After dozens of long early morning runs and months of training, I was just days away from my first half marathon. My race outfit had been laid out days beforehand. My Garmin watch was charged. I had studied the course over and over again. Then, during race week, I became mysteriously sick.
Early into the week, I had set out for a short four-mile run, and at mile three, I became so dizzy I could barely make it back to my house. The lightheadedness lingered for days. Two days before the half marathon, I had my husband take me to the doctor because I was so dizzy I couldn't even drive.
My doctor ran a series of tests and each one came back normal. I cried in his office when I told him that I had a goal race in two days.
The diagnosis? Stress.
He said I had stressed myself out so much that my anxiety had manifested as lightheadedness. In other words, I had brought it on myself. It was one of many hard lessons I learned.
I did make it to the starting line that Sunday morning, and I finished the race, but that finish didn't come easily. For runners planning on tackling your first half marathon, here are five lessons I learned going into the race.
1. Don't stress out
I made myself sick over the race, and I didn't even realize it. It's easy to become overwhelmed by a half marathon training plan, and even easier to get frustrated when you don't hit all of your weekly mileage.
Don't panic over a tough week now and then in training. You might get sick or have an emergency at home. You might have to cut runs short because you haven't adjusted to the warmer temperatures. Trust your training over the long-term because that's what shows up on race day.
2. Take some time to focus on other things
A good game plan is important, and you'll want to map out your training and nutrition, but a goal half marathon race doesn't have to become an obsession, and most of us aren't pro or elite athletes.
Take time during training to step back from thinking about your race and enjoy an afternoon away from it. Thank your significant other for supporting you during the chaos of training. Let your family and friends know you are grateful for their encouragement. By focusing on other things, your brain will get a much-needed break from preparing for race day.