Taking on your first half marathon? Here are some words of wisdom from a 2017 first timer!

January 10, 2018 // Rachel Ellis

For many of our Bath Halfers, Sunday March 4th 2018 will be the first time that they have taken on a half marathon. It can feel a bit scary, especially around this time of year when you might be starting to worry how you get from your level of fitness now, to having a half marathon in your legs by race day.

With that in mind, we thought we’d interview someone who was in the same boat at the 2017 Bath Half. Lil Morris is a regular on the @BathHalf twitter feed and ran the Bath Half for the first time in March 2017. We asked Lil if she’d mind telling us about her experiences of preparing for her first half, and about race day here in Bath…

Hello Lil, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
By day I work for a well-known communications company in their field sales public sector team, this is still quite a new role for me involving a lot of time spent travelling. I live with my fiancée and our three lurchers. I would love to be able to run with the dogs but am afraid they are much too speedy for me! I’ve been going to the gym since my 20’s (I’m 35 now) but I’d never considered myself a runner until March 2016, when I started with the only intention to do the Sport Relief mile. In March 2017 I ran the Bath Half Marathon!

Why the Bath Half?
The Bath Half is very local to me, I’m in Bath frequently and love it there. From a running perspective it was always advised as being a great course, both fast and flat with fantastic local support.

How did you get started with your training?
Once I had got over the initial shock of signing up I carried on with my usual running routine until the New Year when the 12-week wobbles kicked in. Before I started training I asked advice from other runners as well as googling training plans. Places like Runners World have a wealth of resource online and it’s all free, you can pick a plan which best suits you and your level of experience.

Did you follow a training plan?
I did follow a 12-week training plan, for me I had two aims which were to get around without stopping and to not get injured! To do this I increased my mileage gradually week on week so as not to over train and get injured in the process. For me this was a 4/5 mile run during the week, parkrun on a Saturday morning and then a longer run on Sundays. Each Sunday I increased the mileage getting up to a 10-mile run, at that stage I knew I would at least make it around the course.

Did you stick to a running routine?
My routine has changed slightly now as I am just about to start my own training plan again for the 2018 race. I now do an interval speed session one evening a week, a 4/5 mile run at another day in the week and ParkRun on a Saturday. My Sunday training runs have recently been replaced by races, however this will be changing going into the New Year again.

Tell us about your Race Day?
My race day was fantastic from start to finish. I was very fortunate as I had many friends who were also running the half, some had run it a few times whereas others were running it for the first time like myself. I have to admit I didn’t get the best night’s sleep the day before but I was so excited when it got to the morning that I didn’t care!

The atmosphere at the runners’ village beforehand was amazing – although I did get nervous when we had to start walking to our start pen – I think it had sunk in what I was about to attempt! When we actually got moving those pre-race nerves completely vanished, the crowd support was brilliant from start to finish as were the bands. My personal favourite was definitely the samba band at Queens Square.

I ran the majority of the race with my friends, Terry and Dave, and for the first loop we ran at a comfortable pace and were able to talk and have a laugh. I barely noticed we were actually running! It was only when we got to mile 11 that my legs started to ache and it became more of a mental battle as I knew I didn’t have far to go.

Terry and I ran the final mile or so together and I did get quite emotional as we ran up the final straight, I don’t know how but I had enough in me still to do a sprint finish, clocking in a chip time of 2:20:58. Afterwards was a blur, I was on such a high and was for days after.

What are your tips for Race Day, especially for those new to running or new to the Bath Half?
I appreciate it’s not always easy due to the queues – but try to use the toilet facilities as much as you can in the morning – pre-race nerves can play havoc with your digestive system! I would also suggest wearing an old sweater or similar for the start and discarding it as you set off [editor’s note –all discarded clothing is collected up by one of our race charities – please discard it at the side of your start pen] It warmed up on the day this year however the half is two weeks earlier in 2018 and likely to be chilly.

I also try to chunk up the race to make it easier mentally, for me I have the 10k point, then 10 miles and then I know it’s only a ParkRun to go to the finish!

We hear that you’ll be running the Bath Half again in 2018. Does that mean you officially have the running bug?
I definitely have the running bug. Since completing the Bath Half, I have gone on to complete two more half marathons and my aim now is to gain a new PB when running the half in 2018, I have my training plan and started it before Christmas.

Often at the Bath Half we say that the hardest bit of a run is getting from your comfy sofa, or you warm bed to your doorstep. Would you agree?
I would definitely agree, especially in the weather we have recently been experiencing. Once you have been running a few minutes though you soon warm up and get into the swing of it, and I know I will always feel great once I have completed my run as well. I’m lucky as I have a fantastic group of friends and can usually run with someone else rather than on my own, it makes it much more social then. I’m also part of a local running club who organise group runs too, especially useful with the darker evenings.

Do you have any words of wisdom or words of encouragement for any first timers who might be having a case of the 8-weeks-to-go wobbles?
I would honestly say just go for it as you won’t regret it, if you put in the training and believe you can do it you will. The day itself is truly fantastic and will all be worth it.

Many thanks to Lil for sharing her experiences. We’ll be catching up with her again for the Bath Half Blog before the big day.