Ask any longtime runner, and chances are there’s a race that holds a special place in his or her heart.
Maybe it wasn’t their fastest race ever. But under some tough circumstances, it’s the effort they’re most proud of, the time they were able to dig the deepest.
Perhaps it was a beautiful destination race that made them realize why they love running, or maybe just the first time at a new distance that used to scare the heck out of them.
I’ve got a few like that, and the one I’m most proud of is certainly my 3:09:59 Boston-qualifying marathon. But there’s another race I haven’t talked about much, one that was an absolute turning point for me as a runner.
It was my first half marathon. A modest 1:56:59 at the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half. And the funny thing is, I had already run a full marathon a few years before that.
So what was so special about it?
That race meant so much because it showed me that I was back.
You see, when a few friends and I decided one day, almost three years prior, that we were going to run a marathon, we had no idea what we were getting into.
We jumped in like the cocky college kids we were, thinking, “We’re in good shape, how hard could this running thing be?”
Turns out it was pretty hard, because we none of us were runners before that. Not knowing how to train, all three of us got injured, and the stress fracture I got in my shin left me in an aircast for a few weeks. And without even a cool story to tell.
The worst part is that’s not end of it. We ended up running the marathon anyway — like I said, we were cocky college kids. The race went horribly, and it’s no surprise that I messed my shin up again as a result.
For years, I wanted to run another marathon to redeem myself, to prove to myself that I really could run a better marathon. And yet every time I started to train, my shins would start hurting within a few weeks and force me to stop — all because of the damage I did when I jumped into marathon training without a clue about what I should be doing to increase my mileage safely and to recover properly from workouts.
I almost quit out of frustration.
When I sought out help, two therapists not-so-subtly suggested that maybe I just wasn’t built to run endurance races, that my shins were shaped in a way that made these stress fractures inevitable.
This is one time I’m glad I didn’t listen. I went on experimenting, determined to make endurance training work.
When a few years later (after more stops and starts in my training than I can remember), I crossed the finish at that Virginia Beach Half Marathon, you can understand why it felt so great. After all that pain, disappointment, and frustration thanks to the stupid mistakes I made when I didn’t know any better, I was finally back on track.
It’s easy to make mistakes when you don’t know any better
I’ve found that completing a long distance race like a half marathon isn’t that hard, physically.
Don’t believe me? Look around you at a half marathon or even a full, and you’ll see some people running who, by other measure, aren’t what you’d call “fit.” And yet they’ve learned what they need to do to train their body to safely carry them 13.1 or 26.2 miles, and they’ve put in the work it takes to get there.
In other words, a lot of this game is mental.
I don’t want you to have to make the mistakes I did, or the mistakes that so many others make the first time they try to push themselves to run a half marathon or more. Because as it turned out for me, those mistakes ended up impacting the next few years of my life, holding me back from becoming the runner that I knew I could.
So to help you avoid the mistakes and the pain (well, most of it, anyway), I put together a free, 17-page PDF report called “15 Training Mistakes that Can Crush Your Half Marathon Dreams.” You can download it here to print off or read at your leisure, as over 1,200 other people already have.
As you might know, I’m just about ready to release the Half Marathon Roadmap, the 13.1-mile version of my guide to training for your first big race on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
The free “15 Mistakes” report, along with some more great free stuff I’ve got lined up this week, is part of the lead-up to the release. So if you sign up, I’ll also send you updates about the Half Marathon Roadmap once it’s ready to go.
Check out the free PDF report here so that you can learn about those crucial mistakes and how to avoid them. And be sure to leave a comment to ask any questions that come up, or just to let me know what you think.
P.S. Happy National Running Day!