When I decided to run my first half marathon, I pictured writing an article to share my experience. If you followed a previous article you would have remember that this blog and my first half marathon was a promise to myself. So I lay here typing this experience to you, to share with you that your goals are achievable and you can only achieve what you put the effort towards.
In Cape Town, South Africa, during April 2017, I ran my first half marathon – The Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon (OMTOM).
Entering the OMTOM
The OMTOM is a popular race in South Africa which attracts 16 000 half marathon runners. In order to secure a race entry for 2017, there was a ballot entry process. In November 2016, the race entries opened and by mid-November you are notified if you entry was successful! I remember the day I received an email confirming my spot in the race, I was elated.
I did not follow a set training program. I did ensure that I ran regularly, which meant I would run between 30km to 40km per week. On some weeks, I did not manage to train at all. Closer to the race, I tried longer distances which meant I was running up to 14-16km in one go.
To improve my time, I would run a set distance e.g. 10km for 3 training sessions and try and better the time just by repetition. Interval training also helped to improve my speed.
I found that strength training helped with my endurance levels and overall improvement of my pace during races and especially my first half marathon. I do not go to gym so to strength train I relied solely on Yoga at home, specifically the Surya Namaskar (translated to Sun Salutations) and Boxing. Yoga assists in keeping your body supple and flexible and stretches your muscles. For the boxing class, I had one on one classes with a personal instructor at the Fight Club. Initially, I would strength train at the Fight Club once in ten days and do Yoga every other day. Closer to the race I continued with the Yoga Routine. I increased the boxing class to twice a week for the last six weeks before the race. (For one of these six weeks, I developed a chest infection so it was actually only five weeks).
Training with Injury or Illness
During my training, I was lucky enough not to suffer any major or minor injuries. However, I have seen many people pushing on with injuries. All I can recommend is “Don’t do that to your body!”
Unfortunately, a month before the race, I developed a chest infection and did not run for 13 days! The best thing I did was not run for those 13 days. I saw a doctor, sat out the training and got a bit concerned about “how am I going to run 21km without preparing physically?” The main focus for me at that point was to heal properly and then get out there again. That was the best decision I had made. Off course, getting out there on 30 March 2017, running the JP Morgan Chase after 13 days was a struggle but I coped and I was back on my feet.
At this point it was almost two weeks to OMTOM – my first half marathon.
Before I get to telling you about the actual race day, I highly recommend that as part of your training plan, you run other races. Running in a race is totally different from running socially or by yourself. It helps you to get a feel for your pace in a crowd and how to handle the different paces of those around you. Pacing yourself is key. It is so easy to get carried away with others from the start and then you are tired out too early in the race.
I only ran 10km and did a few club runs before the OMTOM, as my firm resolve to myself that my first half marathon will be OMTOM!
The day had arrived, a 6.10am start time had me up, ready and on my way by 4:45. It was a cold morning and waiting at the start line wasn’t the most pleasant. Before the gun triggered, we all sang to the National Anthem of South Africa. Here was an emotional point, I recalled making my resolution to run the OMTOM as my first half marathon, I flew to Cape Town and here I was at the start line. It was a feeling of accomplishment before I started, mostly because I worked hard at what I wanted and to that point I kept my promise to myself.
The trigger fired and off we went, I ran the first 17km, and stopped at 3 points momentarily, twice for thirst quenchers and one to adjust my attire. I was proud that I managed to run all that way with a good pace, even up the hilly and daunting Southern Cross Drive. The festive atmosphere and the crowds that turn out to cheer the runners on, was so amazing. At 19km I tired out a bit and started brisk walking. Once I reached the entrance to the grounds of the finish line, that was just my motivation, I had nearly done it. I kept telling myself, “it is the last lap, give it your best, you not getting this moment again”.
My First Half Marathon completed
I managed to finish the race in a time of 2:16! I didn’t expect that time and was even more stoked at my new and only PB for a 21.1km.
What I have learnt:
- learning to enjoy running helped me to improve my running;
- believing in Myself gave me the confidence to do better;
- run for your PB and try YOUR best;
- putting regular effort and never giving up is part of achieving your dreams;
- you can do it – REMEMBER THAT