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Here's how I ran a half-marathon, despite not being arsed running

If I can do it, anyone can.

IT’S COMING UP to a year since I did my first half-marathon. It’s something I enjoy dropping into conversation as frequently as possible. I ran my bollacks off for 21km, the least you can do is listen to me talk about it, Sharon.

instagram @fionnualajay / Instagram @fionnualajay / Instagram / Instagram

Running a half marathon was my half-baked New Year’s Resolution for 2017, despite having not running at all prior to this. I hated it. It was too hard. The breathing, the sweating … I could not commit for longer than a week or so. Couch to 5k? More like ‘Couch to … Forget About It!’ (I’m here all week.)

Anyway, the year was rolling on, people were mentioning the ‘C’ word, and I hadn’t so much as looked at a pair of runners. However, I didn’t want to let another year slide knowing I’d hadn’t achieved what I’d set out. So, I signed up for a race in Clontarf, giving me just under eight weeks of training time. 

To put it mildly, it was hard.

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And that it something you will just have to accept (unless you end up being naturally adept at running, but you probably wouldn’t be reading this if that was the case. Twenty one kilometres is the distance from Dublin Airport to Dun Laoghaire. That’s a long ol’ stroll.)

I was just starting back at shift work, so my starting time everyday could be anywhere from 5:30am to 10:30am. I had to start adapting my life to runs. I used to regular review concerts in the evening, which often meant running from work to home (about 6km) with a bag on my back to ensure I didn’t miss a day. I was running at all hours, often for hours, to ensure I got it done. 

My diet had to be completely readjusted. Food stopped being food – food was fuel now. I learned quickly that I had to stop scrimping on carbs (or worse, skipping meals) because it just made my runs 100 times harder. The amount of food I was consuming seemed insane, but it absolutely opened my eyes to the fact that I was probably under eating, regardless of whether I was running or not.

Initially, I obsessed over my times and my pace, and it was extremely satisfying to both decrease after an abysmal start. However, as I went on, it started mattering less and less. All I wanted to do was be finished. After every kilometre, it became a case of “right, let’s do one more and sure you can finish then.” I never did.

Now, did it awaken a Happy Pear-esque love of running in me that so many yelp about on Instagram and fitness blogs? No, to be honest. I don’t hate it, but I don’t find it to be so unbelievable that it clears my head of all problems, especially not running long distance (I’ve already mentioned my issues with the sweating and breathing.) At the time, I was also trying to balance going to the gym and doing strength training too, because I didn’t want to lose that precious booty that I wasn’t sure I even had. 

As much as I love how my body looks after a good stint of race training, it’s not sustainable for me – especially because I have genuinely no real interest in getting faster or placing anywhere (bar the finish line.) I do find the odd race a good kick up the hole when it comes to reassessing my health and wellness. And while I might not find it a complete mental release, I do always feel better after one, some how.

So, how did I, a running phobe, commit to running so much?

  • Get someone else to hold you accountable. I had two friends do the half marathon with me, and my boyfriend bought my runners to do it (you could say I was semi-motivated by guilt as a result.) I also told my parents I was going to do it, and they’re not inclined to let things go. If you have someone checking up on you, you’ll be less inclined to let training slide. Doing it for charity is also a great shout – because, again, who doesn’t love a guilt-trip?
  • Download literally ANY running app. I use the Nike Run Club, which I’ve been told by people in the know, is shite. It works for me. I don’t need anything fancy, I just need someone to tell me how far I’ve gone and how much time’s passed. Download one and find one that works for you – most of them come with specific plans for races as well. If you find all of them shite, you don’t need one. Try and time yourself on your phone, or your watch. If you’re totally not arsed with timing, just give yourself a distance to run and do it. Who gives a fuck, realistically?
  • Get good runners. If you don’t know what constitutes good running runners, go ask someone. You might pay a few bob for them, but they’ll last you.
  • Don’t give yourself excuses. We’re all busy. Leave out your running gear (clothes, headphones, keys, Fitbit, whatever) the night before, or bring it with you if you’re doing stuff before/after work. 
  • … But don’t beat yourself up about not running. You’re not going to be able to run every day (nor should you to be honest – think of your knees.) If you’re consistent, a few days off isn’t going to completely derail you. Listen to your body and your mind – if you’re not arsed, you’re not arsed. It’s just a run.
  • You’re entitled to only ever do one race in your life while having zero intentions of doing another, or running ever again. Ignore anyone who says otherwise (or who won’t shut the fuck up about when the next race is.)

Now, go forth and be smug!

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