Mile Matters with J&A Racing
I was a late bloomer when it comes to running. I started running in 2013 when I was 53. My first official race was a big one, J&A Racing’s Shamrock 8K! I had a blast at that race with two of my best friends even though I could barely run from one lamp post to the next. I discovered that although I didn’t necessarily enjoy the actual running part of the event (still true), I REALLY liked the race atmosphere, the medal and the after party! Fast- forward a year and several 5Ks, 10Ks, and training runs later, I decided to run my first half marathon, J&A Racing’s Crawlin’ Crab. I was part of a local running group, The Running Turtles, and we had an organized training plan with running coaches and structured meetups. I discovered at that point that running with friends was the best part of training. To this day, some of the friends I made through my first half marathon training group remain my closest running buddies.
50 Half Marthons
Since it was my first half and one of my very favorites, I decided that I wanted Crawlin’ Crab to be my 50th half marathon. That took some creative scheduling, fitting in my 49th half in mid-September (Mulberry Island Half on Ft. Eustis) just two weeks after running the Rock N’ Roll Half, one of the hottest half marathons of the year. Luckily, I found a friend at the race with a similar pace to run with and I finished half #49 with three weeks to spare before Crawlin’ Crab weekend!
I’m proud to say that this past weekend, I was able to reach my goal and finish Crawlin’ Crab, Half Marathon #50 (of course doing the Shell Yeah! Challenge – see #8 below). I was more emotional about this accomplishment than I expected. I guess because it brought back all the prior halfs and training that led up to this race, and all the things I’ve learned and experienced over the past six years of running. I was lucky to run this weekend with some of my favorite running friends, including a co-worker/friend who was running his first half marathon! We had great weather and as always, the course support and after party were amazing!
A Favorite Distance
You may have figured out that the half marathon is my favorite distance. I think I prefer this distance because it’s challenging and requires some long training runs leading up to the race, but not anything like what’s required to train for a full marathon. I’ve really enjoyed traveling to places I’ve never been for a race, and it’s a great way to tour the town since I run slow enough to enjoy the scenery.
While training for all of my half marathons and other races, I’ve received a lot of advice from my running friends, the various training teams I’ve been on and the crew at Running, Etc. I’ve been able to travel a lot with my biggest supporter/boyfriend Terry, mainly for races up and down the East Coast from Florida to New York, a couple races in the Midwest, and Niagara Falls, Canada. Since I have a little experience for this particular race distance, I felt I should share some of the things I’ve learned over the past several years of running half marathons that I had no clue about when I first started running.
Top-Ten List of Running Tips for the Novice Half Marathoner
- The first mile of the race is not necessarily a predictor of how you’re going to feel for the remaining miles, so don’t let it dictate your results. This was a big lesson for me because I usually don’t start feeling good and in my groove until about mile six or seven. Also, if you haven’t run this distance before, don’t get caught up in the excitement of the race and head out too fast. You’ll thank me at mile 9!
- Don’t worry about the weather until the night before the race. It’s going to change 437 times in the weeks leading up to the race. Hopefully you’ve trained in all weather conditions, which really does help prepare for race day.
- Runners’ feet are ugly and toenails aren’t a necessity. I’ve only lost one toenail (after my first and only full marathon), but have a couple of other toenails that are always attempting to fall off. Ladies (and well-groomed men), don’t waste your money on a pedicure, you’ve spent a lot of time forming those callouses and should plan on keeping them.
- Test out your pre-race meals ahead of time and stick with what works. For me, I’ve discovered that lots of veggies and fiber filled foods are not the best idea the night before a race (hello fajitas and refried beans, I’m talking to you!). While on the food topic, pickle juice is a tasty treat, especially frozen! This is especially true in the summer.
- While on the course, you’ll hear spectators yell “You’re almost there!” – don’t believe them unless you’ve passed the 13-mile marker! Additionally, many of us like to do run/walk intervals, especially for long distances. Resist the urge to throat-punch the guy yelling “don’t give up now, keep running” if he sees you during one of your walk segments!
- There is no such thing as “rolling hills”. Don’t believe any race description that uses those terms. Likewise, if you are running a new-to-you race, it’s always wise to check the elevation chart long before race day, so that if it does have hills, you can train for them.
- No bodily function topics are off-limits with runners, and port-a-potties are sometimes a necessary evil when training for or running a long race. Plan on the lack of toilet paper and hand sanitizer availability to be directly proportional to how bad you need to go.
- If there’s a challenge for the race weekend, sign up for it. Run two races but get three medals? That’s a no-brainer!
- If you plan on running with friends for a half marathon (or any distance for that matter), agree ahead of time whether you are all going to stick together or separate if someone in the group is having a better day than the others. Side note, if you are running in a group, try not to run four or five-across on a narrow path blocking other runners. Try to run in groups of two if the course is crowded.
- This one is important: The week of the race, you will develop all kinds of mysterious pains, cramps, twinges, etc. and think you might have a stress fracture, pulled hamstring, bone spur, shin splints, malaria, bladder infection, appendicitis or other debilitating injury or illness. This is normal – there is nothing wrong with you. You will feel great on race day!
Up Next: 60 Before 60
My next running goal is to finish 60 half marathons by the time I turn 60 in October of next year. Spoiler alert: Crawlin’ Crab is slated to be my 60th half marathon!
Shelley Scott is a J&A Racing Ambassador for the 2019/2020 race season who has run all the races offered by J&A Racing on numerous occasions. Shelley has been a paralegal with a Norfolk law firm for over 32 years and lives in Virginia Beach. She started running in 2013 after losing 85 pounds and loves to travel to races along the East Coast and to the Gulf Coast of Florida where her parents reside. Shelley’s favorite race distance is the half marathon, and she loves mentoring new runners, especially when running their first half marathon. Her favorite J&A races are the Crawlin’ Crab and Norfolk Harbor Half Marathons and she loves being a Corporate 5K Team Captain for her law firm. Her goal is to run 10-12 half marathons a year while staying healthy and having fun.