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Training for a half marathon… or 2!

So….it seems that after signing up for and taking part in the Harrogate Harriers 10K last July, I’m a sucker for punishment because not only have I signed up for that again (!) I also seem to have entered not one but TWO half marathons!?

Who do I think I am!? It’s quite possible the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns have somehow altered my mental state and made me believe I’m someone who could quite easily compete in and finish a half marathon, a distance of 13.1 miles or 21.1K. Basically double the distance of the 10K I’ve previously competed in….

Taking The Leap

So back in 2021 when I signed up to compete in the Harrogate Harriers 10K my mind wouldn’t stop telling me that I wouldn’t make it all the way around and that I would be pulled aside at the halfway mark (5K!) and told that I couldn’t go on because I wouldn’t be finished within the cut off time.

Yeah, the mind can be your biggest cheerleader, or it can be your worst enemy. The way we think about ourselves and what we’re capable of can have a drastic effect on the outcome, if we allow our thoughts to overtake us.

The best coach you can ever have is yourself so you really do have to learn how to be the best teammate and head coach to yourself. This is a hard lesson to learn because if you’re anything like me, your mind is more likely to tell you all the things you did badly than the things you did well or improved upon.

My Running History

I started running in February 2021 so haven’t been in this sport long, but I can already tell that it’s one of the friendliest sports I have ever competed in, because no matter where you finish in a race or how you look during a run, there will always be other runners there to support you – both online and in person.

Every runner has at one time or another been that person who has to force themselves out the door to take that first step to becoming the runner they are today. When you start running, you are already a runner, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not a runner because you haven’t taken part in a race or managed to run 5K in 20 minutes!

One of my favourite running quotes is ‘no matter how fast or slow you go, you’re already lapping everyone on the couch’ and it’s so true. You’re out there, doing it and you should be so proud of that. Even if it’s just a 10 minute jog round the block!

My mind was – and quite possibly still IS - my worst critic during my first 10K race. It did feel quite overwhelming and daunting to know that I was probably the slowest person out there, but having the support of the other runners and supporters whilst slowly making my way around really spurred me on to continue and have a really strong finish.

This year I already know I’m capable of completing it, so hopefully I can instead focus on getting around and perhaps even, maybe, enjoy it? Who knows! But one thing I do know for certain is that it will be good training for my first ever half marathon in May!

Taking on a half marathon is a natural progression for any runner looking for their next challenge. At first it can seem very daunting and a bit of your depth, but with the right training (a combination of speed runs, intervals, fartleks, long runs, recovery runs and tempo runs) it should be (SHOULD!) be within your wheelhouse as a runner.

My Training Plan

I’m following the 14 week training plan in the Nike Run Club app which I’ve been using for a few months now. I really enjoy the guided runs and the advice that Coach Cory, Coach Bennett and others have to dish out.

In recent weeks I have been doing longer and longer runs as a benchmark to see where I’m at and how much further I have to go. I recently completed The Stack on the app – a stack of runs ranging from between one minute up to 15 minutes – all in on day which meant I was running/walking for a total of 2 hours 15 minutes, which let tell you, was HARD!! In total the distance I covered was 16.24K – the most I’ve ever done up to this point!

So yes from this you can say I could finish a half marathon, but I want to train my body so that it doesn’t feel like it’s going to die halfway round! Because believe you me, when your feet start to hurt, that’s it – you may as well give up because there’s no way in hell you’re going to get a good time if every time your feet touch the ground you’re smiling through the pain!

Like I said I don’t have an in person trainer, mainly because I came into this sport knowing that at first you wouldn’t need to spend a lot and your outlay would be minimal. Plus, as Coach Bennett says, the best head coach you could ever have is yourself, so hey, why not?

I know I need to get better at my endurance – I sometimes do feel like there are barriers I could push through if only I tried a bit harder, so that’s what I’m hoping will happen once I begin my training in earnest! One can only hope hey?

Raising Money For Charity

So, seeing as I’m willing to put my body through some mental (& probably physical torture!) I have decided to raise money for charity with the two races I’m entering this year.

In May for the Leeds Half Marathon I am raising money for DOTS London – a voluntary based non for profit organisation that is dedicated to the welfare of the animals of the homeless community.

In September for the Great North Run I am raising money for St Michael's Hospice – a community which exists to offer local people affected by terminal illness across the Harrogate district can access high quality, personalised care. St Michael's values choice, autonomy and seeks to empower those in need of their services.

Between the two I am hoping to raise over £500 which I know will go a long way for both charities. I’ll leave links to both charities as well as my fundraising pages in case you’re feeling generous! It’s never to early to start collecting donations or raising awareness of the important work they both do. You can donate to DOTS London here and St Michael's Hospice here. Thank you!

Getting Fitter With Every Run

It’s only natural that along with taking up a new sport, will come improved fitness and inevitable weight loss. I’ve talked previously about how I felt going back to Weight Watchers and the impact that had on me. I’m not going to shy away or feel any less just because I felt the need to have some guidance whilst I navigated and got my head around losing weight.

I do believe that my running has had an impact on helping me to lose the weight I did and keep it off. As a vegan I have to be careful with my diet to ensure I’m getting the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals but for the most part I try not to let this worry me and just enjoy the food that’s on offer.

Yes on a basic level my diet probably isn’t the best, but do I enjoy the food that I do eat and the freedom that comes with not being held back by preconceived notions of what my plate should consist of? Absolutely!

Even when I was tracking what I ate, I wasn’t really eating the food that’s traditionally associated with diet culture norms – mainly because life’s too fucking short to worry about what I’m eating! I instead concentrated on portion sizes and controlled the amount of food I was eating. It’s simple maths really – eat less move more equals calories burnt leaving a deficit leading to weight lost.

Having stepped away from Weight Watchers now, I have to rely instead on myself to choose the healthier option and sometimes this can lead to binging now that I’m not beholden to the master of the scales. Leaving behind diet culture can be difficult when you grew up in the 90s/00s and the Twiggy look was in and in every magazine was the latest diet craze guaranteed to help you lose 20lb FAST!

For the most part though I’m out of this now and can concentrate on simply enjoying new foods and trying out the new releases which come with Veganuary! (My favourite time of year as a vegan!) I do need though need to learn more about fuelling my body correctly for longer runs, like what foods should I be eating before a run to correctly fuel my engine and conversely eating afterwards to ensure optimum re-fuelling.

Sometimes it can be hard to gauge just how much fitter you’re getting unless you do an activity you once struggled with which is suddenly easier for you! I’ve done this a few times and it never fails to surprise me! This is something that you (and I!) should celebrate more often each and every time something like this happens, because wow! Our bodies all of a sudden allow us to run/walk uphill WITHOUT turning into a breathless and sweaty mess when we reach the top?! GO US!

This shouldn’t stop us from eating and drinking our favourite foods and drinks though. I definitely enjoy a tipple (or 3!) when I’m not working and love nothing better than disappearing into the bath with a glass full of G&T!

Moving Forwards

Hopefully this is what I’ll be doing with all of this running but in the next few months I hope that my running and endurance will improve so that I don’t feel quite so dead when I reach that 16K mark during my half marathons!

I am excited for the future and where all of this will take me. I hope that I still enjoy running as much by the end of 2022 as I do now. I find it incredibly helpful for my mental as well as physical health and the knowledge that I can push myself to do something I once thought impossible.

And that my friends, is hella powerful!

Sarah xoxo

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A 30 something woman navigating life, sharing posts focussing on mental health, midsize fashion, self-care routines and life as a vegan.

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