Helpful Hints For Middle-of-the-Pack Half-Marathoners
[The article below is a review I wrote of the 2001 Half that had some helpful race day hints for middle-of-the-pack runners. ]
The 18th Annual Nittany Valley Half-Marathon is now history. Sunday's event was a record: 301 registrants and 279 finishers! The weather was ideal. The race was well-run by organizers Dave Eggler and Morgan Wasikonis, who recruited a small army of volunteers. In short, every thing was just about perfect. The results are now on-line and should also appear in the coming newsletter.
As someone who ran a PR by nearly 5 minutes, I think I'm in a position to give a few "Helpful Hints" for those middling runners who might be thinking of training for next year's race.
(1) Take the time to talk to people at the beginning of the race. I'm not just talking about before the race, either. Being too keyed up and going out too fast are the bane of any distance runner. And at the half-marathon distance, you pay a steep penalty for mistakes made at the beginning of the race. If you spend the first mile or two making some idle chatter with other runners, you'll relax and you won't go out too fast.
(2) Run with people who are running your speed. Sounds almost redundant, doesn't it? Well, after a couple of miles, you'll find yourself with a certain cohort of people that you'll likely still be with toward the end of the race. Enjoy the give-and-take with these people. Try to stick with them when you feel like giving up, encourage them if they start falling behind you.
(3) Get religion. People keep reminding me of my capsule review of "The Half" that is on the NVHM page: "The last mile is designed to make you see God." In all seriousness, a good Catholic, for example, has just about enough time to say the Rosary during the last three miles, about when he needs it most. Others might seek to steel themselves with meditation. But whether you seek heavenly intercession or self-willed resolve, you could certainly spend the time in worse ways, like cursing the demons that have moved into your quadriceps.
(4) Duct tape. My involvement with the Boy Scouts has taught me that duct tape is great for covering blisters. I don't have that problem when I run. However, ask any runner who wears cotton on a cool day about the pain of "booby burn". Actually, you don't have to ask him (Him? Do women get this?). You'll see the stigmata, the two crimson blotches on his chest. After this "sandpaper treatment", the post-race shower is no longer enjoyable, but excruciating. Try the "silver solution". It works!