My First Half-Marathon

I hope you are well and keeping safe. It can be overwhelming waking up to every day feeling like Sunday, but we must bear in mind that this will not be forever.

More to the point, this is a blog about my journey into running a half-marathon. Nine weeks prior to now, the Coronavirus concerns were solidifying. The government in the UK had not yet announced the lockdown however, non-essential businesses were starting to close down. Everyone was speculating the likelihood of the UK going into lockdown, and so I knew I needed to create a plan for myself for if the worst-case scenario did happen. For me, going to the gym is something I do every day as it gives me a sense of structure, purpose and motivation to get on with my day. But the gym is not essential, and so I knew that I would have to start getting used to doing more home workouts. 

I haven't always been into running. As a child, I did not excel at the exercise at all. I would be the last one chosen on the netball team and one of the runners at the back in the cross country race. However, as I got older, and I became more aware of my body, fitness became something I took an interest in. I quickly grew addicted to it. Exercise became something I HAD to do all the time. A day without it made me feel "lazy" and unproductive. It is an addiction I have never shaken off but am I mad about it? No. I love the feeling of being in a state where it is just you, your music and the floor. 

Running gives me a focus that no other exercise does: that is to move, not fall over and breathe. It can be uncomfortable, but you push through. I feel like running is the marmite of cardio: you either LOVE it or you detest the mention of it. I am lucky to be in the former group (most of the time).

Why did I want to run a half-marathon?

Sheer boredom or insanity? Actually neither. I have increased my mileage with running since the start of 2019, and I thought there was no better time than a global pandemic forcing us to stay at home to focus on improving it. Before I decided I wanted to do a half-marathon, the furthest I had run was 10 k. And honestly, as soon as I did my first 10 k, I did not anticipate ever wanting to run further than that again. Somehow, I did rerun a 10 k. And I have done it many times ever since. 

That takes me to now. I wanted a challenge and something that I could say to Job interviewers in 10 years when they ask: "What did you do during the Covid-19 pandemic?".

Further, I have always wanted to work with the charity B-eat. A charity which provides support for individuals suffering from eating disorders. B-eat also offers help and advice for families and friends affected. It is a charity close to my heart and one I will continue to work for in the future. 

How did I go about planning it?

I typed into YouTube: "training plan for a half-marathon". The video I chose assumed you could already run a 10 k which was perfect for me. It gave me a six-week training plan as a rough guide on how to train. So I drew up a pretty coloured coded plan and made it my priority to stick to it. From that point on, I could give myself a rough date when I thought I would run it. 

However, it is important to know that even being as dedicated as I was to my plan, there were times when life got in the way. Being flexible with your training schedule is just as key as being strict with it. If you are motivated enough, you will find a way around it. 

Did running get easier?

Honestly no. Even though my body could tolerate 15 km runs (a distance I had never thought I'd be able to run), the mid-week interval sessions were still a struggle. I have always been a long-distance runner as opposed to a quick sprinter; hardly surprising since I am a mere 5 foot 3. You learn that running is about mental agility, and you have to adopt the mind over matter mentality. Your body is capable of a lot more than your mind is. 

Ultimately, I wanted to write this article as a reference for anyone thinking of running their first 5 k or even a half-marathon. If I can do it, so can you! 

Isabella Clark ©

The main take-home points are:
• Include interval training in your running schedule. It helps add variety to your training and get your body used to running at a quicker (albeit more uncomfortable) pace.

• REST! That includes a decent amount of doing not a lot, sleep and food!

• Stretch after runs to prevent injuries.

• Warm up. Spending 5-10 minutes warming up before a run is so important. Do not underestimate the benefit of warming up. It will also ease you into the run and may help later down the line.

• Listen to your body. If you have a run on your training plan, but you are really not feeling it, don't push yourself. Of course, if you are doing skipping runs three times a week and it becomes a pattern, you may need to re-evaluate your training. However, if it is a case that your body is tired and you are not in the right headspace, that is ok. Your wellbeing always comes first.

• SLEEP. Getting a decent amount of sleep goes hand in hand with having a good run.

• Start slow and increase mileage gradually. If you are new to running - start with a goal of 3 km, not 5 km. It makes running feel a lot less daunting when you set yourself realistic goals.

Have a good playlist to listen to. Here is a link to my spotify playlist that I used on the day.

• Do not run every single day. Running is very stressful on the body, and especially in long-distance runners, your immune system is vulnerable for up to 72 hours after a long run.

• Lastly, do not beat yourself up over pace and time. Running is HARD. The fact that you are pushing yourself to do a run during a global pandemic is an achievement, and I am proud of you. Do not be fooled by people uploading 20 minute 5k's and "easy" 15km runs. You are doing fine as you are.

I guess here is to the next challenge. Did someone say a full marathon? The dream would be to do the London Marathon; it has always been on my bucket list. But for the time being, I am enjoying running without a specific goal or event in mind. I like to do between 2-4 runs a week, although it depends on whether I have any injuries and the weather. I am currently nursing my piriformis syndrome, which has taken me out of running for a little bit. However, I keep reminding myself that until you are not able to do something you formerly took for granted is when you appreciate that activity a bit more. 

I would like to add a HUGE thank you to everyone who donated to my JustGiving page. I managed to raise £401 for B-eat (133% of my goal!). I am so grateful and know that B-eat is too. Your support was invaluable to me being able to do this so, thank you. 

Lots of Love,

Is xxx

Isabella Clark ©
The very sweaty, dishevelled post-half-marathon look.

P.S. You are still able to donate to my JustGiving page if you have not already.