Half-Marathon Recap: The Music

I have weird rules for when I will listen to music while running.

  • If the run is 5k or less: no music.
  • If the run is 10k or less and outside: no music.
  • If the run is 10k or less and on a treadmill: a podcast or tv show/movie.
  • If the run is longer than 10k: music!

It’s all about focus. If I’m out for a short run, the music is a negative distraction. I want to concentrate on the run and push myself. Those mid-range runs require some distraction when on a treadmill, but I still find the music a nuisance. I’ve been having some luck with podcasts (Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!) and movies (last month, my gym was showing Pride and Prejudice, swoon). Baseball, football, and hockey games are also good on the treadmill.

As I got into the longer distances while training for the half-marathon, though, music shifted and served a different purpose. It became background noise that I could tune into at will and then easily push back again. Because it was a long, slow and steady run, I didn’t need constant energy from the music, but it was really nice to have it when I wanted it.

Over the last several weeks, I cultivated a nearly perfect running playlist. I was looking forward to just hitting shuffle and then reviewing my Spotify history afterwards to review and annotate my “half-marathon playlist.” How fun it was going to be to list out those songs and times and match that up against my RunKeeper race data!

Of course, Spotify has removed this feature from their Android app. All I can do now is cherry-pick a few songs I remember and highlight some of my favorites. (You can find the full playlist here.)

  • “Wake Me Up” has been on my running playlists for several months. The pickups in the chorus are excellent for sprinting intervals.
  • “Wonderland” is just an incredibly fun song and Natalia Kills is awesome.
  • “I Want it All” is basically my “song of the summer” and always provides an extra burst of energy.
  • “XO” is ridiculously slow for a running playlist but I happen to be a slow runner and I love this song.
  • “Turn Down for What” is a terrible song that was playing before JCB and I started our 5k race in April so it injects good memories into the run.
  • “Jealous (I Ain’t With It)” is, I hear, a contender for “song of the summer” but mostly it’s super catchy, fun, and I had a great time at the concert. It was super to have this push me through the second trip over the Mass Ave bridge.
  • “Lo Hecho Está Hecho” has an amazing beat and Shakira is a goddess. This song also reminds me of Zi-Cardio at MaZi Dance Fitness and makes me smile.
  • Lorde’s “Ribs” is also terribly slow for running, but it just works for me.
  • “Stronger – A-Trak Remix” is basically the most perfect remix of this song possible and I could probably just run to this on loop for three hours.
  • I put Whitney’s “How Will I Know” on this list on a whim and it paid off big time. It came on around mile 10 and it was such a fun song to have, totally put me in a different head space.
  • Beyonce’s “Countdown” was, completely by chance, playing as I sprinted to the finish line. I couldn’t have planned that better, if I had planned it!

I am going to try to embrace music on my tempo runs more often. It was really fun to have it and I think it would be nice if I could find a way to have that option more often. So, I’m building a summer 5k training playlist. What do you suggest I put on it?

Half-Marathon Recap and Reflections

I’ve been running for a year. That’s really it, just one year.  My first run was in May of last year, 3.16 miles in 34:28. I regularly use RunKeeper, and I was surprised to see that I have only gone out on 53 runs in the last year. My races have been few: a handful of 5ks, two 10ks, and, as of May 25th, one half-marathon. I headed into this year’s Boston’s Run to Remember already pretty proud of myself: to go from a 5k to 13.1 miles in a year, a year which included no running between November and March at that, was something to celebrate. And the race was really just that: a celebration.

A very tough and at times painful celebration. This was not an easy race for me. I don’t expect anything of this distance to ever be “easy” for me, but I certainly learned some lessons this year that will hopefully make the next half-marathon easier.

1. Follow your training plan. I used this Hal Higdon half-marathon training plan, with a couple tweaks from my trainer. Most weeks, I shuffled runs around. Or had extra rest days. Or skipped my rest day. I ignored speed work almost completely. The only thing I did semi-faithfully was build up my distance by hitting my 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 mile runs.

After my 10 mile run, I was hurting. I was unsure if I was going to be able to run the half. My whole taper week was RICE-ing my (likely) tendinitis and extra yoga classes. I felt very pessimistic about how my body would hold up during the half-marathon and those worries were realized around mile 11 on race day. Indeed, it wasn’t even halfway through the race when my left knee began to bother me, and by the last few miles, my left ankle and right knee joined in.

I actually ran the last two miles more quickly than the previous six though — definitely because I knew the next time I stopped, I was not going to be able to start again. So I wouldn’t be stopping until the finish line!

Next time, I will do better. I will give myself more time to train more slowly for a longer-distance race. Training plans are there for a reason, and building up mileage slowly is a critical aspect of training for most of us. Be patient.

2. Nutrition matters. Every trainer and athlete has some version of this saying: you can’t out-train a poor diet. I completely believe this to be true now. I was perhaps skeptical before; I did not faithfully adhere to this tenet. I will never train for a long-distance race again without making this a visible part of my plan.

Reflecting on how hard this all was, training and the race both, has made diet considerations a matter of practicality actually. Eating for fuel has become more of a natural consideration in my life. Did I have ice cream on vacation in Bar Harbor? Of course. Is it a daily indulgence? No.

3. Go into the race with a goal and a plan. My goal and plan were the same for this first race, actually: to only walk through water stations. It’s pretty typical for a new runner’s goal to be to simply finish, especially when tackling new distances. However, this plan-goal’s specificity gave me something on which to focus my race. There were also ten water stations, fairly evenly spaced, in this race; this plan then guaranteed short bursts of intense focus followed by brief reprieves.

I also carried with me a super-secret pie-in-the-sky goal of running the race in 2:30:00. To do that, I would need to run with just under an 11:30 mile pace, which was about thirty seconds faster than my long runs had been in training. I used my RunKeeper app during the race, and according to that, ran 13.82 miles (wide race!) in 2:42:30, for an average pace of 11:46 per mile. My official time was 2:40:55 over 13.1 miles for an average pace of 12:17 per mile.

Look, honestly, I’m taking that RunKeeper data and sticking that in my brain.

I still consider myself a new runner and, as such, I am still figuring out how to both push myself and pace myself, trying to find that sweet spot of running a steady, “fast” race. I feel pretty good about my pacing in this race though; it seems to fall into a few chunks of steady running:

half-marathon splitsThis race was a success, a very important mark on my life’s timeline.

I set my goal to run this race late in 2013, when I hadn’t been running much and felt like I needed something to work towards. But I only signed up for the race after my job ended. Having this race to focus on, to train for, was an important part of my year. 2014 will always be the year I ran my first half-marathon.

Isn’t it wonderful to have something so grand be this year’s main memory? That’s what running gives me, and I’ll always be grateful for it.