13(.1) Lessons Learned While Training for a Half Marathon

It’s been a little over a week since I ran my first half marathon. It honestly feels like it’s been a month, probably because I haven’t been running since that glorious Sunday. “Sleeping in” has been nice but my legs are starting to ache for the pavement. This past week has also allowed me to reflect on my running journey to 13.1. A list started forming in my mind so I decided to share my revelations with you!

1.)  The foam roller is seriously a cure-all. I NEVER would have made it through training without it. If you don’t own one go out and buy one immediately. You will 100% not regret the purchase. Foam rolling is painful and time-consuming but it is well worth it in the end. Promise!

2.)  Runners rock! I love waving/smiling/greeting fellow runners on my runs, and I feel warm and fuzzy inside when they reciprocate. The running community is great.

3.)  Running, training in particular, requires many sacrifices – minimalized weekend social life, extra time dedicated to stretching/icing/foam rolling, increase in appetite (and maybe even weight gain!), and closely monitored eating habits are all some things that come to mind.

4.)  Shopping for running clothes is addicting. You can look pretty/cute and still be comfortable while running. You don’t need to spend much $$ on running gear/clothes but it sure is fun! Damn you Lululemon…

5.)  Don’t be afraid of taking a rest day if you feel burnt out physically and/or mentally. I skipped a long run and still survived the half marathon. Most importantly, don’t try to make up for the lost mileage!

6.)  DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is no joke…ouch

7.)  Swearing loudly while entering an ice bath eases some of the chilling shock. Trust me, it works.

8.)  Who needs music when there are so many sounds and sights to keep my ears and eyes occupied?

9.)  Great spectators make the world of difference during a race. Amazing spectators in the form of family are priceless. On that note, a supportive family can make or break a training program and race. Seeing my prideful parents made my heart swell with joy every time.

10.)  Fueling is fun! Gels, chews, and Bloks, oh my! Learning what works best for you is not so fun though, especially when you’re bent over in pain from stomach cramps…

11.)  There is no such thing as “slow”. Pace is a relative thing, comparable only to your previous times. On that note, never compare yourself to other runners…run your own race!

12.)  Listen to your heart while running…literally! Using a heart rate monitor for every run can show hidden strengths and weaknesses.  Getting truly in touch with your body will help you learn your limits and happy pace.

13.)  Does compression gear really work? I have no idea (kidding…it helped with my shin splints!) but wearing knee-high socks makes me feel like a sassy schoolgirl.

13(.1)  Love to run and run to love {yourself} – seeing what your body is capable of will make you appreciate it in entirely new and incredible ways.

Just like the last 0.1 mile of a half marathon, my final lesson was perhaps the most important. After all, your first and last love is self-love, right?

Runners – what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned during your running journey?

♥ Irina


  1. August 2, 2012 / 6:36 am

    The gel is what screwed me in the last half marathon I did last spring. I hadn’t trained with it at all and got serious stomach cramps within a half mile of taking it. No fun! This time around, I’m busting it out for a few of my longer runs.

    • August 3, 2012 / 1:05 pm

      Ouch 🙁 You live you learn I guess! I trained with Clif gel shots and ended up avoiding the Gu during the half. Which gels do you use?

      • August 3, 2012 / 1:08 pm

        I think it was Gu. It’s my standard gel that I like to use, I just didn’t hydrate well enough. You’re right- live and learn.

        • August 3, 2012 / 1:29 pm

          Nice well it looks like my small Gu collection is all going to be passed to you!

  2. August 2, 2012 / 7:44 am

    Well, I just started reading your blog and want to say first congrats on your first half. It is my favorite distance to run and what I train for year round. I love it. Really great job!

    • August 3, 2012 / 1:09 pm

      Hello and thanks! I just started reading your blog too 🙂

      I think it’s my favorite distance to run too. You get in the groove around mile 6/7 and start feeling perfectly challenged around 11 (ideally at least)

  3. August 2, 2012 / 8:31 am

    This is a great list! I totally agree with everything! I used to get pain in the outside of my knees, and it completely ruined a race for me (had to walk the second half). I’ve been foam rolling since and the pain has never returned.

    Also I completely agree about no music. I love my time running because it is one of the few “peaceful” moments of my day. I feel like there is already so much to see/hear/think about, I don’t need any additional distractions.

    And definitely don’t compare yourself to other runners. There will always be someone faster than you. Focus on your own running, and how far you’ve come, and the work you need to do to reach your goals.

    • August 3, 2012 / 1:12 pm

      The foam roller “cured” many of my aches and pains too…it’s incredible. I think I need a new foam roller though because mine is already permanently deformed and soft from prolonged use.

      I luckily learned early on to avoid comparing myself to others because it stressed me out so much when I did!

        • August 3, 2012 / 1:32 pm

          I love it. I want to invest in a nice roller and this one actually looks durable and small! I travel with mine (driving, not flying) and it would be perfect. Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. August 2, 2012 / 8:50 am

    DOMS is death, and cussing makes all sorts of pain better – especially the pain from ice baths. Great reflection – just what I needed to keep me going right as training is getting TOUGH!

