As someone who very much has a hate-hate relationship with running; on Sunday 30th September 2018, I willingly took part, and completed, a Half Marathon. I ran 13.44 miles, actually in 1hr 57mins 03seconds - even with the 2 weeks prior to that having been on rest following a dog bite!
It pains me that some people think a Half Marathon is a walk in the park and whilst I know it may be easy for some, even they had to start somewhere. Running, even short distances, is a test of your physical and mental abilities combined, and for someone who doesn't particularly enjoy it anyway, it's even harder.
Shortly after I got back to work after my honeymoon, and feeling like I needed something new to focus my time and energy on, I signed up to take part in the IKANO Robin Hood Half Marathon and raise money for a local Nottingham charity at the same time. And that's where it all began...
Find a tracker that works for you.
This can be a smart watch, a sports device or a mobile app. I opted for the latter and used MapMyRun to track my activity. It tracked my distance, time, mile splits, pace and my route.
I like that I was able to look back easily at my activity feed and see how I was performing against my last run. I also liked how I could have it running in the background with my music playing and it would inform me when I hit each mile.
There's also the capability to look at other routes which is helpful when you need to step out of your comfort zones onto the longer distances.
Find one that works for you to monitor and use a good benchmark each time you step out for a run.
I found a 12-week training plan for beginners that really helped me get into the swing of things at the start, although I very quickly went off-piste with it.
As it was around 18 weeks before the big day, I took it upon myself to work up to a moderate pace and distance before taking the plan seriously.
I started running miles - as in single miles. I'd head out and run a mile, then the next day, I'd run the same mile and try and beat the time I did it in. This helped me get into running quickly and easily without feeling forced and meant I could be a little competitive with myself. I did this every time I stepped up my distance too and believe it helped me improve my stamina and speed without too much effort!
Take a break if you need to
Look, if you're out for a run and you're really not feeling it, stop and go home. Try again tomorrow. There's nothing worse than feeling forced to do it and missing a few days off your plan is ok.
I often felt like this at the start when I was running five 5Ks a week, sometimes I just wanted an extra night to myself. It was the best thing for me as I gradually learned to love getting out, otherwise I think I'd have given up.
However, don't take a break for too long. Running isn't something you can just pick back up again (believe me, I've tried since the HM!) it needs consistency to keep it up and you can very easily fall off track.
As cliché and basic as this is going to sound, using positive thinking was probably the main thing that got me through the last few weeks of training and the race day.
In fact, so much so that I was ahead of my training plan by 4 weeks. I stepped out for a 6 mile run and ended up doing just over 10 miles by talking myself into it.
'Great, you're over halfway so not far to go at all'
'Yes! Only 3 miles left, that's only 5K and will only take 25 more minutes'
'Awesome, just four more bridges until I'm home!'
'You've just hit 7 miles in your fastest pace yet, you're smashing it!'
'You can do an extra mile, you've got this.'
Simply by telling yourself you can do it - you actually can! Also, hearing the updates on my app motivated me when it told me how far and in what time too.
A really good playlist!
When I started running, I just couldn't do it without listening to music and it took me a while to build up my ultimate running playlist but from going to the gym for so long, I'd built up a collection of songs that really motivated me and had a good beat.
I'm going to write up a separate blog post with my top picks for running but I'll let you in on my top three.
Don't judge me on this one but Niall Horan - Slow Hands really, really helped me in the beginning! It had a steady beat I could count my steps to and easy enough lyrics to sing a long in my head rather than concentrating on running. It helped me focus on something else other than the fact I was gasping for air.
Liam Gallagher's Wall of Glass was on repeat when I started picking up my pace. I think because it's slightly loud and angry, it pushed me to go harder for longer.
Finally, False Alarm by The Weeknd has been my all time favourite song to play whenever I need a dose of determination. The beat is fast enough anyway but the chorus just turns you into Usain Bolt! I ran my fastest whenever listening to this track and often have it on repeat when on the treadmill at the gym.
Finally, invest in some decent running trainers.
If you're serious about running or plan on taking part in running events and races; do yourself and your feet a favour and get yourself some proper trainers. There's nothing worse than heading out in generic trainers or your old gym sneaks.
I treated myself to a pair of Nike Odyssey React, which at the time were £120! They felt like clouds on my feet and didn't make my shins hurt when I was stomping about for miles on end. I found too, before I bought myself properly designed running shoes, that I was getting pins and needles in my feet which is definitely a sign of ill-fitting shoes not fit for purpose.
Train in them, start with a short 5K a few times to soften them up before any longer distances otherwise you get blisters!
Keep hydrated - drink at least 8oz of water before stepping out for a run
Eating for energy - I prefer fasted cardio but used to eat a banana or use an energy gel pre-run if I was out for 6 or more miles - I'd never run until at least 2 hours after a meal either
Coffee if good - I'd sometimes drink a coffee 30 mins before a run, I found it gave me a good boost of energy
Have you got any top tips for getting into running?