Eyes on the Prize: How Ana Set and Met Her Half-Marathon Goals
by Ana Stojilovic, UI/UX Designer at Runtastic
I’m Ana and I’ve been a passionate runner since the age of 18. When I first started running, it took me a while before I could manage to run longer distances without side stitches. But I’ve always stuck with it because I sincerely enjoy it and it serves as a great escape from the daily grind. Fairly early on, I started taking part in one or the other competition. For me, it was mainly about having fun, but also about setting ambitious goals and working hard to improve my performance and achieve what I set out to do.
5 years ago, I started working at Runtastic as a UI/UX designer and this really intensified my passion for running even more. Although a lot of credit goes to the Runtastic app and Runtastic training plans for keeping me enthusiastic, being part of a team of like-minded sports fanatics is a huge source of motivation.
In the past couple of years, I have completed 6 half-marathons. I set my personal best in Verona with a time of 01:38:18. I was content with my success in Verona for quite a while, but in mid-May this year I made a choice. I wanted to beat my previous record, so I set my sights and my training on a September 17th competition in the Wachau region of Lower Austria. My goal: Beat my Verona time and run a half marathon in under 1:38:00.
So I dove headfirst into my training plan, doing four running sessions a week. For 3 weeks, I combined intensive running sessions, 1-2 rounds of interval training, a tempo run (shorter distance, but at a higher speed), and a Sunday endurance run (minimum 1.5 hours at a moderate pace). After a three-week cycle, I always took a recovery week with low-intensity activities. Sounds like a good plan, right? Well, in order to actually get faster, I was going to have to put things into overdrive and push myself. Interval training, in particular, really pushed me to my limits. My typical interval session consisted of 5 x 5-minutes at a really high pace (for me somewhere between 04:28 and 03:53) with 5 minutes of jogging or walking between each set. Quickly, I noticed I felt fitter and fitter after each run. I supplemented my running with bodyweight training using the Runtastic Results app to improve my overall strength.
Find a running buddy for extra motivation
As summer approached, the rising temperatures made training really difficult. I was in control of my training plan, but not the weather 😉 This meant that even if I ran in the evenings, I was sometimes completing my intervals or tempo runs in 30°C (85°F) heat. In order to make my interval training sessions a little more enjoyable, I enlisted friends I knew were at or above my level to keep me motivated. They pushed me through my high-speed runs, working as pace-setters. For my slower endurance runs on Sundays, one of my girlfriends would join me since there was always time for a chat 😉
My Top Training Tips:
- Plan your week: For me, a solid plan is half the battle. Add your running sessions to your calendar so you don’t have any excuses for not getting them in.
- Don’t give up: It’s all about your mentality! Even if it feels like you just did the worst interval training of your life, just remind yourself that seeing it through to the end is something to be proud of too!
- There’s no such thing as “bad weather” for running: It’s a matter of planning here too. If I see it’s going to be a super hot day, I try to get my run in early before work, around 6 am or so. That way I start the day refreshed and energized.
- Strength training is vital to maintaining body tension: Body strength helps you to avoid injuries. Because core strength was especially important to me, I focused my training on this zone.
- Time your meals properly: If you tend to suffer from side stitches, like me, make sure not to eat anything 1-2 hours before a run.
- Find running buddies: My friends kept me super motivated and on track on both my interval runs and endurance sessions!
- “You notice every kilo when you’re running”: I’ve heard this phrase a few times and always keep it in mind. You might think that you’ll automatically lose weight the more you run. I thought this too at the beginning of my career, but it didn’t happen like that since my appetite was increasing. I learned to keep a more careful eye on my nutrition, focusing on quality and not quantity. With the proper balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats, I managed to drop a bit of weight — which also helped me run faster!
My Almost-Race-Day Tips:
In the week before a competition, I usually scale down my training significantly. The day before the event, I do a few short acceleration runs to stimulate my muscles. To make sure my carb levels are optimal, I have a nice pasta dinner the night before. Since starting times usually fall around 10 am, I make sure to get up around 6 to make sure I have enough time to eat (and digest!) breakfast. My race-day breakfast consists of two pieces of toast with a little butter and honey, and a cup of black coffee. A bit closer to start time, I have a small banana. The key to avoiding side stitches is not to eat too much and to steer clear of high-fiber foods.
My training method led me to finish the Wachau Half-Marathon in 1:37:51, my new personal best! I am so proud of myself! If I can make it happen, so can you 😉 I hope my story and my tips will inspire you in your training.
Keep On Running!