My First Half Marathon: A Slow Runners Guide To Your First Half


After years of me saying, “no way”, my friend Jenna finally convinced me to participate in a half marathon. Back in 2015, I started my running journey, primarily doing 5k’s and the occasional 8k or 10k race, but never something of this magnitude. I grew up with severe asthma, being told I could have an asthma attack just walking up a set of stairs, couple that with my stupid decision to smoke for 10 years, and my lungs hate me every time I lace up my shoes, but I keep doing it.

I have never been shy about not enjoying running, the runner’s high doesn’t exist for me and the only joy I get from running is when I know it’s over, but when I participate in a race I do it purely for the medal. Race bling is the best part about races, and I have straight-up declined to participate in runs that either doesn’t provide a medal or have an ugly one haha. Yes, it’s an accomplishment for me to finish, but I want something pretty hanging on my afterward.

I also have never cared how long it takes me to finish a race, I’m not fast & will never claim to be fast, I just want to finish without injury; I always have a broad goal in mind that I can usually finish well under, every 5k finished under 45 minutes, 10k’s under 90 minutes, and for the half my goal was sub-4 hours. I had tried to train for a half twice before, but this time I had paid for the race in advance, so I knew that, unless I was injured, I couldn’t back out.

Training:

As I said above, this was my third attempt at training for a half-marathon because, in true Erynne fashion, I kept getting hurt. The first time a disk shifted in my back & it pinched a nerve, WORST PAIN OF MY LIFE, but it came from running too fast too soon. I never really played sports growing up, so I had nothing to gauge how my body should be feeling until it was too late; once I had recovered, I started pushing into higher miles and then came the hamstring strain. My biggest problem? I wasn’t cross-training.

One of my New Year’s goals was to pick a half-marathon, make a plan, start doing quality training, and stick to it no matter what. In January, Jenna and I decided to do the Run Rock N’ Roll half; we had 6-months to prepare but we wanted a solid foundation to build off of, so we decided to start with Couch-2-5k (even though we both had run goodness knows how many 5ks, we wanted to do it right). We dedicated 8 weeks, 3-4 runs a week, to that training program and adding in at least 2 days a week for cross-training. I don’t have a gym membership, it’s way too expensive and in general, I try to avoid gyms because they don’t make me feel great about myself. I took this time to focus on at-home workouts, utilizing my Beachbody Online membership to do the workouts for 21-Day Fix, yoga or Pilates programs.

Couch-To-5k (C25k) has a few different apps out there to give you guidance, I personally used this one but if you’re looking for a free option my friend Jenna used this and we both had great results. I like that for my app I can choose the type of trainer voice feedback I got (I chose the zombie theme) and that it bases your workout on how much you can get done in 30 minutes, instead of how much distance you can cover, that way you aren’t pushing to hit a mile marker. Each workout starts with a 5-minute warm-up, then a workout of 23-30 minutes where you alternate walking and running, then a 5-minute cooldown period. It helps you get faster in the allotted time frame, keeping your pace up in the moments your walking and allows you to track your progress for each workout. There are a few distance-based C25k programs out there, I just seemed to have better success with these, but feel free to check out the website for a breakdown!

When we finished C25k, I used my Nike+ Run Club app to curate a training plan for remaining months before the half. It was a great way to incorporate sprints, benchmark runs, long miles, cross-training, and recovery runs. I had a few 5k races over the first few months of the year, great runs that are a ton of fun that I like to do each year. Be sure to check out my post about my favorite 5k, The Color Run! If you use the code “ESSENTIALLYERYNNE” for a discount!

Making a bomb-ass playlist also kept me going, music is a huge motivator so choose your tunes wisely and don’t be afraid to adjust your playlist with what songs work for you!

About 3 months into training my knee started acting wonky, it felt as if there was a marble moving around in my knee socket and was causing discomfort that turned into pain with each run, lasting for days afterward. I knew I had gained a little weight since the last time I had started training, so I just assumed it was additional stress on my joints. I added some collagen peptides to my diet, made sure to ice after every run, and pulled back on my pace to see if it helped. I had good days and bad days, but slowly the bad started to outnumber the good so I made an appointment with my doctor to figure out what was going on and to make a game plan. Despite people apparently thinking I self-diagnosed myself via google, my doctor determined it wasn’t an issue with my MCL/ACL, so he thought it might be chondromalacia (damaged cartilage under my kneecap) but given that my pain wasn’t 100% constant he didn’t think I needed an MRI. He did think it was peculiar given that I didn’t play sports growing up or have a super active lifestyle but now that the race is over, I’m looking for a sports medicine doctor to get scheduled for an MRI. Hopefully, I’ll have an answer and a solution moving forward or I might have to formally retire from running ☹

UPDATE* A few months post-half I was still dealing with issues of discomfort in my knee so I finally got the MRI. Thankfully nothing was torn and only a few baker’s cysts seemed to appear. We assumed it was due to some issues I’ve had with repeated hip dislocation and I did a few month of physical therapy to try and fix it. I’ll be posting a health update so stay tuned!

