Crossing the Simplyhealth Great North Run finish line last month, along with 50,000 other runners was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.
The crowds lining the streets were incredible, the volunteers at water stations were brilliant and the messages written on the tops of fellow runners explaining why they were running for certain charities was a constant reminder to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Here are the six most important things I learnt from training for, and successfully completing, my first half marathon:
1. Never underestimate yourself
If you would have told me 12 weeks ago, when I embarked on half marathon training, that I would cross the line in 1:43, I would’ve probably laughed in your face, but I did it.
That goes to show how much you can surprise yourself if you set a goal and fully commit to it.
Running has never been my fitness strong point, let alone a half marathon distance, but I was determined to give the Simplyhealth Great North Run my all.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Following a structured training programme and calling on advice from those more experienced than me was a must.
I was never left trying to figure out the details of my training or if I was overdoing it. The training plan was set in place so the stress was taken away from me. All I had to do was complete the sessions.
3. Listen to your body
Yes, take advice from experienced runners, but you know your body best.
If a muscle feels tight or there’s a nagging pain that won’t go away, don’t be frightened to step away from your training to visit a professional.
4. Seek professional advice
With my Simplyhealth Active Plan helping me to cover the costs, I was able to see a qualified physiotherapist regularly to help with shin, calf and Achilles strains.
This was invaluable for getting to the start line with confidence and feeling I was able to perform my best when it counted.
5. Keep things varied
It’s really beneficial to have a training schedule with variety, too. I would complete one interval session on the treadmill in the week, then one longer steady-state run outdoors on the weekend.
This kept training fresh and interesting, with the distances and intervals changing weekly.
6. Monitor as you go
My coach and I would often monitor my heart rate to determine rest periods or intensity, which meant I never felt burnt out from training.
7. You can run AND strength train
As someone who wanted to keep up strength work in the gym and continue with CrossFit while training for the half marathon, burnout or the feeling of exhaustion was something I feared.
However, by fuelling training properly – with enough calories, good sources of carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, fruits) and quality protein (lean meats and fish) – I felt strong, mobile and was able to recover well between sessions.
8. It’s more than just a one-day event
I can safely say that running has become a part of my life – and I never thought I’d ever say that.
Training for a half marathon wasn’t just brilliant for my physical fitness but it did wonders for my mental health as it became a key way to de-stress from everyday life.
9. It’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone
So, if you want to live a healthier and happier life, set a challenging goal that’s out of your comfort zone and go chase it down. It’ll be one of the best decisions you make.
Whether you’re training for your first race or aiming for a personal best, Simplyhealth supports runners every step of the way. Follow the journey #MyEveryStep. For more information about the Simplyhealth Active Plan visit simplyhealth.co.uk/active or call 0330 102 5356