Unless you were taking a social media break, you already know that Tyler and I ran our first half marathon this weekend.
The whole experience was very positive, and I’m so glad we did it. I thought it would be fun to reflect on the experience today and share what I learned through the training process.
We ran the San Diego Beach and Bay Half Marathon which starts and ends in Mission Bay. The course runs along the edge of Sea World, up the boardwalk in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, and then back over to Mission Bay. The course was beautiful and–this is important–basically flat.
The race itself was really well organized. We started right on time, the volunteers were AWESOME, and the vibes were very chill and upbeat. It seemed like there were a bunch of people who had traveled to San Diego for the race which I thought was fun. There were definitely some serious runners in the group but also a lot of people like Tyler and me, in it for the fun challenge and not taking themselves too seriously. I highly recommend this race for anyone who is looking for a simple course with great energy. (It’s also a 5k and 10k!).
Tyler and I had been running VERY casually together since last fall and decided to sign up for the race back in January. We kept to a fairly light training program that I’ll outline below.
I learned a ton from this experience, but please understand that this is by no means some kind of expert guide.
I’ve been recreationally running since grade school (emphasis on recreationally). When I was 24 or 25, I trained for almost a year for a half marathon. My sister, sister-in-law, and I had all signed up for the America’s Finest City Half Marathon in August. In July of that summer, though, I hurt my knee and had to drop out of the race.
The whole experience–training for so long and then not being able to run in the race itself–was really discouraging. After my knee healed, I ran casually here and there but lost my motivation to train for a race.
I got pregnant and had Charlotte in 2018. After giving birth, the thought of running was utterly incomprehensible to me. I took her on a hill walk every single morning, but you couldn’t have paid me a thousand dollars to run a step that year.
I got really into resistance training and focused on that for the next few years. During that time, I got pregnant again and had Emmie. I started riding the Peloton bike and using the Peloton app for my strength workouts religiously. For the time of life (two under two), cycling and resistance training were exactly what I needed.
I needed a change of pace. I remember jogging around my neighborhood one morning last July, just one little lap, and it didn’t feel terrible. So I started doing it more: teeny, tiny jogs around my neighborhood to warm up before a workout or at the beginning of a long walk.
Slowly but surely, I began to enjoy those tiny runs and started building up my stamina. Eventually, I was able to run for 20-25 minutes which may sound like nothing, but after 4 years without running at all, it felt like a big accomplishment.
Tyler started joining me every once in a while, as he too was ready to mix up his cardio routine. After a few months of casual neighborhood jogs, we started talking about the idea of training for a race together. We had both become super into the idea of adding more “Zone 2” cardio to our weekly workout regimens–very nerdy, I know. I blame Andrew Huberman and Peter Attia for this.
We ran together just once or twice a week for months until we finally worked our way up to five miles in January. That very same day, we came home and signed up for the half marathon.
We kept things pretty low key in our training for this race and only ran a couple of times per week after preschool drop off. We ran 3-5 miles on Mondays and then did our “long run” on Friday mornings. On Wednesdays, we did either a Peloton cycling class or sprint intervals on the treadmill at the Y. (We continued to resistance train on the other days).
We tried to add a mile a week to the Friday morning “long run,” but between various illnesses and minor injuries, we ended up adding a mile every three weeks or so. The most we got up to was 10 miles which is less than we had planned. Such is life with small kids and a tighter timeline, I suppose.
I joked about this already on Instagram, but Tyler and I were at odds all weekend about what pace to run the race at. Tyler got it in his head that he wanted to break two hours, so he wanted to start at an 8:40 pace. I, however, did not care about the two hour goal and would have been fine running the whole thing at a 9:30-40 pace.
After much deliberation, we ended up starting out with an 8:40 pace and stuck with that for the first 7 or so miles. I made the mistake of not using the bathroom at mile 3 and then ended up REALLY having to go later in the race. We stopped to use the bathroom at mile 10 and then completely broke down after that, LOL! I think the bathroom stop killed all of our momentum–it felt truly impossible to get back into a groove after that. I think this combined with the fact that we didn’t run more than 10 miles before the race made those last 2 miles *excruciating*.
In the end, our time was 2:06–not too shabby if you ask me–with an average pace of 9:40 per mile which was, ironically, the pace I had originally planned on running before Tyler got swept up with the idea that we needed to become elite athletes.
Although we aren’t thrilled with our finishing splits, I think it was a pretty solid performance all things considered. I’m really glad we did it, and I’d put money on us doing it again–if anything, to redeem our mile 11-13 performance.
Despite our race-weekend bickering about pace, the whole project was a net positive on our relationship.
We had never done something like this before together! I feel like we bonded so much as a couple and it felt like a great time in life to do this. We’ve spent the last 4 years totally focused on the girls. Now that the girls are at preschool a few mornings a week, we felt like it was a good time to take on a little project together, just for us.
