At this time last year, I was debating whether or not to sign up for a half-marathon. In the end, I decided to go for it and ran my first half-marathon in September 2011.
Now that summer has arrived, I’m getting tons of e-mails from the race organizers trying to lure me into signing up again and after thinking about it, I’ve decided not to.
First, let me start by recapping what I loved about training last summer:
1. It gave my workouts a new sense of purpose – before last summer, I had never worked out for any reason other than to look good. As someone who hated gym class and never played sports as a kid, training to reach a specific fitness goal was new territory for me and made me feel like an athlete for the first time in my life.
2. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment every time I hit a new distance PR – before I signed up, the farthest I’d ever ran was 10 km. Doubling that distance in just over two months was a challenge. I always got a little nervous before every long run, knowing I’d be going a little bit farther than last time, but I always felt amazing arriving home having met my goal.
3. I got a wicked tan – not gonna lie, I was ecstatic about the healthy glow I built up while training outdoors in the summer. I don’t tan easily so to get a little bit of colour was a nice added bonus.
4. My legs looked awesome after all that running – my legs have always been pretty scrawny but as a result of running, they looked more shapely and defined.
5. Race day was lots of fun – to be running alongside so many other people who had trained for the same event made me feel like part of a community and it was a huge boost to have people on the sidelines cheering us on. Plus, there was a guy in a chicken suit.
And now for the bad:
1. Training ruined my weekends – when I first signed up for the race, I was working part-time, meaning I could do my long runs any day of the week. One month into it, however, I was given a full-time position at work. Once I was full-time, all of my long runs had to be done on Saturday morning (it would get too hot in the afternoons), which meant I couldn’t have any fun on Friday nights.
Drinks on a patio? Can’t – I have to run in the morning.
Want to come out dancing until 3 in the morning? Can’t – I have to run in the morning.
Want to grab dinner and gorge on awesomely greasy food? Can’t – it might upset my stomach during my long run tomorrow.
Then, once I finished my long runs on Saturday mornings, I was so utterly exhausted, I just wanted to sleep for the rest of the day. Suffice to say, Saturday night outings were a struggle.
I remember going out for my friend’s birthday the Saturday before the race. I had clocked 18 km in the morning and was so, so sleepy by the time we all met up downtown. We went out to a club and I couldn’t even enjoy myself because my legs were so fatigued it made it difficult to dance.
I was a trooper and managed to stay out until 4 a.m. but the whole time, I was tired, miserable and worried about how my late night and the two alcoholic beverages I had consumed would affect my recovery. What otherwise might have been a memorable night out with my girlfriends was a drag, all because of training.
2. I missed the variety of a flexible routine – if you’re a regular reader, you know I rarely stick to the same workout routine for long. One week, I’m all about BodyCombat, the next it’s BodyAttack. I go through running phases, hot yoga phases, spinning phases, you name it. Mixing it up is what makes exercise fun for me. Committing to a training schedule got monotonous pretty fast. Every week was the exact same schedule - 3 runs, 2 BodyPump classes and 1 RPM class. Kill. Me. Now.
3. My eating was out of control – after every long run, I felt a compulsion to eat way more than I actually needed to. I’d return home from a run and eat a sensible meal but then I’d convince myself I was still hungry and start going to town on everything in sight – almond butter by the tablespoon, chocolate milk, bread. In the back of my mind, I felt like I’d “earned” it, so I would just keep eating all day.
Whenever I went out with friends, I’d pig out (usually on a massive meal followed by a decadent dessert) again feeling like it was okay because I’d burned all of those calories running. Then I’d feel guilty about it and spend the next week cutting my calories to compensate. Great strategy, right? While I feel like I’m now in a better place with my eating habits, I don’t want to risk falling into that cycle again.
4. I gained weight - because I was eating like crap, strength training less and doing a ton of steady state cardio instead of my usual interval-based cardio classes, I put on a bit of weight during those two months. It wasn’t a huge deal and I eventually reigned myself in and was able to lose it but it was a pain in the butt having to re-lose the last 5 pounds it took me so long to get off in the first place.
5. I’ve alrady done it – running a half marathon was kind of a bucket list thing. I’ve done it, I don’t really see a reason for doing it again. Sure, I could aim to improve my time but that would require a level of commitment that I don’t really feel like putting in right now, for all of the above reasons.
So this year, I think I’ll give it a miss. That’s not to say I won’t ever do it again but for now, I’m content with my current routine.
Have you ever trained for a half-marathon before? If so, did you experience any of the negatives (or positives) listed above?