I Hated Running: How I Ran (And Loved) My First Half Marathon
In May 2015, I left a full-time job to start a company. My cofounder and I found an office space in Brooklyn that housed several other startups. Having somewhere to go everyday was immensely helpful for me as I formed my first “working-for-myself” routine. That summer, a few people from the office were signing up for a half marathon, and I figured, why not? Since I had left my job, i had quit ClassPass and the gym, and I needed a physical activity and a routine. I had always “hated” runners (how could anyone like running?!), but I wanted to prove that I could do it if I wanted to.
As someone who has never been a runner, I learned a lot of valuable lessons throughout the process that I wanted to share. If you are an aspiring runner (and even if you’re not), I hope these tips help you get started!
1. Find a running partner, immediately.
Train with another person, ideally someone who is training for the same race so you’re on the same schedule. For me, it was important to choose someone who wouldn’t accept “eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in bed” as an excuse. Even if you’re not always running together, running apps like Runkeeper and MapMyRun help you keep track of each other.
Without this person, I (personally) would have quit by week two, likely sooner. It’s so much harder to give up when you know someone else is watching. A partner holds you accountable. It’s also fun because it leads to a little competition. You can congratulate each other after a hard run, ideally with loud applause and a gallon of chocolate milk.
2. Remember that running 13.1 miles starts with a scary first step.
With exactly 8 weeks to train, the shortest training schedule I found online was 10 weeks. So I dove right in. I was winded after my first 2 mile run on week one. WINDED. My running partner insisted that this was normal for week one, getting me through that first crushing wave of despair.
I continued to run somewhere between 3–5 miles twice during the week, and kept adding .5–1.5 miles to my long runs on the weekend. Here’s the schedule I scribbled out.
The first 2 weeks were the hardest, because my body and my muscles were still adjusting. I routinely woke up in the middle of the night, desperate for water and food. (More protein, carbs and coconut water will do wonders). But slowly, gradually, after the first 5 mile run on week 3, I fell into a zen and running became…not terrible. I remember the first time I actually enjoyed a sunset in Prospect Park while running. Since I had gotten stronger and encouraged my body into a rhythm, I could actually enjoy the scenery as I was running, which was incredible. Little by little, a physical activity that had once been daunting became natural.
It was a good reminder that big accomplishments happen in small — often times painful — steps. Focus on the the next run, not the 13.1 miles looming ahead in the future. You’ll get there.
*Note: I never ran more than 8.5 miles before the race, and that worked for me. But I am not an expert, so you should definitely find a plan that works for you
3. Even if shit happens, you still have to get up and run.
I live in New York City. Some days I got up and it would be pouring rain, or it would be insanely hot. Other times I was tired or sick from traveling or city life. But I knew that if I missed a day, I wouldn’t be ready for the race given my tight schedule, and that was not an option.
I did my last 8.5 mile run one rainy evening when I was tired and crabby after a painfully long day. It was literally the last thing I wanted to do, but I got up and ran anyways. You know what? It was the best I ever felt after a run. I finally learned what separates people who do impressive things from people who don’t. They never make excuses, ever. It’s a good reminder that to truly reach a goal, you cannot make excuses.
Look, I never identified as a “runner.” I always thought people were either born runners or not. I remember frequently emphasizing “I am not a runner” when asked to go on runs with friends in college or after moving to the city. But when I crossed the finish line at 2:06, that mental boundary disappeared. Anything you want to accomplish or learn is doable if you break it down into small, manageable tasks and don’t fixate on the “big win” at the end.
Overall, training for a race gave me discipline that carried over to my personal and professional life far beyond the physical benefits. So much so that I am now training for the Brooklyn Half Marathon — my third! — this May. So go for it.