This past Saturday, I ran my first sub 2-hour half marathon on one of the hardest courses I’ve ever attempted at West Point.
It was a complete and utter surprise for many reasons, the main one being that I did not train nearly as much as I should have, at least according to standard running programs. While most running programs recommend running 30+ miles per week, I averaged 15 miles per week and just barely completed the longer training runs.
I wasn’t expecting to blow my PR (Personal Record) out of the water that day. But now that I have, I’ve been trying to cobble together a list of the things that might have helped me get there:
- Low-carb training: While on the Wild Diet, I’d been doing most of my longer runs (6-10 miles) with hardly anything in my stomach. If I did eat before a run, it was usually a few nuts or a small piece of fruit, but nothing compared to the giant oatmeal bowl that I would eat pre-Wild Diet. This led to some gnarly first long runs, but eventually my body adapted to low-carb training and I got used to running on empty.
- Pre-race carb feasting: On the day before and day of the actual race, I let myself go to town on the carbohydrates. The day before, I kept it to a fairly modest dinner of macadamia crusted cod, sweet potatoes, steamed kale and rice. The day-of, I had my pre-race oatmeal along with two granola bars. During the race, I drank Gatorade whenever possible and topped off with a Gu at mile ten. My low-carb training might have made me extra-sensitive, because I definitely felt the kick from that Gu!
- Hills, stairs and more hills: I knew that this was going to be a very hilly course, so I planned ahead by making almost every run into a hill run and seeking out stairs whenever possible. This might have helped to counter-act the low mileage, since the miles I was running were very difficult.
- Strength training: Any seasoned distance runner knows that high mileage puts a lot of wear and tear on your body. I was able to avoid most of that by keeping my mileage low and focusing on strength training instead, which helped my body to recover between training runs. I did three strength training sessions per week that concentrated on plyometrics and body strength moves like push-ups, burpees, squats and lunges.
So that’s everything that I can think of, plus I was following the Wild Diet closely the entire time. I more or less broke the traditional training rules according to most running sources, but in my mind that doesn’t matter if the results are there!