About 5 month ago I signed up for the Air Force Half Marathon because I had been reading a lot of things about half marathons and how rewarding they are, so I impulsively signed myself up for one. Before signing up I had only ever ran a 5k, which if you don’t know is only 3.1 miles. Well I downloaded the Nike+ running app and signed up for the coaching feature of a half marathon under “Experienced” instead of “Beginner”. Having only ever run about 4 miles for soccer conditioning in high school I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I was determined. So June 29th rolls around and my training starts with a 4 mile run. Prior to starting training it suggested I run about 4 miles a week, but I completely disregarded this and decided to hit the gym hard for 3 months and see where that got me. I’m honestly glad I did because I had built up so much muscle in my legs, back, and core the runs really didn’t seem awful. I hit every single run without ever missing a day…. until August 31st…
Once school started I just got so busy I had a hard time adjusting with finding time to study and get my runs in, so I stopped running all together at that point. I was getting really burnt out on running at that point as well. My immune system was starting to fade and I was getting colds and allergies kicked in full force at that time as well so I thought taking a week or 2 off from running was a good idea because I was definitely over training myself with running, the gym and extra races I was doing on my off days. I didn’t feel healthy and I was so tired all the time I could barely stay awake most days, so I knew I had to do something so I could focus in class. Well, taking a week or 2 off turned into completely not running until race day – which actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be having not ran in 3 weeks. My longest run I got to was 11 miles, which I thought was good because I was familiar with running long distances without stopping.
My only goals for my half were to 1. enjoy it and the experience, 2. run the whole thing with no stops, and 3. make it under 2 hours and 30 minutes. I didn’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself with my time because I was more concerned with just finishing it considering I was doing it as a bucket list thing and not for time. Well, if you’re not familiar with the Air Force Half Marathon course, it’s like 40% flat, 60% hills. I had so many people tell me that it was one of the hardest courses they’ve ever done just because of the hills and the elevation chart looked like an EKG test. I was definitely nervous, but confident in my abilities to finish it, solely relying on my quads at this point to get me through it.
Race day rolls around & waking up early isn’t my thing so 5a wasn’t a pleasant experience, but I ate my normal breakfast of a whole wheat english muffin, peanut butter, 1/2 a banana and some buckwheat honey and we were all out the door. We got there around 7 for a race that didn’t start until 8:30 which gave me plenty of time to take it all in & realize what I got myself into. Typical me, even being there an hour and a half early, I was late to the start line by 3 minutes, luckily it took about 6 minutes to get everyone through the start line so I was good and didn’t miss anything. Starting was really annoying though because it took FOREVER for everyone to get spaced out and I was running at about a 12 minute mile because it was difficult trying to navigate through all the people. Right off the bat we ran uphill on the Huffman dam which I don’t think my legs appreciated at all, but I muscled through. At about 3 miles everyone was at about their correct spots and it was smooth sailing. The course itself is beautiful and you get to see the base, Huffman dam & prairie, base housing, the golf course and a few other things. The weather was perfect, about 70 degrees and overcast with some drizzles of rain that felt GREAT. So about mile 5 runners high kicked in and my legs started to get the numb feeling and I felt good overall. miles 3-6 were somewhat flat with only small hills that weren’t too awful. Around mile 9 was when the high started to fade and the pain started to take over, which was a REALLY bad time to fade because miles 8-11 were nothing but on and off ramps on the highway, hills and uneven roads. My pace slowed from about a 10 minute mile to almost a 13 minute mile, but I was really determined not to walk so I just slowed my pace, controlled my breathing and took 2 waters and a Gatorade at every station they had. The second to last mile was a downhill, curved street and the inside of my ankle was absolutely fried after that mile so the last mile was just pain. I ran 12 mile with headphones and took them out for the last mile because I knew I needed more than music to get me through it. There were so many people at the last mile & it was so motivating and inspiring to see so many people in uniform & injured veterans there and cheering you on as you ran the last mile. The whole course was filled with civilians, military & people in cars driving by waving and cheering, it was really motivating. The last 1.1 miles though was something I won’t soon forget. Hearing people cheer your name and telling you that you’ve got it and your almost there, made the whole experience really worth-while and rewarding. My parents and boyfriend also came out and made signs which I thought was awesome, especially my mom’s “I’m sure it seemed like a good idea 3 months ago” sign haha.
