Let's get this straight to start with: I'm not a runner.
At school, I was the girl that slunk back to avoid cross-country. I couldn’t run for more than ten minutes without feeling like I was about to die. I just am not built to be a runner.
Last spring, after a bottle of wine or two, a group of mates and I decided to sign up to a half marathon.
The next morning I instantly regretted it. Yet somehow, I managed to drag myself out of the house three times a week to pound the pavement, in the hope that I would just about make it over the finish line.
Clearly I am by no means an expert, but here are few things I learnt when prepping for my first half marathon...
You Don't Have To Run The Full Thing Before The Day
13.1 miles is a long way. It can seem physically impossible when you're only used to running four or five miles in one go.
Then I spoke to a friend who had just done her first half marathon.
"You don't have to run the full distance before the day," she said. "I only did nine miles before the final race..." I instantly felt better.
Come race day, you'll be able to pull those extra four miles out of the bag. We promise.
There's No Shame In The Walk/Run
I thought you had to run the whole thing to be considered a ‘true runner’.
Ideally, you would run the whole thing, but who gives a damn if you don't?
The more I read and talked to people, the more I realised that the walk/run technique is nothing to be ashamed of. You're not a failure if you decide to walk for a few minutes.
Hills might be your worst enemy. If you power walk to the top and then still run five miles afterwards, that's pretty good going.
Having A Good Playlist Is Key
Music is crucial for when you need a mile five pick-me-up.
Make sure you put together a good playlist with uplifting tunes for when your energy dips.
Outkast, The Beastie Boys, The Prodigy - whack 'em all in there.
Destiny's Child Survivor might be cheesy but it also might save you when you think your legs are about to give way.
Check out our Cooler running playlists for inspiration.
Compression Leggings Help Sore Legs
Serious calf pain affects all runners at some point– everything from shin splints to muscle ache.
If this is your first half, then the chances are you'll be pushing yourself harder than ever before.
A friend of mine - who doesn't ordinarily buy into fitness fads - says compression socks actually work. They are meant to increase the blood circulation in your legs, reducing pain after running.
Sweaty Betty has some compression leggings which I’m dying to give a try.
Make Sure You Eat A Big Breakfast On Race Day
Eat a big breakfast on the day of the race. We're not talking a greasy fry up or something that's going to make you want to vom half way through.
A large bowl of porridge topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries is perfect. Get Deliciously Ella's recipe here.
I like to have a banana an hour before the race begins, just to make sure I've got enough full for the long haul.
Get There Early
Unexpected traffic for a Sunday morning? Car won't start? There's nothing more stressful than being late for your first half marathon.
Your stomach is probaby already feeling nervous. Be kind to yourself and leave plenty of time to get to the start line.
Aim to be there at least an hour before, so you can have a wee, do a warm up and get in the right spot for the start horn.
Things Will Get Hard Around Mile 10
You've already run nine miles, you're smiling and dancing along to your music. Then suddenly, a wave of fatigue hits you.
For me, it came out of the blue around the mile 10 mark. My knees started to hurt, a stitch began to ache in my side.
The last few miles are a killer, but you will do it. Keep on pushing forward and encouraging your mates if they are flagging too.
Work Out Your Transport To And From The Finish Line
The relief when you finish is like nothing else. You're legs will ache, but you and your mates will be on a total high.
Then you realise there is an hour long queue for the shuttle buses back to the car park - and you haven't eaten anything since breakfast.
Either ask a mate to pick you up afterwards in their car or book a taxi. Make sure you bring a post-race snack, so you don't faint on the way home.
You'll Want A Jumper Afterwards
This is something I forgot - and totally regretted. Remember what your mother used to tell you and bring a jumper to the finish line.
Yes, you feel disgustingly hot and sweaty when you finish, but within minutes your body temperature will cool down and you will be freezing.
Jumpers, a jacket, even a hat could all come in handy.
Celebrate With A Post-Race Lunch
You've run 13.1 miles - you deserve a damn fine lunch.
Book a table at a restaurant nearby and treat yourself to a proper slap up meal. We're talking three courses and a large jug of water to help you re-hydrate.
Who cares if you stink of sweat? You deserve that large chilli cheeseburger with extra fries - and a milkshake on the side.