On January 1, I ran my first half-marathon! I have been sharing a little bit of the journey, mostly on Instagram, but in short, after my dad completed an Ironman in April, I decided to start training to run a half with him. I told him “I’m not worried about you, but I’m not getting any younger here!” In all honesty, this is something I’ve wanted to do for years, and this year felt like the right one. We hope to have more babies somewhat soon, and I wasn’t pregnant or caring for a newborn in 2018…I know lots of moms still train for big races in those seasons, but I am most definitely not one of them! I had also already gotten a little back into running since having Charlie, so I wasn’t starting totally from scratch. Everything just seemed to line up, and I was excited to cross this goal off of my list and experience something with my dad that I’ve always wanted to do with him. He happily agreed, and I got to work! I wanted to include everything I could think of in this post, both for my memories and for anyone else’s reference, so hold on to your hat…it’s a long one :)
My running history: I am definitely not a natural runner and it has never come particularly easy to me. That said, I have run on and off since high school. I never made a sports team in school, but anyone who wanted to join in the cross country team’s runs was allowed to, so my first time getting serious about running was when I “ran cross country” in high school, even though I was nowhere near close to making the actual team, ha! I didn’t run much in college, but picked it up after I graduated and ran pretty consistently for about a year and a half (my wedding happened during that time, which was good motivation :)). I was too nervous to run when I was pregnant (something I regret–I wish I had talked to my doctor about it and come up with a plan to keep it up for at least the first half of pregnancy), so I stopped altogether. Once I started running again, around two months postpartum, it truly was like starting from scratch. During all of this time, my distance per run ranged between 1.5-4 miles, so nothing close to half-marathon distances. I ran a 5K in August 2017 and then ran a few miles maybe every other week before starting to train for the half in May 2018.
Gear: The first thing I did was go to Fleet Feet to be fitted for running shoes. Spending that money upfront helped me get more invested in sticking to the plan, and it ABSOLUTELY made a difference in preventing injuries. I forgot my running shoes in New York over the summer and had to do two runs in my old Nikes while waiting for them to arrive in the mail, and my knees were not happy about it. My shoes are Mizuno Wave Rider 21s, but don’t buy them on my recommendation–go to Fleet Feet or a specialty running store and get whatever they tell you to get! The salesperson had also recommended a different insole, which I held off on (since I didn’t want to spend that much at once), but once my long runs hit around 6-7 miles, I went back and bought them. Again, they made a big difference…I probably should’ve just bought them from the start. The only other real “gear” I bought was a pair of Balega running socks, with credit from the aforementioned Fleet Feet purchases. My dad has always been picky about running socks and advised me to invest in a good pair, and I’m glad I did. The only new clothing item, other than socks and shoes, I bought was a pair of these leggings on sale (because they were the first I’d found with zippered pockets that fit my giant iPhone–so handy!). I never used any type of armband or belt or anything like that–I just held my phone in my hand when I wasn’t wearing those leggings. I did almost always run with my Sudio headphones, which I was gifted through a social media collaboration that I was approached about right as I started training. I was so happy with them–my specific pair isn’t on Sudio’s site anymore, but they are at Target, here!
Training plan: I created my own training plan with my dad’s input, based on the pattern of some Jeff Galloway running plans (he’s who my dad has always looked to for running guidance) and the amount of time I was taking to train. There were two things that were different about this plan compared to many others you can find on the internet. 1. Instead of just building, building, building mileage, the mileage for long runs builds to a peak and then declines, before building back up to a higher peak. 2. I ALWAYS did run-walk intervals. Always, always, always. This is a big part of Galloway’s running philosophy, and what my dad has always done. And you know what’s funny? If I go for, say, a five-mile run and do intervals, I’ll clock in significantly faster than if I just ran the whole thing. I don’t know how that happens, but Galloway says that’s what happens, and for me, it was absolutely true. If you hate running or are convinced you could never hit longer distances, give this a try. Throughout all my training, if I was doing six miles or less, I ran two minutes and walked one. For anything longer (the race included), I ran one minute and walked one. Of course, you can do whatever intervals you want or need to do depending on your goals and skill–this is just what worked for me. The biggest benefit of these two strategies is that they are huge contributors to preventing injuries (I’m trying to be a lifelong runner like my dad here, after all!).
Apps: I used two apps on every run: Map My Run to track mileage and pace, and SIT (Simple Interval Timer) to track my intervals. Both very intuitive and easy to use!
