Thursday, July 26, 2012

Half Marathon Q&A with Heidi

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to meet up with one of my very best friends for lunch to discuss her recent half marathon. I met Heidi at UCLA when she was on the cheer squad and I was on the dance team, and we ended up rooming together our senior year in college. Heidi is one of the most positive, friendly, encouraging people I know, and I am so thrilled to call her a close friend.

In May, Heidi ran her very first half marathon! She and I talked a little about her training during the process, but I was eager to hear her specific advice and suggestions for first-time racers. Since my first half is this September, I knew I would benefit from a little Q&A, and hopefully some readers considering (or already training for) a race will benefit, too. Heidi is also a physical therapist, so I was excited to hear her thoughts about what's best for a runner's body during training.


What made you decide to run a half marathon?
I have always loved running, though I was a sprinter in high school. My coworker and I decided to run a half marathon together (though I ended up running it with a different friend).

What was your training plan?
I followed Marathon Rookie, and I'm so glad I had a plan that someone else created. I really stuck to it! I ended up loving this plan. It topped out at 12 miles with tapering before the race. My goal was to stay at a comfortable pace and complete the half marathon, so I thought this plan was great.

How long was your training plan?
10 weeks

What was the hardest part of training?
It was hardest to find time to run, especially with my work schedule. Also, there was a two-week period where I hit a wall and felt I had no energy during my runs. At that point, I looked into energy supplements to help me out, and they were great! They really made a big difference, and I definitely recommend them to long distance runners. If you think you might want to use them on your race day, definitely try it out before! There are a lot of options out there. I really liked Gu Roctane and Gu Chomps.

Would you have trained differently in any way?
For this race, I felt my training plan was perfect, especially since my goal was to finish the race. But next time I would train for time and speed.

What training advice do you have for a first-time half marathoner?

  • Check into energy supplements to help you get through the long runs. 
  • Find a plan you can stick to.
  • Simulate everything for race day well in advance, such as food before you run and energy supplements and water (a belt or bottle). Decide if you'll be running with a friend or alone. 
  • Choose your goal for the race; are you aiming to finish? run for a time? run the whole way?

The week of the race, increase hydration and carbohydrates. I alternated sports drinks and water, which helped me store up electrolytes. Also, I would recommend testing out your pre-race meal (including the meal you'll eat the night before), so you don't worry about how it will affect you.

Race Day

What was the best part of the race?
The best part was finishing. It was also a beautiful route, and the weekend there was really fun. I loved running most of the race with my friend, too.

What was the hardest or worst part of the race?
The race was really hilly! I wasn't totally prepared for that. At the beginning of the 13th mile, there was a half-mile steep hill, and lots of people were walking. But I pushed through and ran to the finish!

What race day advice do you have for a first-time half marathoner?
Relax! Have fun and take it all in. Also, watch your pace for the first mile or so; it's easy to start out too fast and burn out early. If you have a device to track your pace, use it to help you.

Do you have any advice from a physical therapist's perspective to prevent injury?

  • Always start with a dynamic warm up (a toned-down version of what you are going to do), and don't stretch before running.
  • Stretch after you run.
  • Foam roll!
  • In a calf stretch, be sure to stretch your calf (on a step, for example) with a straight leg and a bent leg.
  • Strengthen your side and outer glutes--running requires these muscles but doesn't strengthen them, which can lead to injury.
What are your upcoming race/fitness plans?
I look forward to doing a (flatter( half marathon, but I'm not signed up for one yet. I would look to increase my speed for the next one. For now, I'm doing more cross training and strength.

Fun Facts about Heidi:
  • Favorite Food: Ice cream
  • Favorite Exercise: Running, but loves others
  • Favorite Sports Team: UCLA Bruins and OKC Thunder
  • Favorite Way to Relax: Spend time with family and friends and watch TV
  • Favorite Indulgence: Ice cream and The Bachelorette
  • Favorite Health Tip: If you notice a problem, seek help right away!

Special thanks to Heidi for being such a willing participant for my very first Q&A. I had fun interviewing her and hearing all her brilliant advice! 

After the race--I hope I look this amazing after finishing 13.1 miles!


And before I go, I must share this article I found today about traveling young. Terry and I have made it a priority in our lives to travel as much as possible, and we've heard our share of objections to this choice. But we're not the only ones who think traveling young is a great idea! Read Jeff Goins's article, "Why You Should Travel Young."


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