The message I sent to my old friend asking for half marathon advice:

In case anyone else wants to know my I-ran-2-half-marathons-once-and-1-marathon-once advice. (she has a relatively short period of time before her race—about 8 weeks and exercises regularly but does not run.)

"Here are my personal suggestions:

First, listen to your body. Running is very different from other exercise. I swear to god, I’ll be doing intense interval training or ellipticaling until I’m dripping sweat for an hour and then I try to run a 5k and I’m like AWE MAN! But it gets easier. Basically don’t be discouraged if it’s not as easy as you think it should be based on physical fitness.

Don’t worry about time. Running long distances means pacing, which is a pain. When I run a 5k I run about 2 minutes faster per mile than I do long distances but if I don’t pace myself, I die by mile 7. Seriously. And for the first 4 weeks of training, just get the miles in, even if you have to walk a full one. Upping your milage is important and if you get comfortable around 8 miles, then you can work on speed if you’d like (I can tell you how to do that too. It’s a pain, but do-able.)

MUSIC. Music is a life saver. First of all, it makes you go faster naturally with an upbeat pace but also, especially when you do longer runs alone, it makes you not go insane. I ran and trained for my first half alone and running for 2 hours can be super boring and make me feel absolutely nuts but with music, it’s delightful. Also I don’t know what you think about podcasts/radio shows, but I heart radio is a great app if you have an iphone or droid or whatever. Makes time fly.

STRETCH. It seems silly, but when you are significantly upping your milage in a shrot period of time, like you will be, you need to spend at LEAST 20 minutes stretching. It’s super easy to hurt yourself. When J and I were running 2 summers ago in preparation for my half, we got excited at the end of the summer (and also stressed about things so we were running more) and we upped our weekly miles from around 20 to 30 and I hurt my knee and had to do physical therapy for 2 months with no running. It was fucking lame. I still was able to do the half, but I had been running a lot prior so I would just make sure you stretch longer than you think you need to and if it hurts, START WALKING. Even if you are like seriously, wtf body why do you hurt I AM IN BETTER SHAPE THAN THIS? If your foot hurts or your knee hurtso r your hips hurt, walk, stretch, and then run once you feel back to normal.

What kind of shoes are you wearing? If they are old, buy new ones and spend money on them. I swear by Oasics but I would go to a running store (are you local? There’s a great one in ____ called _____) and have them watch you walk and buy a shoe they suggest. If you are on a budget, just be like okkkkk and find them online but the correct shoes are crucially important.

When running over an hour, buy gels. You can get them at sports fitnessy stores. I like the ones you chew, the ones you drink out of pouches are NASTY. But they give you a burst of protein and energy and tehn you aren’t burning muscle because you have overworked yourself, you’re burning fat and all the good stuff.

Also, run outside as much as you can. I’ve found running outside is more difficult than running on the treadmill. Is the course hilly? Which one are you thinking of doing? All good things to know.

I tell everyone, if I can run a marathon/half marathon/ten miles, anyone can. It does kind of take over your life when you’re training for a full/half depending on what kind of schedule and how fast you are running, but it’s worth it. And when you get started, just be patient with yourself. I’ve fonud that after about 2 weeks, things get easier if you are vigilant. And if you are really aiming to do one in 8 weeks, absolutely do not run 2 days in a row and do not skip a scheduled run because you will need every single bit of the miles to get up to speed.

And TAKE YOUR REST DAYS. Some people get psychotic and are ilke I AM RUNNING YAY NOW IM ELLIPTCALING NOW I’M ZUMBAING YAY (me) and then they have to go to physical therapy and can’t exercise at all. Don’t do that.

OH also, for long distances, I force myself to run 9 minutes and walk 1 every single time. My mile average actually goes quicker tat way than if I try to run straight and then have to break because I tired out. In Canada, that’s how all runners run and there have beena lot of studies that show it’s successful for keeping pace throughout long distances. When I am tired I run 8 walk 2. And someimteims, usually around mile 13, I just walk until I’m ready to go again. I don’t know how competitive you are, but running long distances is unique in that you have to just be like ok. Finishing this race is the prize, not the speed or what time you come in. It’s great if you make good time, but running long distances is really just running yoru best and achieving more against yourself, at least for me. That makes me feel the happiest.

And seriously, that feeling when you cross the finish line and you realize holy fuck I just ran 13.1 miles. In a row. Is absolutely like nothing else I have ever experienced. Especially the first one. I cried. It’s awesome. And especially when things are not going well, I am always so amazed and happy with what I can accomplish physically. It’s partly why I started running—shit was terrible with my family and I was feeling lost and sad and all this stuff and I was like you know what? I’m going to run 10 miles. And then I was addicted. And when things got better I was like you know what? I’m still going to run 13 miles! I’M GOING TO RUN 26! And now I’m LESS crazy and sticking to 13. but it’s an amazing, amazing thing to accomplish.”

And that, my friends, is this sometimes-runner’s half marathon list of tips and tricks.