big day
The atmosphere on race day was nothing like I’d seen before. I could feel the energy and nerves of the 15,000 runners as the hosts were reiterating over the tannoy to run mindfully due to the searing heat (it was 27 degrees). Despite forgetting to bring my headphones (I was momentarily panic-stricken as I had never run without them), I felt pumped and ready. It wasn’t long after we set off that I was grateful for having left them behind. Had I not, I wouldn’t have felt the incredible energy and support of the crowd half as much. I was completely amazed – and quite frankly, emotional – at the amount of people that lined the entire route: handing out hydration, hi-fives and Haribo sweets, clapping from their rooftops, cheering from their windows and shouting their support from the sidelines. A few even brought out their garden hoses to spray us, making all the difference in the sweltering heat. And it wasn’t just the spectators that impressed me – from the well-coordinated refuel and misting stations to the TomTom-sponsored pacers and efficiency of the marshals and medical support, the Hackney Half was as organised as it was spectacular. It turns out my birdies weren’t wrong about it being a good half marathon for beginners. The whole experience has made me a keen runner who’s ready for a PB in 2017.