Before you baulk at the title, a half-marathon is only four x 5k. I know, somehow that doesn’t make it sound better, but last year April I was struggling with hitting my goal of running a continuous 5k.
I would break up the run with multiple ten-minute breaks where I would try my best to not vomit my lungs out. Fast forward to February of this year when I ran a half-marathon with a time of just under three hours. What is this sorcery?
Here’s how I did it:
1- Go slow – Most of us can walk a 5k so if you, like I was, are burning out by the 2k mark then you need to slow down. Start by walking a 5k, then next time, slowly jog the same distance.
Once you have hit your 5k goal, over the next couple of weeks increase your speed in small increments until you have reached the much coveted 25~30 min 5k time.
Find a community – Sites such as Meetup regularly show running groups looking for new members. Social media is also a great way to find these groups.
I found and joined a Black-led Muslim woman’s running group from Instagram and it completely changed my enthusiasm toward the activity.
2- Do it for the right reasons – the process of long-distance running really changed my relationship with food and my body. I started to value my body for its strength and the ability to get me places and less on its aesthetic qualities.
I began to see food as fuel and calories as energy that would fuel my runs instead of a shameful number that dictated my self-esteem. All of that growth came because I decided to consciously make sure my fitness goals were just that. For fitness.
So it is important you start with the right intentions because that is what is going to get you to be consistent and not give up at the first injury or obstacle.
3- Eat right – If you start running longer distances, don’t skimp on carbs. These are essential to keep your energy levels and to replenish the glycogen in your muscles.
If you don’t eat enough, you will hit “the wall” – a point in which you can’t run any further – and it will severely impact your enjoyment of the exercise.
4- Create a training plan – I am a lover of visual plans. I created a 15-week training plan from about November to the week before my race. It helped me track how many runs I had done that week and if I needed to make sure to do another before the week was over.
It wasn’t a rigid plan because it is important to be intuitive to your body’s needs but I had built a good idea of the distance I need to run and what days would be good for which runs, so that I could achieve my target.
5- Good podcasts, good running shoes and the occasional inspirational documentary helped me out along the way – these became my motivators along this journey.
Sometimes running is amazing, but on those days when the weather is bad and you just can’t be asked, a good podcast or fun workout clothes can push you toward the door and away from your bed.
Big Tip: The Breaking 2 documentary had me itching to go on a run, and is a must watch for any long-distance runner looking for some motivation.