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11 Things That Helped Me Complete My First Half Marathon

07/03/2016 16:25 GMT | Updated 08/03/2017 10:12 GMT

This time last year, after watching my housemates go out for countless runs during the working week, I embarked on my first run for a very long time.

Of course, it wasn't my first run ever. I had completed the 5k Race For Life a few times when I was about 12 and 14 and at primary school I seemed to nail the 100m sprint. But aside from that, I wasn't a "runner".

On that run, I made it about 1k around the 3k loop before I had to stop, out of breath.

I was so embarrassed that my (what I had hoped to be) 30-minute run was about 15 minutes that I wasted time on the phone before walking back to my house so my housemates wouldn't know I literally ran 1.2k and walked back.

A month later, I stood near the finish line of the Brighton Marathon and found myself welling up watching people complete it. People of all shapes, sizes, ages and genders. I wanted to do it, too. That night, I signed up for the Brighton Half Marathon in Feb 2016. And I'm so damn pleased to say I did it. I DID IT.

So for the people saying to me "I could never run 13 miles", nor could I one year ago. But you can definitely do it, and here's what helped me.

brighton

1) Enlisting my boyfriend and my sister to do it, too.

Undoubtedly the biggest thing that got me through training was having two of the people closest to me in my life sign up to do it, too. We motivated each other, egged each other on and chatted about our runs. When my boyfriend and I had the day off together, we'd start it off with a run because it was in both of our best interests.

And there's nothing that made me want to go for a run more than either of them sending me a smug screenshot of the running route they'd just done while I was laying in bed on a Sunday.

2) Not running.

Who knew that to be a long-distance runner, not running would be so beneficial? I completely missed the memo at the beginning of my training that strength building was just as important as running.

Luckily, I was soon corrected and started doing yoga at home and legs, bums and tums to help prepare my body. And it's always nice to mix things up.

3) Making it a habit.

I took away the "choice" I had whether or not I should go for a run and made it a necessity in my everyday life, a habit. We do things every day that we don't want to do - cooking, doing our washing, tidying up the kitchen and if we actually had a choice, it's easier to say no.

They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so perhaps that's why this worked. I rarely made a decision about whether or not I wanted to go running, I just did. And most of the time I was grateful for that.

4) Getting tips from professionals.

Speaking to people who knew a whole lot more about what it took to run 13.1 miles was a huge help. When my runs started getting longer, I noticed niggles and pains in my body - most notably in my knees.

I went to a physio who gave me the necessary stretches I should do to strengthen my knees and wore a strap to ease the pain when I was running. I was given stretches and information about all the joints and parts of my body that took the impact on long runs. If I wasn't, I'm pretty sure I would've been doing more damage to my body than I realised.

5) Buying running gear.

I started off with £20 trainers from Sports Direct and always running with my iPhone in my hand a) for music and b) to map the distance. Holding a phone when you're running for an hour is no fun (and nor are uncomfortable trainers).

By the time the half came along, I'd forked out for proper running trainers, running clothes, bought an iPod shuffle just for my running music and had a watch that mapped my distance and pace. None of these are necessities, but for me they definitely helped.

shoes

6) Accepting there would be bad days.

It took me a while to get my head around the fact that I could run 10k one day and feel on top of the world and 5k the week after and want to pass out. It just happens.

After chatting to people on running forums, I stopped being hard on myself every time I had a hard run and I made sure I always went out with a positive mindset - any running is better than no running.

7) Slowing down.

I was a sprinter at school. I could run 100m no problem but as soon as I had to run further than 5 or 10 minutes, I would crumble.

It wasn't until I started running with my boyfriend, I realised my "pace" was too fast. One week he made me slow right down - we were jogging - and that day I completed my first ever 10k, without stopping, in just over an hour.

9) Finding interesting routes.

Running along streets in London and dodging through crowds on the pavement is never fun. I did the majority of my training runs around commons, greenery and parks because that's what I loved seeing. I loved looking up and seeing trees, grass, flowers and usually other runners, too.

It's part of the reason I loved running so much. When I trained in Brighton, I'd run along the seafront with the colourful beach huts.

9) Actually enjoying it.

Different exercises suit different people but for me, I fell in love with running. Not just because of the physical part, but because of how it made me feel mentally.

Running too fast just to complete a better time completely took the fun out of it for me. Running six times a week wasn't manageable. Running with my watch that mapped it every single time could be stressful. So sometimes I just ran for fun, with friends, without any gadgets, or doing shorter distances.

10) Pushing myself.

Once I reached 5k, I kept running the same distance for ages and became anxious at trying to run further and for longer. It took me a while to realise if I didn't push myself, even by a tiny bit, I wouldn't be able to work up the miles. So I did it in small steps. I would jump 1k each time, sometimes even 0.5k.

To help with my speed, I joined a lunchtime running club at work. Their pace was a lot faster than my usual pace but it forced me to keep up, push myself and probably contributed towards getting my sub-two hour time.

11) Support on the day.

I ran 10.2 miles in preparation for the 13.1 miles on the day and everyone kept telling me "adrenaline" would get me through those final three miles. Luckily they did, but it was more than just adrenaline.

It was having my friends and family screaming my name, telling me I could do it and knowing they'd be proud that really got me to the finish line.

So yeah, you've got no excuses now.