After months of hard work, I did it! I made running a half marathon my goal, stuck to my exercise plan, learned how to eat healthy, and finally made it to the race day. This was my experience figuring out how to make this goal a reality and how it felt to finally run 13.1 miles.
Deciding to Do it
Growing up in Boston, everyone would go out to support the runners every Marathon Monday and I could picture adult-me running the race. When I started running in high school, the marathon felt more like a dream that I’d never realized. This year, when I set some goals for the school year, I figured it’d be a good time to start working towards that goal. A half marathon seemed like the right place to start.
For an extra layer of luck, my friend Katie (@runforck on Instagram), happened to be training for her own half marathon so I decided to do it with her. Her support, in the form of daily snapchats, texts, and phone calls, has been the best motivator.
Making the Exercise Plan Work For Me
Back in January, I built my own exercise plan based on this one from Women’s Running. It was convenient because the schedule had two rest days every week, which allowed me to move the runs around to fit my class schedules.
To make sure I wouldn’t get hurt, I started lifting weights as well. I ended up putting together 15 and 30 minute lifting plans that I could do after my runs and on busy days. I also used the Nike Training Club app on Wednesdays for hour long sessions. I found this combination kept it interesting and challenging.
It was challenging to fit the longer runs into my school schedule. There were mornings when I knew the run might take me 2+ hours. After these runs, I find I’m exhausted both physically and mentally. This isn’t an option in the middle of finals or midterms, so there were some weeks where I just couldn’t make the run work.
About a month into the program, I realized that what I ate the days before my run really affected the way that I felt while running. Pizza, for example, is (unfortunately) not an appropriate substitute for pasta and chicken because you will feel gross. For years, I’ve struggled to make changes to my eating habits, so it was crazy to me that I was able to make better choices once I knew how gross I would feel the next day. This led me to start meal planning
I also have been going to bed early. I learned that if I don’t make my workout the first thing I do that day, the likelihood that I decide to do it later is pretty low. So knowing that I need to be in bed by 10 or 11 (so I can be up at 6:30 for the run) has really changed the way I use my days. I’ve become way more productive during the day, making the most of meal times and time between classes. Since my class schedule for winter and spring consisted of the bulk of my classes on one or two days, I also learned to make the most of my lighter days by forcing myself to be on campus immediately after my workout and stay until I’ve completed all of my work.
14 weeks of training later, it was finally race day. I woke up at 5 and drove across Chicago to do the craziest thing I’ve ever done. Luckily, my dad came to visit that weekend so I didn’t have to deal with parking and had my own cheering section.
The race itself was tough. I should’ve memorized the course beforehand because it felt like it went on forever. I also ate too early, so in the middle of the race I was hungry. This made it really tough to keep going.
I ended up finishing a little slower than I would’ve liked, but in the end I made it through. I have such an awesome support system, and I couldn’t have done it without them.
Even though the race itself was really tough, the process of training for it changed my life and is one of the best projects I have ever taken on. I am healthier than I have ever been, and that is infinitely more important than my finishing time.
I’ve never been at this level of health, so I am going to keep pushing myself to run a marathon in June. This time, I’ll be running along side Katie and we will be able to support each other in person.
Have you ever run a marathon or taken on another project that completely changed your life? Are you training for your own half marathon? Do you have any tips for me to help me get ready for my marathon? Tell me about it in the comments!