What I learned from my first marathon

Six months ago, I registered for my first marathon. On Sunday, I laced up my running shoes, tucked a couple gels into my pocket, queued up a playlist beginning with Lizzo’s “Good as Hell” and started my race at the Melbourne Marathon festival. Four hours, 25 minutes, 49 seconds, and 42.195 kilometres later I crossed the finish line in the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Here’s what I learned in the last six months about running my first marathon:

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What I learned from my fourth half-marathon

I guess these are a tradition now (although I never wrote one for the Wellington half-marathon, my third last year) and now that I’m just a few months out from running my first full marathon I think it’s even more important for me to take a look at my race and think about what I learned.

Yesterday I ran the half-marathon event at Run Melbourne in 1:54:21, beating my previous personal best by over two minutes. Apart from a shiny medal and tired quads, here’s what I took away from it:

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Six Months to Marathon

When I finished my first half-marathon, I thought “I’ll definitely do that again, but I’ll probably never run more than a half.” When I ran my second, I thought, “I could probably tack on a few more kms, but I’ll probably never run a full marathon.” After the third, when I had finally reached my sub-two-hour half-marathon goal (1:56:42), I found myself immediately thinking ahead to the next goal. But this time my goal isn’t just time (although I’m hoping to run <1:55 in my next half-marathon in a few months), but distance. I finally felt ready to take the plunge and sign up for a full marathon.

The first thing I had to decide was: which one? My first, obvious thought was the Melbourne marathon in October, as I knew that we would be moving over here after our time in Wellington had finished. However, we originally weren’t certain that we were going to stay in Australia for a full year, and I didn’t want to train for a marathon and then not run it (barring circumstances like injury that could obviously crop up wherever I am).

I started looking at the Gold Coast marathon in July, hearing that it was a flat course and figuring that the dead of winter would hopefully cool things down. After moving to Australia I quickly reassessed; the heat and humidity of summer in Melbourne has both made it very hard to run much, meaning I’d be very behind on my training if I was to run a marathon three months from now, and it showed me that I have no interest in going up to the notoriously-humid Gold Coast for a race. Luckily, by this point we had decided that we were going to see out our year in Australia, so Melbourne was back on the table.

The Melbourne marathon is on Sunday, 13 October, exactly six months from now, and I officially registered last night. I’ve decided to use a Hal Higdon plan based on the recommendation of… pretty much everybody, and I’m going with the Novice 2 plan because I want to push myself a little (I’ll drop back to the Novice 1 plan if needed but looking at the prerequisites I think I should be okay. It will be slightly modified as the plan has you running a half-marathon at the end of the ninth week and I am going to do Run Melbourne’s half-marathon event on 28 July, which is only seven weeks in, but for the most part I’m aiming to stick to the plan as closely as possible. It’s definitely going to be tough to stick to in points—namely just two weeks before the race, when we’re planning to be in Japan for the Rugby World Cup—but I’ll make the time to run and will luckily be tapering then anyway.

The plan runs for 18 weeks up until the marathon which means that I won’t actually be starting it officially until the second week of June, but in the meantime I’m taking advantage of the cooler weather (finally) and building mileage, strength, and endurance by running as much as I can in preparation. Running a full marathon six months from today is going to be the biggest fitness goal I have ever, and maybe will ever, achieve, and I’m planning to do it right. I’ll check in with updates on my training and progress as I go, for support and accountability, and on 13 October I’ll see you at the far side of 26.2.

Follow me on Strava if you want to keep up with my training!

It’s Easy Eating Green

Let me preface this by saying that I am not by any means a carnivore. I was a vegetarian for many years, although these days I eat fish once or twice a week. I do love eggs and cheese (cheese!!!) but overall I didn’t think it would be difficult to go vegan for a month as part of Veganuary, a January-long challenge to encourage people to try out a plant-based diet for the good of their health, the environment, and animals everywhere.

And it wasn’t—this isn’t going to be a post about how it was actually sooooo difficult to give up milk in my morning coffee (I prefer almond milk anyway) or cheese on my quesadilla (soy cheese isn’t great but it’s not terrible, and there are nicer options out there than what I bought if I’d bothered to go hunting for them). I would encourage anyone who is interested in reducing the number of animal products in their diets to do so; unless you’re one of those folks who thinks a balanced diet means a steak at every meal, I think you’ll find that you don’t miss meat, eggs, or dairy as much as you might think.

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A year of reconnection

Like most people on this first day of the year, I am thinking about 2019 and the goals I’d like to accomplish. I’ve got a couple fairly typical items on my list (read 50 books, run a marathon) that I don’t feel warrant their own post, but one of my resolutions for the year is not something specific, but rather a theme. I don’t want to simply set goals at the beginning of the year and check them off the list; instead I’d like to set intentions and adjust my goals as I see where the year takes me. I want 2019 to be a year of reconnection. I’ve been thinking about what that means to me, and I’ve split it up into four categories.

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The morning I thought would never come (the one where I enjoyed waking up early)

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If you had walked into my bedroom at dawn a decade ago, you probably would’ve found me wide awake, book in hand. Not because I had gotten up early to read, but because I hadn’t ever gone to bed the night before. My “ideal” sleep schedule, in between bouts of insomnia and the forced early mornings of school, was around 6am to 2pm up through college.

Obviously, this is not sustainable in adulthood for people who don’t work the graveyard shift. It wasn’t really sustainable in school either, to be honest, but I got by. At the time, I was more than happy to be as nocturnal as possible, and I would never have thought I’d ever be anything but a night owl.

I look back at that sleeping schedule in horror now, much as I imagine my teenage self would look at the idea of waking before 8am on a Saturday. Where once I relied desperately on my blackout curtains to keep out the sun as it rose high in the sky, now I regularly beat it to arise–on purpose! Without even having to!

Becoming a morning person wasn’t an overnight process, though. Here are the steps I took to give my mornings an energising boost:

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