When I finished I grabbed a water & thought the worst part was over. Well, no one told me about the post-race leg pain you get that’s probably worse than any pain you feel in your legs while you’re running. My legs were throbbing and I couldn’t stand still. My quads felt like they looked like Phil Heath’s quads and every muscle in my legs felt 5 times bigger than it really was. I downed a protein shake when I got back to the truck and I wasn’t hungry until about 3 hours after I finished. I just felt kinda sick and like my stomach was just really angry at me for running that long, but I killed some Chick Fil A afterwards.
Would I recommend this race to anyone else?
YES. The experience alone is something I feel like everyone should experience and it was rewarding at the same time meeting all my goals & getting to check a bucket list item off.
Would I recommend running a half marathon in general?
Yes. If you have a goal set to run a half marathon or you’re even thinking about running a half, do it. I’m 100% not a runner by any means whatsoever, but challenging yourself and pushing yourself to try new things is such an awesome feeling.
My training for this race was 12 weeks. Training 5-6 days a week with an off day + a cross train day. Increasing my long runs by 10% each week was a good slow way to ease myself into the mileage without injuring myself.
- Invest in a GOOD pair of shoes. Go to a running specialty store and get fitted. Learn your foot pronation. Get the correct insoles & make sure you train in them before your race. This is very important to having a comfortable race. I recommend the Brooks Glycerine or Ghost, both are great shoes – but again, learn your pronation!
- Make sure you cross train and take your rest days. I overtrained myself and burnt myself out before I even got to peak week – so make sure you take time for yourself and listen to your body. If it’s telling you you’re doing too much, take a step back and cut your runs down – don’t push through it because you’ll either injure yourself or you won’t want to run anymore.
- Take your diet into consideration. If you fuel your body correctly, your runs will be so much better and you’ll have so much more energy to get your runs in & continue through your days.
- Look into energy gels/chews. They saved my life! My favorite was the Shot Blocks Mocha gel.
- Don’t try anything new on race day. Not even a new sports bra. I suggest get what you want to run your race in a few weeks before and train in it first, that way on race day you’ll be familiar with everything.
- Get some body glide. Unless nothing on your body rubs together, I promise you’ll thank me for this later.
- Hydrate like you’ve never hydrated in your life the days before your race. I think this really saved me because I never felt dehydrated or sluggish in my race. I drank close to a gallon a day for 3 days before my race.
- Take the water at every station you feel necessary. If you even feel like you might be thirsty before you hit the next station, take some water at that station. I drank water at every station and Gatorade at every other station. I wanted to make sure I was well hydrated & I never felt like I had too much liquid on my stomach – but that preference changes from person to person. Plus my energy gel contains caffeine so it’s good to follow that with water so you don’t dehydrate.
- Read. I did SO much research before running this half it was insane. I probably read over 100 articles. But I only know a few people who have ran a half marathon before so I didn’t really have any experiences to learn from, but I’m glad I read so much on it because I learned what to do, what not to do, what to eat, what to buy, what to stay away from.
- Foam roll/stretch. I can’t stress this enough. It’s so important not only for injury prevention but to make sure you don’t feel sore for days.
Race Day Pictures:
I hope this helped and maybe motivated you to sign up for a half marathon or any race you’ve been wanting to do. If you’ve got some tips on running I would love to hear them! I also will never be running a half ever again – but I’ve got other things in my plans for this coming year 😉 As always, thanks for reading!