    • August 3, 2012 / 1:13 pm

      Cussing makes everything better I swear. Glad you agree 🙂

      Keep pushing through! It will be worth it in the end. And don’t be afraid to rest…I once had to run 10 miles and ran 4 before calling quits. It was what my body needed.

  5. August 2, 2012 / 9:25 am

    foam rolling saves my butt. Literally – it gets out all the kinks and tightness 😉 I am kind of addicted to it haha

    • August 3, 2012 / 1:14 pm

      I love it too! The only annoying thing is that it’s so time-consuming (foam rolling after long runs = 1 hr. at least)

  6. August 2, 2012 / 10:38 am

    You have my favorite fuel in there – Mocha!

    • August 3, 2012 / 1:15 pm

      Ahh I still have to try it! It will be the first one I try when I start running longer distances again.

  7. August 2, 2012 / 11:17 am

    These are great! I agree, the chicagoland running community is one of the best around!

    • August 3, 2012 / 1:17 pm

      I need to get out and run in the city more – so many more “interesting” people to run alongside as well no? Ha

  8. August 2, 2012 / 1:15 pm

    This list is amazing! I’m finally getting back into running after taking a few months off and it feels SO good. I’ve missed that runners “high”.
    I love your outfit! I’ve actually never worn a running skirt but I’ve been wanting to invest in one. And foam rolling is my favorite thing…ever. I swear, it works miracles! <3

    • August 3, 2012 / 1:19 pm

      Happy to hear you’re getting back into running again! It’s always fun to start with a clean slate. Just be careful! When I took 6 months off and began running again I ended up over-doing it and injuring myself.

      Wearing a skirt while running will seriously improve your run. Maybe I’m slightly exaggerating but at least you feel like a strong sexy woman 🙂

  9. August 2, 2012 / 7:02 pm

    I need compression socks!! I think they’re cute. Lol. If they’re pink anyways. I’m hoping for my first official halfsie in September!

    • August 3, 2012 / 1:21 pm

      Definitely get a pair! Pro Compression always has discounts and you can snag a pair for $30 (instead of $50). And you better believe I have a pink pair!!

  10. August 2, 2012 / 10:42 pm

    This is a fantastic list and I agree with you 10000% with all of them, especially 4, 5, 7, and 11!

    One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned throughout my running journey is to seek help immediately if something doesn’t feel right. I have tried training through knee pain, but then it just ended up getting worse and sidelining me for several very painful months. Dozens of PT sessions and hours of PT exercises later, I now know to never train through pain ever again!!!

    • August 3, 2012 / 1:24 pm

      I completely agree with you that you must stop when something starts nagging you! I had many aches and pains while training but I was so pressed on time (I started training very late – with only about 10 weeks to go) so I couldn’t afford skipping too many runs. It was my own fault but at least I learned my lesson! My legs are enjoying their time off from running now 🙂

  11. August 3, 2012 / 7:05 pm

    I love foam rolling but I don’t do it nearly enough!! I’ve started getting my foam roller out daily to do an ab routine (I don’t have a workout ball) and it reminds me to roll out my legs. Amazing!

    Running has taught me how to be in-tune with my body and to trust myself. A few months after I started running I felt a huge surge of self-confidence and the onset of a new identity, I became a runner. Running has become my stress relief and my personal time. I know I may not always be able to run (injuries etc) but it paved the way for me setting fitness goals for myself. I’m not sure where I’d be if I’d never started running!

    • August 3, 2012 / 11:46 pm

      I completely agree – running has taught me to trust myself and my body. I love how you described your transformation into a runner. It’s true – you become a runner when you FEEL like a runner (your speed should not matter). I’m just now starting to feel like a runner 🙂

  12. August 3, 2012 / 8:00 pm

    Great post! I agree totally with all of these. I rotate with my message stick and foam rolling and it has saved me plenty of injuries!

    • August 3, 2012 / 11:41 pm

      I tried the stick at the RnR expo and debated getting it. I’m guessing it’s worth it? I need to do some research because the difference between the stick and the roller is unclear to me!

  13. January 1, 2013 / 9:15 am

    Ahhhh ice bath! Remind me what an ice bath does for runners? Soothes, rights. Thanks! ~ nerdwithtaste.wordpress.com

    • January 5, 2013 / 7:39 pm

      Ha yea looking back at my ice bath days makes me shiver! I’m going to start training for half marathon #2 next month and the thought of taking an ice bath when the weather outside is in the negatives kills me!

  14. January 27, 2013 / 8:28 pm

    I’m working my way up to challenging myself with a half marathon. I like this list, thank you!

    • January 27, 2013 / 9:41 pm

      You’re very welcome! Good luck…it’s a wonderful experience!

  15. Melissa
    April 7, 2013 / 8:24 pm

    This was great! I still haven’t gotten a foam roller. will be my next purchase. coming up on my 1st 1/2 of the year next weekend. yikes!