Race Weekend:

The Run Rock N’ Roll has a whole weekend of fun when you sign up for one of their races! I’ve participated in 3 races with them so far, an 8k, a 5k, and this year’s half marathon; all of them have been awesome but I definitely look forward to the Expo beforehand. When you go to pick up your race packet and bib, RNR usually books out a convention center floor for a ton of vendors (Garmin, KT Tape, Honey Stinger, Run Disney, etc) who are there to demo new products, give discounts on race sign-ups, participate in giveaways and so much more.

Full transparency: this year I was actually pretty disappointed in the expo floor, there were maybe 1/3 of the vendors there that had come previous years and not nearly the same selection of goods, but the previous two years were amazing! I don’t know if maybe there was a low turnout for race participants or what, but I hope next year they come back. Once you’ve picked up your race packet (which has your bib, race t-shirt, and a few goodies) then you’re good to go!

We decided to drive the route ahead of time, we wanted to gauge the elevation gain, the type of ground we’d be running, as well as where we would want to stop and take photos. We discovered areas we knew we’d want to slow down, Jenna and I did a quick 2-mile shakeout run before we headed home for the day, worked out some of our nerves but my anxiety was at an all-time high, so it didn’t do much for me haha.

Whenever I got home I prepped for the next morning since I knew I’d be starting early I wanted to have everything laid out ahead of time. Once, I got the perfect Instagram shot, I made myself a small pasta dinner before popping some melatonin and passing out by 8. I mentioned before about my anxiety, well despite me taking a sleep-aide, my brain woke me up by giving me a body-wide hot flash at about 2 am (my thermometer said my stomach was 100 degrees) coupled with dreams that I’d slept through my alarm and was late for the race! I stripped everything off, laid down in the tub for a bit, the porcelain felt great against my skin, then managed to get another hour or two of sleep there before my alarm went off and I got ready. Made myself a big cup of coffee to get the “process” moving before making myself a bagel with some peanut butter and a banana. It took everything I had to eat it because I was so sick to my stomach with stress, but by the time Jenna and I headed to the start line I had a strange sense of calm come over me. I realized that we were here, I had made it to race day, and, barring any complications, even if I walked the whole thing I would still cross that finish line.

We were pretty complication free for about 8 miles, then my hip started slipping in and out (which it does from time to time) but my left knee had to compensate for it so I started feeling the strain. Thankfully, my mom was waiting at mile 9 with some energy sports beans, water, and some words of encouragement. I’m telling you, having people placed along the route makes a HUGE difference!

After I finished quietly crying, we started up a GIANT hill that I didn’t see a single person run up; most people started jogging up it, got about 10 feet before they looked up and realized it was impossible haha. Between the hills and switchbacks, mile 10 came with a pain I had never experienced before – a pulsating jolt on top of my left foot. Slightly limping, we made it through to mile 12 and we were back in downtown Seattle when the pouring rain and blustery wind kicked in. I was fighting getting slapped by raindrops, a dislocating hip, a strained foot tendon, and my normal wonky knee pain for the last 1.10 miles. But you know what? I finished!

The Finish & Recovery:

Crossing that finish line was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life to date.  It has all been so emotionally and physically overwhelming that I don’t think it’ll ever fully hit me. I got this great hoodie from the Run Rock N’ Roll shop, it has the name of every half-marathon participant, seeing mine was an amazing feeling!

Everyone told me that I was going to be starving when I finished but I honestly wanted nothing to do with food. I think the stress and release had knotted my stomach up. I managed to force down a smoothie and some leftover pizza but it took about 2 hours for me to finish it haha.

I’m very thankful that after I got home I forced myself to stretch as best I could. My KT Tape was already working its magic on my knees, hips, and IT band. I posted up on the couch with ice on both knees and my foot and drank my favorite coconut water (VitaCoco Peach & Mango) to aide in my muscle recovery. When I finished it I realized it was time to tackle getting clean. I was legit concerned that my legs wouldn’t support me if I tried to stand and take a shower but also afraid that if I took a bath I wouldn’t be able to get up. I sat on the edge of the bath & soaked my feet in hot water until they stopped throbbing, once I felt stable I stood up and took a quick shower before returning to the couch. I forced myself to stay awake so that I didn’t run into any issues sleeping that night. I watched all 3 Indiana Jones movies, got up and went for a walk to keep my legs warm, before closing out the night at 9 pm. I slept straight until my 6:45 am alarm went off the next morning.

On the Monday after, I am so thankful I thought ahead and scheduled a massage that morning. I made sure to drink enough water following the race but that massage was a great way to break up the stiffness in my body. Later that day, a co-worker was kind enough to bring me a giant ice pack to sit on for the day and I could have kissed him I was so grateful! Another co-worker messaged me about how my finish made her feel and it made it all worth it.

Now, something that isn’t talked about as much is how tired you are for how long; it took a week of sleeping 8+ hours a night before my body started to feel like it had energy again. I am used to sleeping 4-6 hours a night, but after my race no matter how much sleep I got I was practically falling asleep at my desk each day. I made sure to go on a few walks during the week, both to keep myself awake at work but also to keep the lactic acid from building up in my legs.

As of right now, I have ZERO desire to do a full marathon haha. However, even though a lot of things didn’t seem to go as I planned, I earned this medal and will forever treasure it.

About Essentially Erynne

• 📍Seattle • 📝 Writer • ➿ 3A/3B Curly Girl • 🦅 Ravenclaw • 🏃🏽‍♀️ #therunningmuggle

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