I recently recapped my Soweto Half Marathon which took place in November last year. It was an awesome adventure. I had a solid training plan and although I got injured a week before the Big Day, I ran quite a solid race. However, it was only my second Half Marathon and in the last few months I have reflected on some mistakes I made in training and on race day and the valuable lessons I gained as a result. The more I run, the more comfortable I am, but as with everything in life, I also know I have a lot more to learn.
1 – Stick to the Plan: My training plan was designed by Coach Nicola from Running Happy and it was beautifully tailored to my needs. Towards the end of my training cycle, my running was feeling so much stronger and I was eager to do even more. So eager that I starting sneaking in more kilometres. I remember doing 15 km for one Long Run, instead of 10 km; and 9 km of hill repeats instead of 6 km. I can’t help but wonder whether that may have contributed to the injury. The plan was solid but in my enthusiasm to do more as I got stronger, I may have done myself more harm than good. Stick to the Plan. Overdoing it in the final few weeks may result in injury and spoil your chances for a good race.
2 – Do Them Squats: I was doing all the runs, I was eating right and I was going for pilates. But I avoided strength training at all costs! Again, this may have contributed to my pre-race injury. This article summaries the benefits of strength training for runners and notes that “Strength training helps your body better deal with the stresses of running. Your muscles will be able to perform longer before getting fatigued, which will help you maintain your proper running form.” This was a good lesson for me and in recent weeks, I have been more consistent and put a lot more effort into strength training.
3 – Break In Those Shoes: I bought new shoes about 6 weeks from race day and I figured this was plenty of time to break them in. However, I simply stopped using my old shoes and did all my runs in the new shoes. The first thing my physiotherapist asked me was “Have you started using new shoes?” Apparently this is a big cause of injury especially when you haven’t transitioned properly to new shoes. Sean Conroy in this article talks about the importance of gradually phasing new shoes into your running schedule, first using them once a week and then more whilst still using the older shoes for longer distances. This article from Runner’s World aptly states, “Your feet are super adaptable – but you have to give them time to adjust.” Another critical lesson.
4 – Grab That Gel: I did my first Half Marathon without having to fuel (aside from water) en route. And in all my long runs I’ve never had to refuel. However, in the Soweto Race particularly with the gruelling hills in the second half, I really started to battle and when I was waiting for my medal, I was so nauseous and could hardly stand. By the time I met up with my friends I was feeling extremely sick. Luckily my husband quickly told me to take the gel I had been carrying all along and he got me some coke and hydration salts. All my friends doing the Half said they had taken a gel around 13/14 km which was when I had started to struggle on the course. Looking back, that was the time I should have taken something. This was a huge lesson for me. Run by run, I’m learning.
5 – Hop on the Bus: No, not that kind of bus! 🙂 As I was struggling up one of the countless hills in the second half, I heard a cheerful voice behind me with a tambourine. He was leading a huge group of runners and they were using a walk-run approach. I was determined to keep jogging so I initially stayed in front of them. But when the “bus driver” told them to start running they soon overtook me and looked in much better spirits than I was! Eventually, I was too far behind to catch up. In hindsight, I should have hopped on the bus to get me back on track. Given those hills, their walk-run approach would have been the best way for me to get up. This article looks at the pros and cons of hopping on the bus, and although I don’t think I would start and end on the bus, I think they are pretty useful for getting you through a tough patch!
“Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards” – Vernon Sanders Law
One of the things I love about running is that you never stop learning and growing. The more I run, the more I see there is a lot more I need to learn. Do any of these lessons resonate with you? What are some of the key things you have learnt about running and racing? Do you have any other running tips to add?
I’m joining Kooky Runner and Zenaida on their new link up, Tuesday Topics. I’m also linking up with Lora from Crazy Running Girl, Marc from Train With Marc and Debbie from Coach Debbie Runs for Coaches’ Corner! Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired!