I completed my third half marathon over the weekend in Walt Disney World. The Star Wars Dark Side half marathon was my second RunDisney race – I ran in the Wine and Dine half back in November of last year . I had a great experience during both races – the energy at a Disney race is as much fun as you’d expect – but struggled with some IT band issues both times. Despite promising myself that I would do the training correctly so as to complete my race with no pain this time, my knee pain persisted. But I still finished with all smiles and felt an incredible sense of accomplishment when crossing the finish line. I’ve gotten a few questions about what I’ve learned and would do differently in training for a half, so I thought I’d share some of my insights today.
What inspired you to start running half marathons?
Truthfully, I was never much of a runner until I entered my mid-twenties. When I was 25, Andrew and I moved from New York City back to the Philadelphia suburbs. Back in 2013, Philly didn’t offer much in the ways of the boutique fitness classes I was so accustomed to, so I started running outside. Andrew and I ran our first half marathon that summer from Napa to Sonoma. It was a fun course, but we didn’t train much (I hadn’t run more than 6 miles prior to race day). I promised myself that I’d someday run another half with the correct preparation, which is what lead me to sign up for the Wine and Dine half that I completed in November. I had such a great experience with RunDisney that I signed up for the Star Wars-themed half I ran in on Sunday as soon as I finished the Wine and Dine.
Did you follow a training plan?
I tried my best to follow the Hal Higdon Novice 1 half marathon training plan. I tried to work in yoga at least once a week as well to try to combat my persisting IT-band issues.
What would you do differently?
I wasn’t great about sticking to my cross-training on non-running days. For my next race, I plan to work in a lot more yoga, as well as some strength training and barre classes.
What advice would you give to someone who hasn’t run a half marathon before but wants to?
You’d be surprised what you can accomplish if you stick to your training plan and up your mileage gradually. The most important advice that I would give, though, is to stretch after every run, and become best friends with your foam roller.
How did you deal with pain on your longer training runs and on race day?
Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS) is one of the most common overuse injuries among runners. It occurs when the iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin, is tight or inflamed. The IT band attaches to the knee and helps stabilize and move the joint. When the IT band isn’t working properly, movement of the knee (and, therefore, running) becomes painful. IT band pain can manifest itself as a sharp pain on the outside of my left knee. I used Biofreeze® Pain Reliever products before and during my runs to help alleviate pain, and they were a life-saver. Biofreeze® products don’t require a prescription (they are non-systemic, non-narcotic, and contain no NSAIDs, salicylates or addictive substances) – they instead contain menthol to provide fast acting pain relief. But more importantly for me, I found them to be as effective as ice without the messy, drippy mess and much more convenient to use on the go. The gel version was available throughout the course on race day, but I used the roller-ball and spray products during my training – both of which were as effective as the gel, but a little less messy. You can shop for Biofreeze products here.
What was the best part about your latest race?
If you haven’t run in a RunDisney race, I would highly recommend it. The conditions in Orlando aren’t the best – it was hot and humid even at 5:30AM when we took off – but the energy at these races is just fun. They all have a theme, and you’ll not only see runners dressed up in accordance with the theme, but there are also characters and video screens along the route. My most recent race took me through 3/4 Disney parks (Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot), which keeps the route interesting. It’s also hard to beat the sense of accomplishment I felt when crossing the finish line – I couldn’t stop smiling despite my exhaustion throughout the rest of the day.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.