This weekend, I hit a huge milestone not just in my NYC Marathon training, but in my running career: I finally broke my half marathon “curse” and ran 14 miles, my longest distance ever!
Let’s rewind and talk about how it went down.
Going into this past weekend, I knew I had 13 miles on the schedule, but I decided to go 13.5 to break through the 13.1 stigma. With the past few weeks of hip flexor and piriformis rehab I’ve been doing with my chiropractor, on top of strength training I’m doing 2-3x a week, I was ready to run my longest run ever.
Having learned from past mistakes, I prepped for this run like I would a race: I hydrated well, laid off dairy and cheese, and upped my carbs the few days before the run. And the day before, I stayed active and walked my 10,000 steps on a visit to the local “zoo”, but didn’t overdo it.
I had my plain pasta with simple marinara sauce and grilled chicken and my one glass of wine for my pre-run dinner.
I even treated myself to some popcorn at the movies that night (PS – go see Logan Lucky, it was hysterical!)
The morning of, I had decided to stick to the treadmill because of an iffy stomach (thanks, IBS) and headed out to the Y. Because this was going to be a half marathon, I decided to try something different and brought some pretzels in addition to my usual chocolate Honey Stinger gels. This turned out to be a fantastic idea that I’m going to be using in all of my long runs going forward!
Miles 1-5 were a breeze, thanks to a random assortment of new music and some idle mind wandering. I took 60-second walk breaks at miles 2 and 4 (with a gel at 4), then stopped the treadmill at mile 5 to stretch for a few seconds and refill my water bottle before starting again for miles 5-8. My average pace was in the 11:45 range, which was right on target to keep me from re-injuring my hip but staying confident and comfortable.
I checked my Instagram during one walk break and saw that my friends Tiffanie and Carlos had both rocked their awesome long runs (of 14 and 20 miles, respectively!) ALSO on treadmills, and decided then and there that I was going for the full 14 too. It was time to do big, scary things!
So I walked again at miles 6 and 7, then stopped the treadmill at 8 when I felt some burning on the arch of my right foot that I didn’t want to turn into a big honking blister. So I stopped, took my sock off and applied some anti-chafe gel, popped 3-4 pretzels, watered up and started once more for miles 8-11. My goal was to finish this 4 mile chunk with just about a 5k left, to mentally make it easier to handle. This strategy worked – and the pretzels worked so well as fuel that I didn’t need to take my second gel until my final stop at mile 11!
I switched from music to YouTube videos in the last few chunks, and let me tell you – video as a distraction is fanTAStic. I learned this in earnest last week when I had to do my long run of 9 miles on the treadmill after work on Monday and watched Moana on Netflix for the first time. I was shocked to see how easy it was to run while watching a movie I’d never seen before, especially one as entertaining as Moana. Although it’s hard to run while crying (damn that stingray spirit guide and soaring musical score)! For this long run, however, I opted for some more physically inspiring videos: here are some of my favorites.
Anyway, I rounded out the run with the final 3 miles and felt strong straight through til the final mile, where I cranked up the intensity to finish strong. By the time I finished though, I was so sweat-soaked that I had no moisture left for the happy tears I wanted to shed!
I was shocked to see my average pace hovered near my best Half Marathon PR pace – although I stopped my watch for those treadmill refreshes, I probably only added about 5-6 minutes to my time total, which I’ll take.
All in all this was a huge confidence boosting run for me. I mean, I KNOW I’m running the NYC Marathon in November. But in the back of my mind, that teeny tiny little sesame seed of doubt lay dormant: you’ve never run more than 13.1 miles. You’ve tried this before and failed. You’ll fail again.
With yesterday’s strong performance, I proved to myself that I WON’T fail again; that I’m stronger both mentally and physically this time, and that I’m ready to take on the rest of my training and rock all 26.2 of those miles on November 5th.