Last May 17, 2014 my husband and I finished our first Brooklyn Half-Marathon. I would like to share the lessons that we learn and hope to inspire other runners too. 13.1 lessons because there are 13.1 miles in a half-marathon.
1. Motivation- borderline diabetes
Last February 2014, I had my annual physical check-up and my doctor Dr. Rounak Rahman told me that I have borderline diabetes. She told me that I need to lose weight to avoid diabetes. I am also obese, for short person like me 149 lbs is too much. I need to lose around 20 lbs to reach my normal weight. I hate taking medicine. My mother has diabetes and hypertension. This is my wake-up call to adapt a healthier lifestyle. My husband and I was an active member of New York Road Runner, is it an organization that promotes running and they organize the internationally renowned New York City Marathon. We decided to register to the upcoming Brooklyn Half Marathon to force ourselves to be fit.
2. Inspiration – If they can do it so can I.
In 2013 we have been running several 5k fun run in Central Park, Corona Park and Prospect Park. We noticed that there’s a lot of elderly runners who are faster than us. And they have wonderful and toned body. There are also some people who are overweight but they are determined to finish the race.
3. Plan ahead – Training Program
My friend Jee finished half marathons before and she told me about the 10-week Half-Marathon training program at NYRR. There’s a lot of classes you can enroll for a fee. There are also some elite runners who made their own training program on Youtube videos on how to train. I download the free training program from NYRR. Basically you need 10 weeks to train for half-marathon. Start with 2k then slowly increase the distance per week by 10% to 20% depends on your capability. Once or twice a week you have to practice the long run then after give yourself one day off to rest and help your body to recover. I started training around second week of February. The race was May 22 so I had almost 3 months of training. I didn’t really follow the training program exactly but somehow it will give you a guide on what to do.
New York Road Runners Free Training Program link
YouTube Video tips
4. No excuses- Discipline yourself
For me hardest thing to do is discipline yourself. My husband and I have different work schedule so most of the time I train on my own. I bring my gym clothes to work and I just wear sneakers all the time. After work I go straight to the gym. It was still cold when I start training. It takes a lot of determination to force yourself to work out. I work out about 4-5 times a week.
5. Look for training Buddy
My husband is my training buddy. We motivate each other to work-out and live a healthy lifestyle. There are a lot of groups that you can join to make running fun and meet new friends. Some membership are free some you need to pay for membership.
North Brooklyn Runners http://northbrooklynrunners.org/
Team Takbo https://www.facebook.com/TeamTakbo
Black Girls Run http://www.blackgirlsrun.com/
Paid Membership or fund raising commitment
Team for Kids http://runwithtfk.org/Page/About
You can also start a running club and help to raise fund in your local communities through running.
6. Set your goal - Finish the race alive
Since this was my first long distance run my main goal is just to finish the race alive, as simple as that. I don't want to stress myself for a good PR because I know it's difficult. I just want my finisher medal.
7. Listen to your body - look out for minor injury
The first few days of my training was the most difficult part. I forced my body to come out from hibernation of winter season. I am also flat footed or what they called over pronation. I didn't buy shoes specific for my feet because they look terrible. I have colorful Asics Gel Noosa Tri 8 sneakers I bought from amazon. I got a lots of compliments from my sneakers. I just add insoles from Dr. Scholl's. There are also some stretching exercises to avoid injuries.
8. Cross training- Yoga, zumba, pilates, cardio work -out
Aside from regular running routine I also join group classes like yoga, zumba, pilates and kickboxing work-out. We have X-box 360 at home I did Zumba, Black Eyed Peas and Dance Central when I don't feel like going to the gym.
