An inner athlete's manifesto.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Get Through Each Mile of Your First Half Marathon

You asked, so here it is--13 tricks to mentally get through your first half, tested by yours truly.

1. Break the race into three parts. At an expo once, this was one of the best pieces of advice I received from  professional runner Michelle Frey. She advised to focus on miles 1-4 as a warm-up, 5-10 to set and maintain your pace, and the last 5k (10-13.1) to really kick some ass (she didn't use those terms, but this is what you must do). 

2. Don't panic. The beginning of a half is always exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. There are so many people, and you really are just trying to find your niche. Enjoy the crowd around you and feed off other people's energy. 

3.  If you do have music, think of 13 people in your life who've inspired you and make a playlist with a song that reminds you of them for each mile. Remember as much as you can about each person during their particular mile--memories you have with this person, what their favorite color is, etc. You can do this without an ipod as well, if you know enough songs in your head to sing to yourself. 

4. Use a mile in the beginning of the race to completely allow yourself to eavesdrop on other runners' conversations with each other. You can learn a lot about other people's boyfriends and jobs, and if someone's chatter annoys you, use it as ammo to run past them and discover something else about your competitors.

5. Dedicate one mile to reciting every Shakespeare quote you can remember. "Bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible."--William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

6.  Strike up a conversation with another runner schlepping along at a similar pace. Don't be shy. Everyone's actually pretty friendly when there's sweat dripping off them and they know you smell just as terrible as they do.

7.  Dedicate one mile entirely to thinking about your form. Are you running tall? Are your shoulders back? Is your breath even? Do your feet feel heavy or light? Think about each part of your body and how it feels in relation to your running (do this sooner rather than later on in the race). 

8. Completely zone out during miles 6-10. Seriously, do anything you can to keep pace but don't think too much about how far you're running, especially if you don't have any music to distract you. Think about the news, your dog, upcoming projects--just don't start subtracting miles in your head.

9. Think about the meal you're going to reward yourself with. A cheesy pizza, a burger, an omelet, a waffle with strawberries and whipped cream. Yum. That is worth running for.

10. Focus on your environment. Is this a new course? A familiar course? How's the crowd? What do the trees look like? Do you see any birds? Imagine what the course would be like without a race going on.

11. Find your running mantra. Short, repeatable phrases have helped me finish a grueling mile, urged me through the finish line, and increased my confidence. Here's a few I use (repeat each twice in your head to see what I mean): Run tall, run strong, run tall, run strong. Fast fast, feet feet, go little, quick feet. When it's all about Angie, I become a world-class, athlete. Effortlessness. Effortlessness. Light and quick, light and quick. Easy strikes, easy strikes. You get the idea.

12. Think of the theme song from Rocky. Seriously, you need to download this song today and listen to it six times so the melody is embedded into your brain. And then, you need to watch the original Rocky when he starts training and picture him kicking ass as you kick some asphalt. If you can't watch Rocky, this Youtube video will have the same effect:

13. Think of how awesome you are. List every single good quality about yourself in your head. Positive reinforcement is the most important thing you can do for yourself in any race, but especially long distance. Your body will follow your mind's lead, so it is crucial to think good thoughts and remember what a badass you are. You are a badass. You're a half-marathoner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Today on My Morning Run

After only a quarter of a mile, I heard it--breathing.
I knew it was a man's breathing, and his steps sounder a bit heavier than mine, but had the same, fierce clip to them. I sensed him closing in on me, so I did what any girl would do; I sped up.
He adjusted his pace accordingly. His footfalls matched mine strike by strike, and I thought, I am NOT going to let some jerk smoke me and steal my lone, stretch of sidewalk by this mundane and grey power plant, so I sped up again. I was running faster than my lazy legs had wanted to when I began the morning--groggy, grouchy, and sloth-like. In a rush, I only had a small glass of milk before setting out. I didn't plan on being gone for very long or challenging myself. Now I wished I had more energy to prevent this stranger, this impromptu competitor from beating me on my own, safe course.
I rounded the corner of the power plant and crossed onto the bike trail along the water. I expected to catch a side glimpse of my heavy-breathing opponent and saw nothing. I pressed on for the same pace for about another tenth of a mile just to be certain, and then I raced up the steps into Astoria Park and looked back down at the bike path, seeing only an old man walking a shitsu.
Good, I thought. I win.