Half-marathon races just keep growing in popularity, especially among women. They don't involve as much prep as a marathon, obviously, but are still a challenge—and fun, especially when you cross that finish line with friends.
My first half-marathon? An epic disaster. I'm talking barely-made-it-across-the-finish-line-without-curling-up-in-a-ball-and-crying disaster. Read on for the seven things I wish I had known before I started half-marathon training so you can run strong and finish with a (sweaty) smile on your face.
1. Train on Race Terrain
I was familiar with the first seven miles or so of the course of my first half-marathon, but I'd never checked out the remaining mileage till race day. So when I got to the halfway point and felt awful, every remaining twist and turn was that much more painful; over and over, I thought I was nearing the end, but the road just kept going, and going and going. It was physically and mentally brutal. If you have access to your race course ahead of time, do some practice runs on various sections to familiarize yourself with the whole thing, or at least ride a bike or drive the course to give yourself somewhat of a feel for it—so you know what's coming on race morning.
2. Be Flexible
I'm pretty sure I'd never heard of a hip flexor until training for my first big race. As a result, I never stretched mine, and racking up mileage for several months made them super-duper tight. They were so tight, in fact, that it caused bursitis in my hip, which basically felt like a rock-hard knot in one side of my glutes; I had to see a physical therapist twice a week and let her massage it until my butt was bruised. Fun stuff! In conclusion: Stretch after every run. Then stretch some more.
3. Have a Checklist
In my everyday life, I don't do checklists. If I try, I usually stop halfway through to Google something like "Scott Eastwood abs" and then forget all about the list. Oops! When it comes to races, though, having an old-school, written list is a huge help to ensure you've got everything you need. I remember getting to Central Park for my first half-marathon and then turning around and jogging back to my apartment to get the deodorant I'd forgotten to put on that morning.