Race day: I was a little nervous going into race day because I pulled a muscle in my leg about two weeks before (running too fast on a really cold day). It made my last handful of runs harder than they should’ve been, so I cut down on my mileage for the last two weeks and tried to rest and stretch as best I could. It was still sore on race day, but I was confident resting had been the right choice–I knew I’d be able to make it through. We were blessed with exactly the conditions I had hoped for: temperatures in the high 40s/low to mid-50s and no precipitation. We arrived around 7 and waited in our warm car for a bit before heading to the starting line for the National Anthem, announcements, and a bathroom trip. I honestly wasn’t very nervous–I never set a time goal; I just wanted to finish, feel like it was a decent run, and make a great memory with my dad. Not putting much pressure on myself definitely helped me stay present and just enjoy the experience. This race is relatively small, so the atmosphere was relaxed and low-key. It was beautiful to see the many people who were there for all different reasons, from the man who ran the marathon carrying an American flag with a soldier’s name written on the flagpole, to the serious runners hoping to qualify for Boston, to the people running their 100th marathons. Plus, lots of folks like us who were just there to have fun!
The race began at 8:15 and we did our intervals from the start, which was great and helped me conserve energy for later when I knew I’d need it. My dad stayed with me the whole time and timed us, so we chatted a little bit, but I also put one earphone in so I could listen to music in the background. I ALWAYS listened to podcasts during training runs, but during the actual race, I didn’t need that much of a distraction–just a little bit of a pick-me-up! I listened to my worship playlist for the first hour or so because I just wanted to thank God for that opportunity to do this with my dad, and for all my body has been through and accomplished over the last three years. I later switched my playlist to Lauren Sims’ running playlist–she’s such an inspiration to me when it comes to running, so I wasn’t surprised that she has curated a great selection of music to run to!
The course was paved and flat (woohoo!), and covered an about-6.5-mile figure eight, so we ran that twice. I was excited to see Dave, Charlie, and my mom there as we completed our first loop around it! I already shared this on Instagram, but there were two things I couldn’t stop thinking about as I was running. 1. The thousands of times that I’ve seen my dad walk in the door after a long run throughout my life. It’s the first image that comes to mind when I think of him—tired but smiling, and never out of breath, not even after running 50k through the Qatari desert. He’s an Ironman triathlete and an experienced marathoner, but when we picked up our race numbers, I saw that his didn’t even say his name. It said “Lisa’s dad.” He’s the best :) 2. My first measly run after Charlie was born. That discouraging, disheartening run when I came home in tears, convinced I’d never get back to where I had been fitness-wise. I needed to prove myself wrong and I did, but ironically, I honestly think the only reason I could do this was because I’m a mom. I don’t think I would’ve had the reassurance that my body CAN do hard things, even when I don’t believe it can, before I became one.
During my hard training runs, the moment I pictured was crossing the finish line, holding hands with my dad. The thought made me tear up every time, and around mile 11, I started getting choked up that it was going to happen so soon. Sure enough, we did it, and it was a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life. Dave took a video, so here are a few screenshots from it below!
Finally, I asked on Instagram if anyone had any questions I should address in this post. I answered most within the text above, but here are a few more I wanted to specifically address:
“How do you run a half on a budget? There are so many products people say I NEED.”
My dad was the best encouragement for this because he is the ultimate minimalist when it comes to running gear! All the gear I bought was mentioned above, and that combined with the race fee ($90) added up to $300, spread out over eight months. My advice is the same as my dad’s: don’t skimp on your shoes and socks. Those are really the only things you need to invest in. If an official race is out of your budget right now, just run your own! My dad did this multiple times when we were in Qatar and it wasn’t convenient for him to fly somewhere for a race. He trained, and then on the date he chose, he just ran out our front door, through the city, and into the desert, and then called my mom to pick him up when he got to 50k :)
“How does someone who hates running get started?”
Along with doing intervals to make it more approachable and enjoyable, my advice is distraction, ha! I almost always listened to podcasts while I ran, and if something wasn’t holding my interest enough to distract me from running, I switched episodes. Signing up for a race, even a 5K, really does serve as great motivation as well.
“What was the hardest part for you during your training? What did you do about it?”
Once my short runs were a minimum of four miles and my long runs were eight or more miles, the amount of time it took to train was a huge hurdle for me. I hit that schedule right around the time I started my new job, so I was spending a lot of time getting into a groove with that, and I wanted to spend any extra time blogging…but remember how I hardly blogged all fall? Spending Charlie’s weekend naps running instead of blogging is why! I wish I had a “solution,” but my only answer is Dave. There were days when he practically pushed me out the door to go running because I was convinced I was being super selfish by taking an hour or two out of our demanding days to do it. He always insisted on it, never made me feel guilty at all, and was the best encourager I could’ve asked for.
“Any tips for getting back into running after having a baby?”
Take it SLOW! I ran a 5K when Charlie was 11 months old, and this race was when Charlie was two years and two months old, so don’t think for a minute that I jumped right into training for a half postpartum. When I did start running again after Charlie was born, I used the Couch to 5K app program. It builds nice and slowly, so it was a good way to ease back into running after not running through my whole pregnancy. I love their program for any beginner runners, actually–I had used it before my wedding as well!
Thanks for following along with this experience! Let me know any other questions you may have below!