This past Sunday I [finally] ran my first half marathon in Philadelphia. It was part of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon Series and I had a really positive experience. My goal was to start slow and finish strong and I accomplished that, crossing the finish line at 2H 41M.
The race was well organized and the bands (for the most part they had a band or a water/fuel station for every mile) and crowds along the race route did a great job of keeping us energized.
So here’s my takeaway:
Random signs are more motivational than you’d think: The race route was littered with people holding signs saying things like, “Go, random stranger, go!” or “Worst parade ever.” These signs kept me entertained and distracted and that is huge when you’re running for any length of time. I think my favorite sign was; “Run like there’s a hot guy in front of you and a creepy guy behind you.”
Anyone can be a runner: If you’ve ever thought about doing a race (of any length), but talked yourself out of it because you’re “not a runner,” I beg you to reconsider. The Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon Series draws people of all shapes, sizes, ages and backgrounds. As someone who, until her mid-twenties, had only ever gone to the gym to socialize I can tell you that as long as you keep going forward you are a runner and you can do this.
Take the Gu: Sure, Gu Energy Gel is basically the same as that weird gel candy you used to buy from the ice cream man, but it really does give you a nice little burst of energy. A random volunteer handed me a strawberry banana flavored Gu at mile 9 and, let me tell you, at that point it tasted like a delicious smoothie.
Don’t take the Gatorade*: This may seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out. For starts warm water > warm Gatorade. Also, the Gatorade at these races is made from the powder (something I actually forgot existed), so you have no idea how potent of a cup you’re going to get. If you must grab the Gatorade, then get a cup of water too so you can a) water it down or rinse your mouth if necessary b) wash off your hand from the stickiness of the Gatorade that sloshed out of the first cup. That stuff is nasty and it makes your sneakers sticky too. You’ve been warned.
*I love regular Gatorade on any given day, this advice is specific to this situation.
Your fellow runners can be quite amusing: I ran this race without headphones and my fellow runners were a great source of entertainment. There was a pair of older women discussing their husbands (one woman “gave in” to her husband on Friday night because she knew she’d want to get to bed early on Saturday, the night before the race), two young girls discussing the guys who were waiting for them at the finish (Girl #1: Matt and Jason are there. Girl #2: I’m going to date Matt. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to be my boyfriend. Let’s hope Matt’s a strong runner too), and a variety of people in interesting and entertaining outfits featuring everything from tutus to clever shirts to capes. If you’re bored or tired or loosing your mind, look around, distractions are everywhere.
Do You: Yes, I’m semi-quoting Jersey Shore cast members here, but seriously, you should run your race whatever way you live your life; for me, that means smiling and mugging for the course photographers. My sister took the picture at the top of the post right before I crossed the finish line and, as my friend Catherine pointed out, I had full jazz hands going. When I got the email with my race photos I laughed out loud and I know that when I look back at those same photos years from now I will have that same feeling of pride mixed with just the right amount of amusement.