9. Running gear - Run in style
For me preparing your running gear is important factor. I want clothes that are comfortable and colorful. Colorful running gear is also part of my motivation. You have to prepare your running gear weeks before the race. Avoid using brand new shoes or clothes because it can cause skin chaffing. It is very irritating during the race if your uncomfortable with your clothes or shoes. I am practicing Muslim. I believe in modesty so I am trying to be modest in my clothes. It is hard to wear long sleeves while working out. My clothes may not be as modest as other Muslim women but I'm trying.
a. Running shoes- There are so many fancy running shoes out there ranging from $30 -$200+. You don’t have to break a bank to buy good running sneakers. First, ask yourself what you want in running shoes. Depends on what is your priority like price, comfort, style, etc. But for me I like design first then comfort. I am flat footed my feet needs constant support to reduce injury in long distance run. Since I bought fancy sneakers but doesn’t have the support I need, I bought shoe inserts from Dr. Scholl’s. I also wear knee length compression socks.
b. Technology / apps- I use RunKeeper and my Samsung S5 SHealth to keep track with my distance, speed, calories burned and pedometer. In psychology, immediate feedback is a good positive reinforcer. I got gold coin every time I reached 10,000 steps.
c. Accessories– I have Bluetooth headset because I don’t like wires. It bothers me a lot. I also used arm band for cell phone. I have hydration belt but I decided not to used it during the race because it adds additional weight. I also wore Ironman shades.
10. Hydration and Nutrition
Hydration and nutrition are vital part of the training program not just because of the upcoming race but it should be a part of healthy lifestyle. We started to eat healthy at home and we avoid eating fast food. We change some of our eating habits like grilling fish and chicken breast instead of frying, using olive oil instead of corn oil, brown rice instead of white rice, and brown sugar instead of refined white sugar. Also we drink a lot of fruit shakes and vegetable juice. Fruits and vegetables are expensive but still it’s cheaper than cancer treatment.
During the race I didn’t bring my water bottle because it bothers me. I know there’s one hydration station in every mile. The weight of the water bottle on my waist bothers me a lot so I decided not to bring one. I bought some energy gel for the race but for me it is not advisable. First, I haven’t tried eating those on my training. Second, they are too sweet and dry. During the race I eat one gel since I don’t have water bottle it is hard to swallow and it has a weird taste like medicine, definitely not a good idea.
11. Keep your pace - Run Smart
Learning how to keep your pace takes time. I used to run as fast as I could at the start of the the race but this is wrong especially for distance running. We need to keep our stamina up to the finish line. My average time is about 14minutes per mile. Yup, I'm almost walking. My legs are short, one step of tall people will take me about two to three step. I looked at the previous year record of Brooklyn Half-Marathon. For my age group the last person to cross the finish line was about 3.5 hours. My goal is to cross the finish line within that period. I finished my first half marathon in 3:19:39.
12. Enjoy your run - First, let me take a selfie!
When I was running towards Ocean Parkway I was elated. There was no car only runners on the high way. I took my phone and started taking selfies, video and taking pictures of the people. The volunteers on the side of the road really helps in motivating us. I loved seeing the kids from the Muslim and Jewish community of Brooklyn cheering the runners. My scarf fell down while I was running. I only have my inner scarf left. I looked silly. LOL!
13. Recovery – No Pain, No Gain!
During the race if feel a little bit of pain on my feet. You would feel that your sneakers are getting hot. My shoulder blades and arms were starting to hurt. I also advise bring your own first aid kit. I have tissue paper because the Portalet don't have toilet paper and it is “Ewww!”.
I also had 6 tablets of Advil with me. I took 2 tablets around 2 miles because I know it will take some time for the body to absorb the medicine. I don’t like the feeling of body pain during run. I don’t know if it is medically advisable but these are just my experience. Then, around 6 miles I took 2 tablets and I took the last 2 tablets around 9 miles. But since I already took a total of 6 Advil that day I didn’t take any pain killers after the race which is not advisable.
The pain after the race was excruciating and the worst part was I didn’t have plan for it. Lucky for us we live in Brighton Beach area and the finish line for Brooklyn Half Marathon were in Coney Island. It was few blocks from our house. We took some photo after the race then we walked straight to our apartment.
Bubble bath and rest is highly recommended after the race. When I woke up from my nap every inch of my body hurts. I couldn’t explain in words how painful it was. I rest for complete 2 days before I went back to work.
13.1 Run while you can
Life is too short. We never know what will happen tomorrow. We cannot predict our health.