It was just fun to get OUTSIDE together too. We had so much fun finding running routes throughout San Diego and just enjoying some fresh air together without the girls screaming at us from the stroller, lol. We explored Coronado, Miramar Lake, Mission Bay, and even ran along the harbor downtown a few times. There isn’t a better place to train for a race than San Diego, in my opinion.
My brother and his wife are super into hiking and climbing together, and I’ve always been really inspired by the way that hobby has strengthened their bond. And while jogging around Mission Bay is NOT the same as summiting Mt. Rainier, I do get why they do it now. It was fun to conquer a challenge together, despite our mile 8 bickering.
Despite being almost six years older than when I made my first attempt at a half marathon, I felt SO much better this time. I think a variety of factors went into this.
Again, not an expert, but these are just a few things that helped me that I thought I’d share:
I think spending several months of just running “for fun” without a goal looming ahead made this entire venture possible. My body had adjusted to the idea of running by the time we signed up, so the endeavor wasn’t as insurmountable.
Also, in general, we didn’t really ever take the training too seriously. We viewed the long runs as a fun chance to practice our slow, methodical cardio and didn’t pay much attention to our pace on those runs. We listened to country music and embraced the “quality” time.
The last time I trained for a half marathon, I ran 4-5 times a week. I battled shin splints the entire time, and I think it was just too much running, frankly. I ended up with “runner’s knee” which ultimately took me out of the race. This might not be a popular opinion, but I think running only a couple of times per week this time preserved my knees and shins and allowed me to train in a more sustainable way.
The biggest difference between the first time I trained and this last time is that I am just much stronger now. I have been lifting weights way more consistently than I was when I was in my early twenties. Running takes a huge toll on the body, and I think having more muscle allowed my joints to handle those long runs way better. I continued to strength train throughout all of our training too which I think helped a lot.
I don’t know a lot, but I do know that stretching is CRUCIAL. When I got injured in 2017, the sports medicine doctor that I saw told me that runner’s knee can often be directly attributed to a weak IT band (the tendon that runs along the side of the leg from the pelvis down to the knee). I remember him saying that stretching and foam rolling the IT band is really important for runners.
This time around, I was absolutely maniacal about stretching. I stretched before and after every run AND on off-days too. And I also foam rolled once or twice a week. I relied on the Peloton app for these sessions to make sure I wasn’t taking any short cuts.
It seems like I am getting to the point in life where even so much as glancing at a glass of wine gives me a hangover. I’ve talked about this a bit the last couple of years, but Tyler and I have both slowed down on drinking quite a bit. We aren’t super strict, but I’d say we try to limit it to once or twice a month these days.
In the 4-6 weeks leading up to the race, I don’t think we drank more than once or twice, and we also tried to limit dessert too. I just noticed that running after a night of cookies or chocolate felt SO much harder. Cutting those things out seemed like the logical thing to do.
Tyler still disagrees with me, but I think it would have been better for us to start the race at a slower pace and then pick it up if we felt good. 8:40 was just too fast for me (for where I was at with my training, anyway), and I crashed. Our splits would have been more even, and–more importantly–we would have enjoyed the last three miles more had we started off slower.
It was super interesting to see how the more experienced runners handled race day, and I made sure to TAKE NOTES from some of these super fit girls for next time.
One thing I noticed was that a ton of people jogged over to the public bathrooms at the mile 3 mark. I remember thinking, “It’s a bit early for that, isn’t it?” but sure enough, by mile 6, I was wishing I had gone and was pretty uncomfortable for the better part of the race. I realize now that going earlier in the race makes WAY more sense because you have enough energy to pick your momentum back up. Stopping to use the bathroom at mile 10 was simply idiotic, looking back, lol.
If you have access to a great running store, I definitely recommend visiting one to get fitted for shoes that are suited for your foot type and gait. Roadrunner Sports in San Diego is incredible.
For what it’s worth, Tyler and I both ended up running the race in Hoka Clifton 9 which we both really loved (men’s linked here). These are by far the cushiest shoes I’ve tried, and they still provide a good amount of stability. I will likely wear these all summer on mom walks and travel days too.
I was glad that most of our training took place during the cooler spring months because I was able to wear leggings. This was so much more comfortable for me than running shorts–I felt streamlined and didn’t have to deal with any of the fun chafing that I always get when I run in shorts. I LOVE the Fast and Free tights from Lululemon. I paired these with an Align crop top week after week and will never look back.
It’s a pre-weekend pick me up: just a little note with links to the latest blog posts, what I’m reading lately, and products I’m obsessed with. Think of it as a friend dropping off a surprise latte in the morning--you know?