I recently ran the More/Fitness/Shape Magazine Women's Half Marathon in New York City and couldn't be more pleased with the quality of my run. So many factors go into having a great run. Of course, you have to train consistently, eat right and get plenty of sleep and hydration. But there are other things you learn through trial & error to help improve your run. I've been running long distances since highschool and to this day I'm still discovering new tricks for a smoother run. Here are 5 Tips that helped me excel in my recent half marathon (and make me want to attempt another...even though I swore it'd be my last one at mile 10...so typical!).
1. Test everything you plan on wearing for the official half marathon race day during your last few training runs.
From your clothes to accessories and gadgets, don't take a risk by wearing it for the first time on race day! Make sure to give it a test run so that you know it feels comfortable on your body and that it works the way you need it to for maximum performance. Little things like rubbing and dangling can become huge problems when you've got a long way to go and you're feeling uncomfortable. Activewear and gear passes my race day test when I barely notice them on my body, and they don't disrupt my focus on my gait and the road ahead.
2. Have good music but most importantly earphones with bluetooth and major ear gripping durability.
We've all been there...in the middle of a good run and your earbuds start to fall out! They've either lost their shape, grip or can't withstand the sweat beading out of your ears. This is a problem I won't allow for my long runs, which is why I test and only wear the best earphones for my half and full marathons. Up until 2013, I was a huge Yurbuds fan but this year I discovered Run Free Pro Wireless Active Earphones With Bluetooth from Soul Electronics.
I'm absolutely obsessed with them because they remove the hassle of wires and limitation of being leashed to your iPhone or music player device. These are the earphones you see me wearing in my race day pic above and this one below.
They slightly stick out of your ears because they have a longer locking design which secures to your ear folds in 2 different ways. I don't mind that part at all because of how comfortable they feel and how flawlessly they work. All you have to do is set your iPhone or mp3 player to bluetooth, sync the Run Free Pro's with a push of a button and begin listening to all your stored music. As long as you charge the earphones overnight, you'll get 8 hours of playtime and wind noise reduction. Just make your sure on race day that your music playing device is nearby in a run belt or armband.
3. Have good hair with a more advanced ponytail. Incorporate a functional braid that keeps flyaways in place and looks good in pictures.
In the past, for my races, I used to quickly pull my hair back into a basic tight and high ponytail. Don't get me wrong, it worked but I never liked how I looked in my race day pics. The problem for me was always flyaway hairs at the top of my head and my ponytail becoming somewhat lopsided, making the top of my head appear lumpy after just a couple of miles.
This year, I went with a side braid that secured all the front hairs coming off my hairline and kept everything in place and smooth. My ponytail was also mid-height instead of super high which made it less vulnerable to swinging from side to side. I was amazed by how intact my hair was after 13.1 miles. I highly recommend you try it for your next race. You can even do 2 side braids.
4. Get acquainted with Vaseline and lots of it!
It never fails, which is why I've been using it for years. Buy a tub of it because you're going to want to slather it all over your feet, your waistline area, your chest and around the shoulder strap region. It may seem greasy at first but within a few minutes the Vaseline seeps into your skin leaving a slightly slick film on top.
The slick film is a good thing. Embrace it! Because you want the clothes on your body to slide along your skin, NOT rub against it. The Vaseline helps to protect and create a slick barrier that prevents chafing or anything worse like bloody blisters on your feet and toes. Ever since I started using Vaseline, I've never had a bad blister or black toe following a run. It's an amazing trick and you will thank me ;)
5. Take advantage of stairwells for hill training, especially in a pinch when you haven't run enough hills before race day.
Who likes running hills? NO ONE! That's why everyone leaves them for last in their training schedules. I'm guilty of just avoiding hill runs altogether. But they're important on race day because those are the challenges that can dismantle your run. If you're in a pinch or just want to take your hill training to the next level, I recommend locating the nearest stairwell where you can train safely without interruption.
I live in a 20 story apartment building where no one uses the stairwell because we have fancy elevators. So this is where I do my hill training. It's hard but it REALLY helped me in light of not having done any hilly runs before my recent half marathon. I recommend running up 10-12 flights of stairs 3-5 times to start. Run all the way up and then run all the way back down and repeat. Use the downward stair run to catch your breath and pull back, then run back up the stairs with all the strength you have at a consistent speed without stopping. The better you get at stair running, the more repetitions you can do. I swear by stairwell training but just beware that you'll be sore the next day and you might need to take a day off for the sake of your calf muscles. It will, however, prepare you for the toughest of hills.
I hope these 5 tips help you out in your upcoming half marathon. Best of luck to you and remember to take it all in and enjoy the moment.