Soon I will be Half Awesome!


When Collin and I decided to postpone our move to Cape Town by two months, one of my first “I wish I would have known!” thoughts was “I could have signed up for the Pittsburgh half marathon!”

I was really sad when I saw that the registration was already closed, and Collin did that guy thing of “I hate seeing you upset and thinking I could conceivably held responsible, I must try to fix this!”  So he found the work-around of running the half marathon to sponsor a charity.  So I will be running the Pittsburgh half marathon on May 6, half-crossing something off my bucket list.  And raising money for charity (although only because I have no other choice), so I have another reason to be half smug.

The charity I’m sponsoring is Girls on the Run, which “encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running.”  Basically, they run fun programs for young girls that train them to run a 5k.  To be totally honest, I pretty much picked this charity because it was the first one Collin pointed me to that was lady-specific, but I do think their mission statement is pretty awesome.  Something I am still unreasonably proud of is that when I was in the fifth grade I ran the fastest mile of any girl in my school (and, I always obnoxiously add, the second-fastest time of any KID in my school).  So having found some amount of self-respect through running as a preteen girl, it feels good to pay it forward.

I need to raise $262 dollars (I have no idea where that number comes from, I’m just going with it), so I would tremendously appreciate contributions, no matter how tiny.  To donate, go here!

But wait, I’m not just begging for money! I’m also begging for training advice.  I know a lot of you have already trained for distance races, and I’d love to hear any wisdom you may have to share.  Should I follow my long run day with a rest day or an “active recovery” day.  How do I work strength training into my schedule? How can I improve my performance on hills? What should I be eating? Am I really going to screw myself over if I get drunk two days before Race Day? How can I manage my crowd anxiety at the start line?  PLEASE ADVISE!



  1. $262 is $20/mile. Also that’s awesome! I’m running one this month, but not for charity, and the only running record I set in school was for most-excuses-to-avoid-running-a-mile. So. I can’t wait to read our TOTALLY THE SAME race day blog posts side-by-side.

    • But seriously, our posts will be similar, because we sound like, “hey… I’m doing this running thing… but I’m not really in your cult” people. Like Katie Holmes and Scientology, minus the adorable children in heels.

  2. i think the answers to your questions depend on whether you are running to half-check this off your list or to hit a time goal. if you will feel great just for finishing it, then the being-drunk-two-days-before-the-race thing is totally fine. also i am a strong proponent of active recovery via yoga the day after a long run but that’s just my personal preference based on no science.

    • EXCELLENT POINT! I am running this to check it off my list. My only time goal is to not get kicked off the course by the pace cars. Also, I am a huge pilates fan and was hoping I could use that as part of my training program (especially because I have been off the pilates wagon and feeling weaker/flabbier for it), even though it isn’t cardio. I think the active recovery day would be perfect for that kind of workout.

      • Do not get drunk two days before the race. Because if you are doing this to check this off your bucket list, you will feel really crummy about doing it if you have to walk for any of the race, let alone half of it. You probably process alcohol better than me, but seriously, if I have 1-2 drinks within two days of running, I’m dehydrated and sloooooooooooow.

  3. Jon ran the Pittsburg Half last year! From what I can remember … work on those hills (apparently the bridges are killer). The starting line was pretty casual and easy to navigate (Jon was in the very first coral, and I was able to stay with him until about 5 minutes before the start), so I wouldn’t worry too much there. =)

    Advice for anyone who might be cheering you on? Start out at the starting line (on the left side of the street) to cheer everyone as they start … and then go get yourself some coffee at Starbucks (right on the corner, there). By the time you make it through the outrageous line there, you have time to walk straight down that street to the 12 mile mark (about a quarter of a mile or so) … just in time to see the first halfers run through. When you see your runner go by, walk to the finish area … by the time you get there your runner be through the madness that is the finishers pavilion. EASIEST. SPECTATOR. SET UP. EVER.

    Catching a cab afterwards was difficult (we had to get almost a mile out of the race area before we saw one), but not terrible. So work out a plan for getting home afterwards.

    Oh, and the expo was FANTASTIC! My favorite, by far. I could have just wandered in there, all day!

    Hooray! Have fun!!

    • Collin has run the half or full marathon in Pittsburgh every year we’ve been together so I’m pretty familiar with the trickiness of getting there/getting home. He was all, “Huff, the hills aren’t that bad!” But he’s a jerk like that.

  4. re: crowd anxiety – just remember that everyone there is excited for you, no matter what you do. you could show up in your underwear and dance around… people might actually be more excited about that and/or the police might show up just for you… but they’ll still be excited for you. :o D

    then, beyond that, you’re usually allowed to wear headphones & listen to music. totally do this & drown out the crowds so you’re not even paying attention to them. put up psychological blinders and just run. if you practice doing this while training, it’ll be easier on the big day (just be safe while training, don’t let your psychological blinders mean you stop paying attention to traffic lights/cars!).

    • There’s some trails within a mile from our house, so I’m hopelessly used to running without concern of traffic. Whenever I run on the real streets (for a change of scenery or to get more distance or some better hills) I find myself super skittish about traffic. On race day, I will probably be so happy to avoid cars that I won’t mind all the extra people. Maybe. We’ll see.

  5. Jog at a snails pace for 20-30 minutes the day after your long run. Focus on doing core strengthening like whoa 2-3 times/week. Eat within 30 minutes of finishing a run. Run hills a lot, and run them fast, but during the race, keep your effort going up a hill the same (aka slow down). Eat whatever you want, as long as what you want is a ton of carbs. Don’t get drunk two days beforehand. $262 stands for 26.2 miles. Invest in the cutest damn running clothes possible. Learn to love gu. Get a good headband.

    Three cheers for half marathons!

    • Just to clarify the whole getting drunk two days before race day thing… we’re probably leaving Pittsburgh early the next week. My birthday is Monday, May 7. I’m theoretically planning a massive goodbye/birthday party on Friday, May 5, with a more intimate goodbye on the Monday with my friends, and an actual departure a day later or so. I really am running this to finish it more than anything else. Am I still crazy to plan that May 5 party?

  6. I think the only way to know whether or not you can plan the crazy May 5th party is to test drinking and then running 10+ miles the next day. Although you can never really plan for it, because the mix of adrenaline and everything else just makes race day kind of nuts. I personally wouldn’t risk it, because I’ve had enough baaaaad post-drinking runs (frequent bathroom stops bad) to last me a lifetime. I actually stopped drinking two weeks ago and will not start again until after the marathon on March 18, which is how seriously I take not-drinking-and-running.

    I follow my long run days with an active recovery day – either yoga or ice hockey or treadmill walking. I think it helps loosen everything up. I’m a big fan of yoga to build core strength and leg strength and help you stay calm at the start line. (I’m prone to mid-race panic attacks and they blow.)

    Only way to improve your performance on hills is to run hills. A lot of hills. When you run them, either look at the sky or imagine the top of the hill is 10% further than it actually is – you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you get to the top.

  7. My advice would simply be to listen to your body. If something hurts, stop running! That sounds obvious but I injured myself training for my first half because I was obsessed with hitting my mileage goal. Stop if it hurts, and don’t guilt yourself over taking a day off.

    If you’re worried about crowds, I’d start toward the back of the pack. The people back there are not going to be overly concerned with pushing past others because they won’t be aiming to finish fast. I actually have a friend who shows up late every year so she can avoid the crush at the beginning, and it makes sense because your timing chip doesn’t start until you cross the start line anyway!

    Personally I think you’ll be fine drinking on the Friday before, but definitely do not drink any alcohol on Saturday! And do not eat anything unusual to your diet in the few days leading up to the race!

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