In my post about running my first half marathon, I got a request to share about my running essentials.
The truth is nothing was absolutely essential. I say this to make a point. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need this or that to get started with some new hobby or exercise. I may think I need a certain pair of shoes or to find the perfect gym or to have the perfect musical instrument before I can actually get to work on whatever it is. I find that this isn’t true. The only essential for running is to get started, and that tends to be true for most things I try.
I just wanted that disclaimer, because I truthfully don’t think you need anything to get started. Just put one foot in front of the other. That being said, if you’ve gotten started and are wondering what I personally preferred, here were some of my favorites things:
I originally set out to run a 9-mile run. At the time I started, I wasn’t even ready for the first week of the 10 mile training plan, so I started with a 5k training plan. Once I was able to, I progressed to the 10 mile training plan. After my 9-mile run, I decided to go for the half marathon, and I progressed to the half-marathon training plan. They were all from HalHigdon.com and I loved that they included variety. If I could recommend one thing to someone interested in training for their first race, it would be to find a training plan and stick with it. I did not deviate from this plan and it served me well.
My shoes were Nike Free Runs. They’re lightweight and did the job. I’m not sure if my shoes were to blame, but I wound up with some nasty blisters on the inside of my foot. Moleskin completely fixed this problem, so it’s definitely an essential as well!
Once you completely quit caring what you look like, a running belt is a nice thing to have. I found an awesome one from Camelbak that had a pocket on one side and a spot for a soft water bottle on the other. It was far from stylish but got the job done.
I never got any Bluetooth ear buds, but that would have been really nice! The wired ones worked just fine for me though, and I really liked that mine had the rubbery part that wraps around my ear to keep them in place.
I also used a foam roller after every run. I’m not certain of the brand, but any foam roller will do. It made a huge difference in how my legs felt the next day!
Epsom salt baths are also very nice.
I learned from a traumatic experience that for me personally, caffeine is not a great pre-workout. I also learned that eating nothing is not a great pre-workout. I settled on a granola bar or my homemade energy balls and would usually eat this about 10 minutes before my run. During the run, I would eat an energy chew at about mile 4 and then a few more throughout the run, about every half hour. I also tried to drink plenty of water. After the run, I would eat something that had both carbs and protein and again drink plenty of water. I also found that what I ate the evening before a long run made a difference. This may have all been in my head, but when I ate an unprocessed, wholesome dinner, I seemed to feel better the next day during the run.
I know lots of people like music for running. That probably would have helped me run faster, but running fast wasn’t my goal. Instead, I listened to podcasts during my run. It kept my mind engaged and helped motivate me on days when it was hard to take the first step out the door. I may do a future post about podcasts- let me know if you’re interested in something like that!
Physical Therapy Exercises
I wound up with a nasty case of hip bursitis (I’m self-diagnosing here, but the symptoms fit). The pain was bad enough at one point that I could hardly walk. With the help of this YouTube video (and some ibuprofen), I began doing these exercises multiple times a day, and the pain cleared up. Even after I was pain-free, I continued doing these exercises a few times a week and ran the 13.1 without any pain!
This sounds cliche, but my biggest running essential was being in the right mindset. I’m thankful that I challenged myself to run this race, not only for the physical hurdles, but for the mental ones as well. There were lots of days I woke up and didn’t feel like doing an early morning run, but I did it anyway. I don’t think it was some sort of willpower magic. I just did a few things.
The first is that (with very few exceptions) I never decided whether I was running or not. It was in my schedule, it was on my training plan, so it happened. If it rained, I ran on a treadmill at the gym. If I had stayed up late the night before, I would choose to run in the evening instead of the morning. On weeks when I knew I’d be busy during my run days, I’d adjust my training plan so I wouldn’t be scheduled to run on those days. I had to set myself up for success, because it’s really easy for me to decide not to run at the very first hint that the conditions may not be ideal. The key (for me at least) is consistency.
The second mindset thing for me was my message to myself. It was, “Keep going. Don’t stop.” That may seem simple, but it was really helpful in the midst of tough runs. My goal was not to break a world record for speed, but my goal was to not walk. So that’s what I did. I kept going and didn’t stop, no matter how slow I went.
Again, I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to run this race. I had so much fun!