I’m going to be running my first-ever half marathon on Saturday. I’ve been preparing for this for quite some time – longer even then I’ve been preparing for Halloween if you can believe it. During my months and months of rigorous training, I’ve sweated, I’ve bled and I’ve learned a few things about distance running which I would like to share with you.
Now sure, a quick Googling will turn up a few hundred million websites all purporting to offer the best and most valuable tips for surviving – and even thriving during – your half marathon. All of those things are great. Who doesn’t want to survive and thrive? However, I’ve noticed there are a few things they, the running literati, won’t tell you. While they may not be on the tips of anyone’s tongue, these things are just as important to survival.
I will impart this wisdom to you now in the form of a bulleted list:
- Say “Hi” to every person you meet who’s going in the opposite direction, no matter how many times you see them. That first pass, it’s just common courtesy. But with each subsequent pass, it becomes about milking that momentary human interaction for a slight emotional boost. As the miles pile up, every little boost helps.
- Run on the correct side of the road/sidewalk. Whatever side of the road you’re legally-bound to drive on is the side you should be running on. If you don’t know how roads work, take social cues from your fellow runners. If others appear to be running on the right, don’t assume they’re all drunk, angry foreigners. Follow them. Learn from them.
- If you’re running with a large group, do not run in rows of seven, taking over the entire sidewalk or road. You’re a running group, not a Union regiment preparing to take on the Confederacy. Remember. Share the sidewalk. Share the road.
- Say “Hi” to every dog you see. It’s a mathematical fact, dogs offer 10X performance bonus of people. Also, the dog owners you encounter will, 99% of the time, be delighted that you acknowledged their pooch. Their delight will cause them to give you a nod and smile, adding even more performance bonuses. That other 1% will be totally creeped out and confused. Ignore them.
- Fanny packs are cool again. No explanation needed. They just are. Use them.
- Say “Hi” to every cat ... say “Hi” to every animal you see. Bunnies and squirrels need love too. You need something to distract you from the tedium of running lots of miles. Say “Hi” to critters. You’ll be basking in the glow of a long run well done before you know it.
- Bring a snack. You’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Energy beans and gels are good. Things like chopped walnuts are less good. Despite the fact that they taste great, they’re hard to eat while you’re running without choking.
- A little hockey tape around your compression knee pads may look dorky, but it will hold them in place. Us skinny-legged individuals need the power of compression without the fear of having it slip away as a run progresses. Hockey tape works wonders to keep compression knee pads in place. Packing tape does not do that.
- Before you leave your house or your car, double check you’ve got the right keys. It’s good for your peace of mind while you run. It’s better when you’re done running and you need to get back into your car or home.
- Podcasts are good, music is better. Unless you listen to some sort of pump-up podcast. I’m not sure what that would sound like to be honest. Maybe old recordings of Churchill. Or a guy angrily screaming “Get some!” over and over again. Or the sound of bacon sizzling in a pan.
- If you get stuck at a red light, hop up and down like you have to pee. Most importantly, it keeps the blood flowing while you wait to resume your journey. As an added bonus, the sight of you will delight the drivers who are also waiting for the red light to change. It’s nice to make other people happy.
- Beware of people who don’t know how to control their dogs. Sometimes a friendly nod and a “Hi” will cause a dog to lunge in your direction. Sometimes that dog’s owner won’t be prepared for this. It is up to you, the runner, to be prepared when they aren’t. After every friendly “Hi” and nod to a dog, you must be ready to snap kick that dog in the head should it come down to your survival or theirs. The same goes for cats. And squirrels. And turtles. You won’t want to do these things, but take solace in the fact that when the deed is done, you will still likely have many more miles to go until your run is over.