How not to do a half-marathon: a guide

Yesterday, I finished the Queenstown half marathon. It took 2 hours 22 minutes of mind over muscle to get to the finish line (seeing as I’d left training a little late, my brain was far stronger than my body…)

So, as I battled pride over pain for 13 torturous miles, I put together a little guide for anyone wanting to do an endurance race. Take it from me, here’s what you really don’t want to do…

  • Do not sign up because someone tells you to

Three weeks before the half marathon, and I ask my friend if I should sign up. Of course, they said yes, so I did. Easily-led much? Whilst we all love a good challenge, know your limits. If you swapped exercise for Netflix and cookies like I had, you may need longer than three weeks to run a race. Which leads me to my next point…

Yeah that can’t have been me


  • You run the race you train for….

Last year, I ran the London and Dublin marathon (pictured above, you can see my disbelief too). And lordy did I train for it. I printed off a three-month training guide and stuck it in my wardrobe, and discovered if you prepare your body, strengthen those muscles, build your endurance and eat the food your body needs, well, you’ll have an amazing day.

If you don’t, then you get to test your mental fortitude. When it comes to pain or pride, how stubborn are you?

Yeah… so this hill was a complete b**ch
  • Don’t be backwards

Doing two marathons last year and then a half this year was weird. Because I knew in the back of my mind a super-fit version of me could do 26 miles, 13 didn’t feel like much of an acheivement (even though it was, considering my fitness levels at the time.) Work your way up to a full marathon, start off with a 10k or a half and feel yourself improve.

The road to sun stroke. What a dangerously beautiful day that was.
  • Don’t run in another country and expect it will be the same

So my first long run in a long time, 8 miles, and I get sun stroke. Why? Because I’m an idiot. I took a tiny bottle of water, didn’t put sun screen on, and forgot that the O-Zone hole above Australia? Yeah, that’s above New Zealand too.

Always check ahead where you’re running, and regardless, take sun cream, a hat, a light jacket, and LOADS of water. Fortunately by race day, I’d learnt my lesson and was all about the factor 50 and sexy black hat.

Running in the wild is oh so pleasant, until you fall on your face.
  • If you have an injury, give yourself time to rest 

This probably comes back to my second point, allow plenty of training time in case you injure yourself. That way, you can rest, heal, and get back to strengthening those muscles.

However, if you’re like me, you choose instead to faceplant a dirt track and twist your ankle, with approximately nine days to heal, train, and then run the race. Not ideal. It meant with every step I was nervous it would twist again, which messes with your head, which messes with your running.

Come on… what would you have done?!
  • Don’t replace a long training run with watersports

Ok, so my last Sunday before the big day, I’d set aside to do my 11 miles training run. (You’re supposed to work up to your full distance, but never actually run it.) Then I got the chance to go canyoning for free and frolicked about on lots of rocks in a wetsuit for a day. It was hard work, but not as hard as an endurance would have been. Stay dedicated people, it helps.

Friends are the best cheerleaders out there…
  • Do use the oldest trick in the book

One thing the marathons taught me was how to ignore myself. Those negative thoughts that swirl about your brain, telling you you’re too weak, you’re crap, you should just give up… tell them to f*ck off. Instead, imagine your best friend, your partner, anyone who loves you, imagine they’ve taken over your head. What would they be saying? How would they be cheering you on?

I call it marathon mind. And it’s bloody helpful in any occasion where you’re giving yourself a hard time.

Not a bad place to get jelly legs…
  • No matter what, try to enjoy it

Ok, so in the lead up to this half marathon, I did a lot of things wrong. A LOT. But I still couldn’t stop smiling when I crossed that finishing line. Despite my daft decisions, sun stroke, ankle twisting, lack of training etc, I took on a challenge that got me back into running again, made me eat better and generally feel healthier. And that is worth all the pain of my aching limbs today.


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