I don't really know why I decided I wanted to run a half-marathon. I think it fell somewhere between wanting to put all the miles I was running toward a goal and wanting my future grandkids to think I did some cool things back in my day. There's a lot of things out there about half-marathons, though, things that made me feel like maybe I wasn't cut out for it or the "type" of person who ran one.
Looking back, I think it was stubbornness more than athleticism that got me across the finish line. It wasn't easy by any means, but it also wasn't quite as difficult as I'd expected. So I'm glad for that stubbornness, because without it, I may have given in to the negativity and missed out on the chance to achieve something I'm pretty proud of.
If you're considering running one, here are some of the biggest half-marathon misconceptions and why you shouldn't let them stop you.
1. You have to be a runner
Don't let lack of experience or intimidation hold you back. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes run half-marathons. Seeing that was one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. You don't need a goal time. You don't even need to run the whole time! There's not one way and one way only to do a half-marathon. If you're starting from scratch, it may take you a little longer to work your way up. But the process is kind of why you signed up, right? The only thing you really have to be is determined to stick with it.
2. You have to follow a superstrict training schedule
Some of the training plans out there are straight-up overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion on the amount of time you should train for, what you need to do, the shoes you should wear, and on and on. But the only plan that's going to work is the one you actually stick with. And they ultimately boil down to the same formula. Take your time, and work your way up to 10-12 miles. Throw in some sprints or hills, cross-training, and yoga so you work all your muscles (and don't get bored). Make it work for your schedule, stay committed, and you'll get to where you need to be.
3. You have to put your social life on hold
One of the best parts of running a half-marathon rather than a full marathon is that you get to have your cake and eat it too. You get to accomplish something without committing to months and months of 10+-mile runs. There's no reason to skip out on fun plans just so you can train. But to make both happen, it's important to adjust your schedule and consistently make time to exercise. Try running before work, or squeeze it in before brunch on the weekend. It takes getting used to, but knowing you need to fit in a run so that you stay on track as the race gets closer is good motivation. And you just might find you like the feeling of kicking butt before most people roll out of bed.
4. Long runs are boring
Even if you're really fast, 13 miles (and the long training runs to get there) takes a while to get through. Some days it may feel difficult to muster up the excitement for it. You don't have to succumb to boredom, though. Listen to podcasts, find a running group or buddy, try out a new route, make sure you have pretty scenery to look at — there are lots of ways to make it more enjoyable. And don't worry about getting bored on the day of your race. There's so much excitement and positive energy in the air that your adrenaline kicks right in. Rally some friends to cheer for you, laugh at the funny signs, and you'll be smiling through the finish line.
5. The process is really hard
OK, that's not quite a misconception. It is hard. If it wasn't, everyone would do it. But it's a lot of other things, too. For me, it was mostly freedom. An hour to be outside. Time to be by myself unapologetically. A way to disconnect and clear my head. Freedom to challenge myself physically and work toward a goal that had nothing to do with work. That's what keeps me coming back despite the hard parts.
It's easy to talk yourself out of doing something that's out of your comfort zone. But just like running, achieving a goal means making yourself a little uncomfortable. So knock out the misconceptions, and just run — I promise it's worth it.