What I Think I Learned From My First Half Marathon – Part 2 of 3

Here is the second part of what I think I learned from my first half marathon, The New Jersey Half Marathon in Long Branch. You can read Part 1 here, which focused on my training. Part 2 focuses on the race. I share what I think I did well and where I can improve upon.

I’m using this reflection to help myself improve for my next half marathon. Currently, I’m signed up to run the Halloween Half Marathon in Morristown on Saturday, October 21st. I’m 99% sure I’m going to sign up to run the Newport Liberty Half Marathon on Sunday, September 17th. Again, let me know if you are running either race.

Race Day – What I Did Well

  • Heading into the weekend, I felt great. I knew I trained hard and was both mentally and physically as ready as I could be at this point. I definitely felt confident heading down to Long Branch and prior to the start. I tapered correctly and stuck to my plan. I felt great all race week and felt my legs were ready to pound out 13.1 miles.
  • I really didn’t look at the weather report that much. I decided to go with the attitude of it will be what it will be and don’t stress out over. I knew I had to look at it though just so I packed correctly and wore the right gear. I was looking forward to nice weather, but figured if it rained, don’t let that bother you.
  • I woke up exactly when I set my alarm, 5:00 am. I didn’t turn over or lay there at all. I got up exactly when I planned to. I ate early and got ready without having to rush. I was out of the hotel exactly when I wanted to be and arrived at the starting area with plenty of time.
  • I was able to take my time prior to the start. I used The Travel Stick at my car to roll out my legs. Made the walk over to the starting area, walked around for a bit while hydrating. Got in line for the bathroom, knowing it could be awhile. Everything was going well pre-race.
  • I stretched plenty and was able to jog around for awhile to loosen up my legs without being in a rush. I made my way over to my corral and was able to find a good spot for the start before it got really crowded.
  • I was amped up but I don’t feel I shot out of the gate too fast. I worry about this during races but with the amount of runners all around the same pace, it helped keep me in check. I felt I was able to ease into it during the first mile.
  • I was able to really take in the sites and crowds while running with a smile on my face. I made sure to read as many of the signs as I could and thank as many volunteers as I saw. I kept my music lower than normal so I could hear what others were saying and chime in with other runners.
  • I felt like I ran a very good first half of the race. I felt great and my pace was in line with what I was training at. My legs were there, my mind was positive, and I was enjoying myself while pushing myself at the same time. Things were going great.
  • I made it a point to get water at most aid stations. I knew this had been an issue while training but I tried my best to hydrate during the race. My effort was there.
  • As with most races, negative thoughts would creep into my mind. I think I did a great job fending them off with positive ones. Even when it seemed my legs weren’t there and my stomach wasn’t right, I kept telling myself to keep going. Only x amount of miles to go. You’ve trained for this and got it. It definitely kept me going and is a huge reason I pushed through for a good finish.
  • The New Jersey Half Marathon is a flat course. There are a couple of inclines, especially over the bridges, and I made sure to hit those and keep my pace in place. I knew there weren’t many at all and they were short and quick so I knew it wouldn’t ware me out.
  • I pushed harder when I hit the boardwalk, knowing it was getting down to the end of the race. I kicked it up a notch, it just wasn’t the extra kick that I had during training. Again, I can’t be mad at myself when I’m putting in the effort but the body just isn’t having it that day. Some days you’re on and some days you’re off.
  • Normally when I finish a race I push as hard as I can until I pass the finish line and won’t make any gestures for the camera. Realizing this was my first half marathon, I decided pre-race, no matter how it goes, that I would cross the finish line with one finger raised. I figured this would probably be the one race I purchased photos from and I wanted to make sure I noted it was my first.

Race Day – Where I Can Improve

  • Hydration, hydration, hydration! Hydration is the biggest area I really need to improve on. I felt I hydrated properly prior to the race but I definitely suffered from dehydration when I hit about the final 1/3 of the race. It definitely had a big effect on me. I even noticed that I started to sweat a lot within the first half mile of the race. That seemed a bit odd at the time and I think I should’ve realized that I was going to have issues and I should’ve probably made sure I grabbed two cups at each aid station instead of one. I know I sweat a lot but normally it doesn’t come on so fast. It wasn’t a hot day either. I’m not sure if it was just nerves or being amped up that did it or what. I did try drinking as much as I could at the aid stations but it just wasn’t enough. I’ve decided that I think I’m going to run with a throw away bottle with Gatorade in it for my next half marathon. Currently, I’m using a Gatorade squirt bottle and drinking from it has gone well while running. With cups, I feel like I gulp too much air and end up coughing from it. Or I wear half of it was it’s bouncing around. I also recently purchased Bottle Bands and I have loved using them while on my long runs. They help so much with carrying a water bottle and they are extremely cheap. For races I know my wife and kids will be somewhere along the route, I think I’ll have them give me a second bottle to use for the remainder of the race. I really think this plan will work. We shall see but I’m going to do my best to not fall into this situation again.
  • This was the first race I traveled for and stayed over night at a hotel. Due to this, it was my first pre-race dinner that I didn’t cook at home. I think what I ate didn’t sit well with me at all. My stomach was off during the race. It was poor planning on my part. We didn’t decide where we were going to eat until about a half hour before dinner. We also tried picking a place that was good for the kids. I need to plan better. My next half marathons are local, so I won’t be traveling for them. We’ll see how much of a difference that will make.
  • I didn’t end up having my Gu during the race. I had it on me but due to my stomach being upset, I opted not to take it. I had used them on my long runs so I trained with them. I probably should have used it but didn’t.
  • I felt like I had too many negative thoughts running through my mind when my legs weren’t responding. I wasn’t thrilled about it. I kept adding in positive thoughts as you read above but I felt like I there were too many negative thoughts during this race.
  • I was definitely a little hard on myself when I crossed the finish line. I should’ve been happier. I finished in 1:58:00 and when  I first started training I would’ve been ecstatic with the result. However, while I was training I ended up getting it in my mind that I was going to run sub 1:55. As the days went by, I definitely was more and more proud of myself but my initial reaction wasn’t as good as it should’ve been. I realized running a sub 2 hour half is a great accomplishment and for me to do it in my first one, I should have been doing jumping jacks. It’s definitely helped me adjust my thoughts and made me realize I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. It’s a promise I’m making to myself for the next half.
  • I like to try and congratulate runners that I use to help me pace myself. Unfortunately, when I hit the finish line, I lost track of one runner that I was back and forth with throughout the race. I would’ve loved to have told her she ran an awesome race and thanks for helping me out.
  • I ran this race without driving the course. I almost always will drive a course so I can see what to expect. I didn’t have a chance with this one. I think it would’ve helped if I did, just having the peace-of-mind of knowing what was ahead or around each corner.
  • I know some runners hate other runners that run with music but I like to listen to music while I run. I’m always aware of my surroundings, so it in no way affects myself or other runners. I also don’t blast it where I can’t hear those around me. Apparently though, my playlist wasn’t long enough because I started it too early and the music stopped on the boardwalk. Instead of trying to get my iPod out of my FlipBelt, I just decided to run the rest without music. I feel like music pushes me and I need to make sure I add a few more songs to the mix.

Where do you think you can improve on in during races?
What are you most proud of that you do well during races?

Stop back for the last part of this post and let me know how your training is going.

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