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5 Things I Learned While Half-Marathon Training

Marnie Soman Schwartz

It’s amazing how quickly the last three months have passed: In less than a week, I’ll be running the Airbnb Brooklyn Half! When I started training, I was excited and nervous, and thirteen weeks later that’s still true. But I’m also confident that I can do this—as my weekly miles have gone up and up, I’ve become stronger, faster, and ready to take on 13.1. No matter what happens next Saturday, I’m already so glad that I took on this challenge. It’s made me a better runner, a more self-assured athlete, and a smarter scheduler (fitting in six workouts a week is no joke!). I’ve also learned some important lessons along the way.

What you eat affects your performance, and you don’t have to be an elite athlete to feel a difference. As a nutrition editor, this was something I already knew—in my head. But never before have I personally experienced the effects so acutely. If I had greasy pizza and beer for dinner, the next morning’s workout felt like hell. If I fueled up properly before a run, I had a much more enjoyable session. (Read more about the nutrition tips I picked up, including how to beat running-induced hunger.)

Winter doesn’t banish you to exercising indoors. This past winter was a pretty terrible one, but I had a relatively good season. The short, cold days didn’t bother me as much as they usually do, and I think it’s because I spent a good amount of time exercising outdoors. It’s so easy to stay cooped up in the winter, but a little fresh air—even when it’s freezing cold air—makes most days happier. And, in my opinion, while running in freezing temps can be difficult, running in scorching ones is worse. (Please remind me of this when I start complaining about the cold next winter!)

Having a goal—a concrete one with a deadline—is an amazing motivator. Aiming to lose a few pounds or wanting more defined abs has never been enough to make me consistently choose working out over sleeping in, or yoga over happy hour. Vague goals can always be pushed to next week, but this race is happening on May 16th—whether or not I’m ready. Deadlines work for me, and I plan on signing up for another race as soon as this one is over.

Running is an incredible way to get to know a place. I’ve always liked running on vacation, and the long run I did in Paris ended up being a highlight of my trip. But my regular local runs have also helped me get to know New York City in a new way. Before training for the half, I’d never run the full Central Park loop, or even around the reservoir there. And it’s not just the sights: I see a lot of the same people on weekday mornings, and being out in the park or on the river paths four or five days a week has made me feel like part of the city’s running community. It’s nice to see familiar faces and feel like a part of something bigger (than yourself) and also smaller (than the expansive city).

Road races are awesome, inspiring, events. The 10K race I did a few weeks ago was pretty small, with a few hundred people in each event. But the energy of the other runners was infectious and the enthusiasm of the crowd was uplifting. It was inspiring to see runners of all ages and abilities giving something their all. And next week, there will be more than 25,000 runners. That blows my mind… and I can’t wait to be a part of it.

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