Take it from someone that's been there, training for a half-marathon in just 40 days means you might end up completing the course, but you learn some hard lessons along the way. From bleeding nipples to toilet etiquette, Mike takes us on his journey with plenty of tips and insights. And if you only take one thing away from reading it, it's to remember to always, always use Vaseline on your thighs...
1. Running wearing glasses is rubbish, especially if you’re like me and wear those thick-framed heavy ones that were really trendy about five years ago.
2. Having non-rubbish trainers makes a massive difference, but at the same time it’s easy to get bogged down in all the advertising jargon the big companies throw at you. When it comes to choosing shoes for half marathon training, I'd say go for straight-up comfort, and try to tune out all the patter about "rubberised NASA-tech soles from the year 2047".
3. Running into work in the morning is hard to force yourself to do, but it's great. You feel like you've achieved something before your day has actually begun. It's like a bonus. Only if you can shower at work though – you don’t want to be the office 'smelly one'.
4. If you are running into work and showering there, do not stuff your wet towel in a drawer and forget about it. It’ll get ripe as hell.
5. Turns out that stretching before and after running is the difference between being fine the next day and waddling around, wincing with every step whenever you descend some stairs.
6. If you go to a running club and someone offers you a map, take the map. I didn't do this, and I got separated from everyone, and I ended up running down a packed high street full of startled old people.
There’s also some comfort to be had in other people’s red faces
7. Running with others is way easier and more rewarding than running on your own. You’re less likely to sack it all off because you don’t want to look rubbish, and there’s someone to go to the pub with afterwards. There’s also some comfort to be had in other people’s red faces and general knackeredness – not in a nasty way, just in solidarity.
8. Listening to stuff while running can go both ways. I found that listening to music kind of messed with my pacing. I wasn’t hypnotised into performing an impromptu street-dance or anything, it just got my pacing all cocked-up.
9. 40 days goes by way faster than you expect it to. A few long weekends and some “I’ll definitely run tomorrow"s and you’re there, it's race day, and you're unprepared and scared and sad.
10. I'd signed up for the Hackney Half Marathon with some friends. They'd done ten-mile practice runs, and so were feeling a lot more confident than me on race day. I’d done about half that distance, tops.
11. That first 0.1 of a mile is slightly further than you feel it should be when you realise you have to do 130 more of them.
People who’d look for your name and shout encouragement really helped
12. When there are people lining the sides of the track with their arms out for a high-five, don’t leave them hanging. Little things like that and the nice people who’d look for your name and shout encouragement really helped.
13. Try not to go to the toilet during the race. Not only are there big queues, making you lose time, you also lose who you were running with. I ran into a pub and bellowed “CAN I USE YOUR TOILET?" and they let me, because I think they assumed I was about to shit myself, but when I came out my friends were way ahead of me, which made carrying on more difficult. I picked various people near me to try and keep pace with, but some of those bastards were really fast.
14. Doing maths is a fun way to distract yourself from the pain you're in. At one point I was trying to figure out how far I’d gone in terms of percentages and fractions, and worked out I was eight-thirteenths of the way though. That was just past the eight-mile mark. One thirteenth of thirteen miles is a mile. I am both an idiot and a dork.
My arse was a waking nightmare and my perineum felt like Chechnya
15. Listen to your (or my) dad: When I said I was doing the run, my dad kept telling me I should put Vaseline on my thighs. I didn't listen, opting to repeatedly shout, "Dad, stop saying Vaseline and thighs" instead. One half-marathon later, my inner thighs were scarlet, my arse was a waking nightmare and my perineum felt like Chechnya.
16. There are way more nerve endings in my nipples than I had realised. My dad had warned me about that as well, but I’d been fine on shorter practice runs so I ignored him and ended up with blood pumping out of diamond-hard peaks of agony. Next time I guess I’ll wear a sports bra or something. It probably won’t look too cool, but neither do bleeding tits.
Don't judge me, but I ate it
17. It turns out I’m not above picking a half-drunk bottle of Lucozade Sport up off the floor and drinking it. I also found an unopened sachet of one of those energy gels, and for some reason just spotting it gave me a massive boost. Don't judge me, but I ate it. Hey, those things are a bit snotty, aren’t they?
18. As soon as you cross the line (2hrs 10mins, thanksforasking), you’ll start thinking about how much better you could have done if you’d done a few little things differently, like avoided the toilet, or had a haircut in the week prior to keep yourself cooler, or eaten that little bit more/less/better stuff for breakfast. But then someone gives you a medal and you feel pretty ace. Also a banana, but you’re less likely to keep that.
Feeling inspired to take on a running event yourself? Hit up our Pick A Challenge section and find the right one for you