How I Conquered My Fear of Running 1/2 Marathon
Top tips I’ve learnt from running:
I have never been into running since growing up as kid. I was not athletic, never attended track events in school, never made it to the finals in cross country running; in fact, I would be panting out of breath within a few minutes for the times I did try. I REALLY did not enjoy running.
As of lockdown, I had to break out of my usual gym routine. I no longer had access to group classes, the stair-stepper, the squat rack… you name it. It was such a shame as I only re-started my exercise regime in February.
Luckily, I had access to a running machine, which I started using on a daily basis. I started by running 10 minutes per day. At that time, it felt strenuous, but throughout time, it slowly increased to 20… 30… 40 minutes. Towards the end of March, I was pretty fed up of staring into a white wall for an extensive period of time, but was still somewhat fearful of running outdoors.
The gusts of wind, steep hills… it just wasn’t for me. Anyhow, I gave it a go and ran for 45 minutes. To my surprise, I covered a good distance of 7.6km. Being able take this first step and push myself felt extremely rewarding.
There is no “stop” button for when you start to feel exhausted. Just keep going and eventually, you will make your way home and achieve your planned target distance (scroll to the bottom for more tips). I became quite successful at tricking my mind into covering longer distances and got really good at doing 5km and 10km runs.
Thinking back on it, I started to not hate running, but I wouldn’t say I was enjoying it. It didn’t take long for me to start experiencing ankle pains, especially after covering long distances. I am sure there is some running technique to follow to prevent this, but I ignored it and pretty much decided immediately that running is not for me.
However, I wanted to attempt a half marathon run after a month’s worth of effort into something that I didn’t originally like. I knew it would feel like an extraordinary achievement and so I started “preparing” for it. I did some research into how to prepare for a long distance run and discovered that cycling is a good exercise for training and for recovery.
Not only is it a low-impact sport (cycling does not require putting pressure on your ankles unlike running), it also works on your cardiovascular endurance and strength. I would alternate between running and cycling (e.g. running for a day, cycle for two days) and have some a rest day after. I was also very cautious of my diet, making sure I got a good balance between carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Within two weeks time, I noticed a 30-second increase in my running pace. I was shocked, and felt extremely proud of myself. At the end of April, I managed to achieve 15km and knew it would be possible for me to complete a half marathon run. I continued my “training” till about mid May and decided I should give it a go.
My first attempt failed massively; I got to about 8km, gave up, and ran home. My second attempt didn’t go well either. I woke up at around 6:30am in the morning, knowing that starting any later than 8 am would be too hot for me. I knew I wasn’t in the right mindset when I took off.
My muscles felt fatigue and my head was just not in the game. In addition to that, I twisted my ankle, which meant I had to terminate my run immediately. I was disappointed but I knew it just wasn’t the right day for me.
When I got home, I did some more research into running and came across a few blogs that claimed our body’s physical functioning is at its best in the early evening.
Previous research did in fact indicate that body’s peak performance is correlated with your peak body temperature, which occurs in the early evening. Research has also identified that consuming a carbohydrate meal alongside with a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution can improve endurance running.
The follow week from my series of failures was mental health awareness week, which got me thinking to complete my half marathon run as a fundraising event for Bath Mind, a charity that I already work very closely with. Not only would the run be a personal achievement, I would also be doing it for a good cause.
Tuesday the 26th was the big day. I started my day off with a large piece of toast, smothered in peanut butter and bananas (yum!), followed by a large lunch. At 6pm, I set off for my run, feeling very nervous but excited at the same time. It felt extremely hot during the first hour, but it gradually became breezy.
Two Lucozade and water breaks later, I reached my last 2km. It felt impossible, my legs have lost all its energy, but I pushed on, mainly because I couldn’t let everyone that have donated towards my run down. When I finally completed my run, I was so relieved as I knew I have achieved something that I wouldn’t even imagine if it wasn’t for lockdown… and that I would never do it again.
I peeled myself off the ground and made it home. I thought it would be a good idea to do some restorative yoga (I used to Down Dog app) to relax my muscles and stretch out. I am almost certain this reduced the amount of pain I felt the next day.
This experience has taught me a lot about the human body. We are capable of achieving so much and it all comes down to whether we put our mind to it. My “training” process has also helped me de-stress throughout lockdown alongside the benefits of exercising. All in all, it has been a very positive experience.
Top tips I’ve learnt from running:
- alternate your running days with cycling to reduce impact exerts on your joints
- cycling helps facilitate running by improving cardiovascular endurance and strength
- your body’s peak physical performance is correlated with your body’s peak temperature, which is in the early evening hours
- setting yourself a goal (irrelevant to running e.g. fundraising) may push you to achieve your target
- listen to your body
- it’s all a mental game
- do lots of stretching/restorative yoga after your run