Five surprising things I learnt whilst training for a half marathon

Updated: Jul 8

A few weeks ago I ran my first half marathon. To say it was a challenge was an understatement, but with the help of 11 other wonderful ladies I succeeded and we raised over £10,000 for a fantastic cause.

I have learnt how the support of friends and the inspirational stories behind a good cause can help you to achieve things beyond your wildest dreams, but there were are few other things I discovered that gave me just as much of a boost:

lady with ponytail in grey top and black leggings running in green field

I loved being outside in winter

Given the timing of the race, most of my running was done over winter. Over the three months of training, I noticed the differences that the wind chill factor could make and how the days do slowly begin to get lighter after Christmas. And I can definitely testify that (where I live at least) we had a very mild and dry winter. I have appreciated how winter has a beauty all of its own - how in January the snowdrops begin to come, how beautiful evergreens in gardens can be, how a park in an urban space brings a welcome flash of green as I sped past (well maybe not sped!) Being outside more than usual has definitely had a positive effect on my wellbeing - there’s nothing to fear from winter – wrap up warm and embrace it!

Being a local explorer All my running was on local streets. I followed a training plan but never quite properly planned a route that matched the distance I was supposed to do! So I found myself vaguely heading off in the right direction, but often changing my mind, going down and up dead-end streets to make up distances and discovering streets I never knew existed – even though I have lived here for 17 years. The variety of urban spaces and buildings I came across fascinated me – I took time to observe my surroundings from 16th-century cottages to 70s council estates and noticed something new even on my regular runs.

The joy of a podcast To cope with running an hour or 90 mins at a time I needed to occupy my brain! A fellow runner recommended podcasts and they became my saviour. Hearing people have a conversation from somewhere inside your head feels intimate and I learnt a lot, disagreed a bit and laughed out loud frequently too. It was a chance to learn from colleagues at PwC with their A-Z of Tech and Transformation Talks. I also tried The Broad Experience and Eat, Sleep, Work Repeat, widening my perspectives on the modern workplace.

The pitfalls and pleasures of Apps Like all 21st century runners, I was armed with technology to help me track progress. There was a definite MapMyRun/Strava split in the team and I felt a strange mixture of admiration and jealousy as I saw people run further and faster than me, motivating me to push myself further. The What's App group kept me abreast of everyone else’s progress, updates on our fundraising total and encouragement and tips from the more experienced runners (who knew double layer socks was a thing!) Of course, technology is not without its problems, as well as the frustrations of trackers crashing when you need it most, there is also the issue of juggling phones whilst running, culminating in one of us dropping hers and smashing the screen!

The kindness of strangers I often hear talk about how people today all get wrapped up in our own little worlds and don’t notice anyone around us. However, I was struck by the large number of small kindnesses that strangers showed me on every run – motorists stopping to let me cross the road, pedestrians smiling and letting me pass, other runners saying hello.

That community feeling has been one of the things that has got me through on the most difficult days and on the race itself – having a sense of purpose; working towards a common goal; tenacity, supporting and encouraging each other whether strangers or friends; and celebrating success. Perhaps there’s something that business can learn from that….