Half marathon thoughts: 1 week to go

The half marathon is NEXT weekend!! Argh!

I’ve been meaning to write about my training, but if you follow me on Facebook / Instagram (@sallymw23), you’ll see I’ve been doing it there instead! I did want to document it though, so that I have a record. So, back to the beginning…

I signed up for this race a couple of weeks after getting back from honeymoon. We only decided we were definitely coming to New Zealand 2 weeks before getting married (!) and I had already signed up for the Cardiff Half (7 October). I was determined – nay – desperate to run a half marathon this year, so I googled “half marathon NZ” and found Auckland. And when I saw it was on my 30th birthday, I couldn’t really not, right!?

I’ve done one half before, the Great North Run in 2015. Well, technically, one and a half halves – I did almost all of the training for the Bath Half 2016, but had to pull out a couple of months before. That’s been the theme of my last few races – I’ve pulled out of three in the last 18 months due to reasons outside of my control.

It’s been really frustrating, and I was gutted to have to pull out – but that frustration has made me more determined to DO IT this time. It showed me how much I wanted to do it. Nothing is going to stop me from getting to the starting line this time – though I am now fully paranoid (mara-noid?) that I’ll get hit by a bus or trip over a kiwi or the wind will finally succeed in blowing me into the sea between now and next weekend…

Let’s get physical

I am neither an expert nor an athlete, but I thought I’d share a little bit about how I’ve trained and some tips. First things first: if you’re sat there thinking “Christ I could never run a half marathon” – everyone thinks that at the start. 10k is my favourite distance; it doesn’t take me too much to train for that. A half is much more of a challenge. But I’ve built it up gradually. How does anyone get to a marathon, or an ultra? They all started somewhere.

When I signed up I could run 6-7k pretty easily. I looked at how many weeks there were til the race, and decided what distance I wanted to get to by race day (17-18k). Some people want to have done the full distance in training, to know they can do it on the day, but you don’t have to. You’ll be running (literally) on adrenaline on the day, and if you can do about 75% of the distance, you’ll be able to do it all!

My plan was to build up half a km each week, with 1 long run, 1 shorter run (ideally faster, too – that didn’t always happen!), and 1 cross-training / strength session (like swimming, cycling, general gym-ing). Cross-training helps as you work different muscles, get a bit of “active recovery”, and also get a break from the monotony of running. The worst thing you can do is plod plod plod along day in day out! Running is as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one (more on this later) and you’ll just get fed up, and burnt out.

Distract yourself. I’ve done this alone, but Rob trained for the London Marathon with our (awesome) friend Pete, and maintains that he wouldn’t have been able to do it by himself. I’ve discovered podcasts this year and love lining myself up a playlist before I head out the door (faves are The High Low, The Guilty Feminist, Ctrl Alt Delete and Desert Island Dishes, though that last one just makes me hungry!!).

And remember, rest days are as important as run days! There will be times when you just need to let your body recover. It’s not worth getting injured, and you’ll soon learn the difference between feeling sore and feeling a twinge you need to do something about. Similarly, there will be times when you HATE IT and need a break mentally. If you need a break or a week off, take it. One missed run is not going to derail everything.

Set yourself little goals along the way – and celebrate them! I remember the first time I ran from our flat down to Cardiff Bay and back again – something I’ve wanted to be able to do since forever! I never thought I’d be able to achieve that a few years ago and was so proud of myself.

Run the world

Moving to the other side of the world part-way through training was less than ideal. I was up to about 13K before I left, but missed a couple of weeks in the middle while we were in Melbourne (though I did love our beach runs in St Kilda!). Thankfully I didn’t lose much fitness – and once I was back on track I leapfrogged up to around 15K pretty quickly.

I’ve not been able to do much cross-training since we got out here, though I’ve been swimming a couple of times. Speed stuff has kind of gone out the window. The wind decides how fast you get to go, not you! I did cave and spend $40 on a foam roller (basically a big solid tube-y thing that helps stretch your muscles post-run; a bit like a rolling pin for your legs!) after about a week here and I am soooo glad I did!!

The first few runs here were REALLY hard. The wind!! I know, I know, all I do is whinge about the wind, but I was bowled over (literally) at how different it was to run in. I miss Bute Park – lovely, calm, sheltered Bute Park!

My 15K run was the worst. I went up the coast, stupidly not realising I’d just be exposed the whole miserable way. I also wasn’t fuelling properly. And by this point it really is fuel, not food. Think of it as putting petrol in your tank. I wasn’t filling up enough and my stomach was rumbling and I felt lightheaded by the end of the run (3 glasses of wine the night before didn’t help either…).

I spent the last 5K berating myself – this was a stupid idea, it was too soon, I wasn’t training enough, I should stick to 10ks. The only thing that would get me round was sheer bloody-mindedness and I’d probably end up injured.

This is where the mental side kicks in.

It’s all in your head

I’ve written about this before but in the last couple of weeks, as my runs have got longer and the race has got nearer, it’s become more and more important. Running is a mental challenge as much as a physical one. There will be times when the only thing that keeps your legs moving is your determination not to stop. Your sheer force of will.

You build resilience, and not just against the elements. You learn that you can do hard things. You can depend on yourself, and grind your teeth and dig deep and drag yourself through them.

When I find it hard, I think about two things. Firstly, I think about how lucky I am to be here, and that my body can do this. I think about all the people who can’t run. Running makes me grateful.

Secondly, I think about all the hard things I’ve got through before. I tell myself, you did that. You didn’t think you would, but you did. And if you can do that…

As a lot of you will know, this has been a tough year for my family. And I’m not embarrassed to say that this run is my answer to that. Not just because I’m fundraising, but because I need to do it for me. To show myself I can do hard things. That I am strong enough to get through them. And lucky enough to have the chance.

It’s one big f*ck you to 2018. You tried to break me, but here I am.


So, where am I now. With just over a week to go I’ve done my last long run and I’m feeling good. I am fully into the “eat whatever you like” stage of training (well, within reason….) – not looking forward to having to reign that in!!

I feel like a ninja; this is probably the fittest I’ve ever been. I’ve started to think about life post-race and what I might sign up for next; I really enjoy feeling this strong and I’d like to keep it up.

We’re off to Nelson the long weekend (Monday is a bank holiday in NZ) and we’re going to try and have a chilled one. This is not normally something we succeed at. All I’m going to do next week are a couple of short runs (no more than 5k) to keep my legs ticking over. And then – it’s race time! I can’t wait to let you know how I get on.

I’ll be back on Tues with a weekend round-up, but I’ll leave you with this, as it made me laugh this morning. I had an email from the Bournemouth Hospital Charity earlier saying they’d featured me in their newsletter. Hurrah! I was super excited – until I opened the PDF and they’ve called me “Sally Hawkins”. I.e. the actress from Paddington and The Shape Of Water. FFS…




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