So I Ran a Half Marathon…Now What?

Before I begin the post, I just want to say a quick hello to the new readers that have come over from Runs for Cookies! I was really glad that I was able to contribute something to Motivational Monday, which is always one of my favorite posts of hers every week (it is really motivating to be reminded that there are others out there going through the same struggles and victories as myself) and honored that Katie chose to include my story.

Now on to today’s post!

The main question that people around me (as well as people of the internet) have been asking me as my half marathon approached (and now that it is over) is “What’s next?” In particular, many of them have been asking me when I am going to run my first marathon.

The answer: eventually. I know I would love to run a marathon someday, but I don’t know if I’m ready yet.

When I started training for the half, I knew I was ready to train for it – I had run a 20 mile week before, after all, and the longest week in the program was 23 miles. The difference was that the 20 mile weeks I had done in the past were more like a mix of randomly placed 3-6 mile runs throughout the week than a structure of short runs, mid length runs, and a long run. I had seriously never run farther than 10K before embarking on the program. Therefore, each week, as I increased the mileage of my long run, I was crossing both a mental and physical barrier, and that was very challenging.  The physical toll this rapid increase in long run length took on me was exhausting. I avoided injury, but I think I can largely attribute this to making sure to warm up, cool down, stretch, foam roll, and cross train throughout my training, which meant I was devoting a lot more time to working out than the half marathon training program would suggest (I probably could have devoted less time to strength training, I admit). Though I was never injured, I always had some sort of pain that I was trying to prevent from turning into an injury, which meant I was often hobbling around and taking too much ibuprofen for my tastes (plus I didn’t have my husband around to massage me for most of it – that always really helps!). I also had trouble eating enough, I think. I felt like I was failing because I was often going over my calorie limit, but I must have been burning more calories than I estimated, because other than a few crazy bloating days from eating too much Mexican food or something, I lost weight. I had been hovering around 127 with fluctuations between 125 and 130 before I began training, and the day before race day I weighed in at a teeny tiny 123. I know this is technically in the healthy weight range for my height, but it’s not something sustainable for me, and I’m fairly certain it is a bad sign when my size 2 pants (that I JUST bought) require a belt. On some peoples’ bodies, this weight might be perfect, but it is too low for me (it also gets me so close to literally being half my size that getting down to 120 is tempting, even though I know that is a TERRIBLE idea). TMI warning: the accidental under-eating also led to some scary lady problems (I will spare you the details, though I’m sure some of you can guess what I mean). Therefore, I feel like I’m just not physically ready to dedicate myself to marathon training.

Furthermore, I’m fairly certain that if even if I wanted to run a marathon this fall, I’d have to jump into training ASAP, but I think I need a few weeks of unstructured “training” for mental health purposes. I was spending so much time training for the half and doing other workouts for the sole purpose of making sure I wasn’t injured for the half that near the end, I was not really enjoying my training that much. I still really loved my long runs (I think it had a lot to do with my route, I must admit I did a really good job planning those routes), but often, as I would head into the gym for whatever strength training plan I had decided to use that day and a quick 3 mile run (often done on the treadmill due to late afternoon humidity and the threat of storms) I would find myself giving myself mental reminders like “you aren’t even going to be running 30 minutes, you can do this!” WTF brain, is this the same brain that only days later would be like “WOW! A two hour run? You mean I get 2 whole hours for nothing but running and clearing my head? YAY!”. There were a lot of days where I had to go out and run when I just didn’t want to, a lot of days when I wanted to go out and run more but I knew it would be detrimental to my long run, and a lot of days where I just wanted to abandon all of those bridges I was doing to strengthen my pain-prone hips. I think mentally I just prefer listening to what my body wants more than a structured training program that forces me to exercise in a certain way – it pulls a bit of the “fun” out of fitness. Honestly, I was looking forward to the end of my training so that I could just run whenever I wanted.

So, what is my “unstructured” plan for the next few weeks? I know unstructured plan sounds weird, but I need at least a loose plan for what to do – it’s just how I am. I do have another half marathon this fall, so I will start training for that the last week of July,  I think, but for the 6 weeks until that point, I am going to focus on a few things: working out with my husband (he hates running so we are experimenting with things he likes), recreational fitness, and running only when I want to for as long as I want to. Yesterday was a “rest” day for me – I did two rounds of Tabata-type workouts, one with my husband, and one out of boredom, and took the dog for two 30 minute walks. Today, I am getting in my exercise by riding my bike to and from the garage, where my poor little car is having 2 tires replaced 😦 It’s only about 2 miles away, and I normally walk it, but I really want to practice bike commuting, and this route forces me to occasionally ride with traffic (for like 10 seconds on side streets) and to cross a busy intersection. I will probably take a walk with the dog as well, but I don’t want to wear her out too much, because we are taking her to the dog park tonight! The husband and I might also take a bike ride if it is still light but cooling off after the dog park adventure. Tomorrow I might go running for the “first” time since the half – I slowly jogged 20 minutes on Sunday, but it was mostly a chore I did to make sure my legs wouldn’t get too stiff. Tomorrow I hope to head out for a nice 3-5 mile easy run. In short, here is my plan:

  • Enjoy working out with my husband, doing HIIT workouts and biking. It’s not often I have a workout buddy!
  • Practice bike commuting for this fall when I will be relying on it
  • Enjoy long walks with the dog while the weather is nice and I have a lovely river to walk along
  • Try to run only for fun, but keep in the back of my mind that I need to keep a half-decent base if I am going to train for another half marathon

Looks like it will be a great and active summer!

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2 thoughts on “So I Ran a Half Marathon…Now What?

  1. I did a double-take at the “lovely river” part. Guess why. ;p

    Also, I’m sorry I’m a slug. We used to be workout buddies… maybe I’ll get used to the exercise room again and we can go together in the fall. No promises, not gonna lie, but that’s another thing to add to the motivational basket. ❤

    • Haha, I need a lovely river to walk the lovely River by…not the icky floody Wabash!

      At least there is that park with the wildflowers now and not just like…oh…I guess I’ll walk the dog to Aldi and back, how scenic.

      And yessssss awesome new fitness center workout buddies!!

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