This last Sunday I did my first half marathon by using the technique jeffing and actually took over 4 minutes off my personal best! This was with only ever trying jeffing twice before and very little half marathon training.
What had happened was I had signed up for a 10 mile race just after Christmas. I thought it would be a nice fun thing to do with friends post-Christmas. I regularly (well ish) run twice a week which is a parkrun (5K) and running club (around 4 miles) and knew that as long as I took it steady and didn’t push myself I could get around a 10 miler. It was indeed so good and made me realise even more so that I am a cold weather runner and so really I ought to book some more winter races. Somehow, despite the fact that I already had a 10 mile race booked in January – this weekend in fact, I decided that running a half marathon would also be great! I told myself that it didn’t matter that I hadn’t trained up to it because I was regularly running, as long as I took it easy.
The Jolly Jeffers
But then I was invited to join a local jeffing group, The Jolly Jeffers, on their half marathon training. I thought it was worth giving it a go and they did it in such a way that you could either do 4 or 6 miles.
Jeffing is a very definite technique where by you run, then walk, and then run again – at set intervals. I managed to do a whole 6 miles doing a 2:1 technique (2 minutes running and 1 minute walking) on my first attempt before going on to do a half marathon.
I was really surprised at how quickly the group moved (especially considering that a lot of the ladies I don’t think had been running that long) – and that even incorporating the walking we were moving at a good pace (between 10-11 minute miles overall).
Jeffing a Half Marathon
I asked my friend if she thought it was possible for me to jeff the half marathon and she said she thought it was. She advised that I run for 13 minutes and then move on to a 3 minute run and 2 minute walk ratio.
For my half marathon I bought a top with The Jolly Jeffers name and logo on. I also had my name printed on it (always nice for a race when people call your name and encourage you). Most importantly it said run, walk, repeat on it – so people knew what I was doing and wouldn’t just keep telling me “it’s okay you can do it.” Oh and it was also pink!
Last Run Before the Half Marathon
On the week before the half marathon the weather was awful on my usual club run night but the following night when The Jolly Jeffers met up it was fine. By this point I had worked out how to do the alerts on my Garmin and actually let the group know when to run or walk. We covered another 4 miles and actually running at a reasonably fast pace (9.3 min/miles) but whilst still talking! It felt great and the time soon past. Best of all I felt like I hadn’t run. Usually I am so tired after a night run but I was actually feeling really energised. The ladies there (it is unisex but no men were there) were really friendly and welcoming.
Gloucester Half Marathon
Gloucester Half Marathon is described as a flat course, perfect for a personal best. The morning was cold and icy – I had to scrap my car. Off I went in my shorts and vest – with the usual comment of, “aren’t you cold?”
I had been told to be careful not to go off too fast and so I positioned myself near the back at the start so that I wasn’t pulled along by those 5 minute milers. I had to ignore my Garmin telling me to run or walk until after 13 minutes passed.
The course was pretty wide as it was on closed roads, allowing people to spread out. I ran those first 13 minutes silently and with people I didn’t know. When it was time to walk it did feel weird that I might get in the way of people I had already run passed, particularly as this bit of the course felt a bit narrower. One of the other ladies for my regular running club went by commenting how 13 minutes had already gone by.
From then on in I did slowly get used to the walking, making sure to look behind me and move to make sure that I wouldn’t take anyone by surprise. It was actually quite a nice rhythm as the lady from my club would run by me and I knew it would soon be time to run again. I would then overtake her for a while before having to slow to a walk. I am not sure about her but this toing and froing certainly helped me get around.
On a walk I sorted out my podcast of music playing – but think I ran a bit faster to catch up with her. Likewise later on a marathon runner was over-taking me when the photographer was nearby, so I sped up to look better in his photo.
The best thing I was told about jeffing is that you could also use some common sense. Parts of the course were really slippery – so I walked. There were some inclines and sometimes I decided to walk up them (when maybe I was meant to be running them) and run down them (sometimes when I was meant to be walking). At one point I got confused about whether I was meant to be running or walking and so decided that was a sign to walk – as it was obviously a bit too much.
It wasn’t long before I had jeffed 5k and was amazed how close to the elusive half an hour I was. Now I know I had run non-stop for the first 13 minutes but I had also been walking after every 3 minutes after that. Next thing I really noticed was when 57 minutes had gone by; this is my 10k personal best time and I thought to myself that I wasn’t “that” far off it! I started doing little calculations in my head and telling myself that I could actually beat my half marathon record by jeffing!
Gloucester Half Marathon Loops
Then it happened – someone praised my jeffing skills. Gloucester half marathon is mostly two laps of the same loop and then some extras. We were right at the end of the first loop, so about half way and a lady praised me (several times) about how well I was jeffing the race. I really don’t do compliments and it started my brain saying, “I can’t do this!” I hadn’t managed to find any of the energy drink by this point I don’t think, and had decided to go out with no fuelling on me. It was actually my first race with music and I was listening at 160 beats per minute, so at that point I decided to slow it down to 150.
The Energy Dip
I guess my biggest problem is that I never trained for a half marathon – mentally or physically. I do feel that I had done a lot better this time (the last half marathon I did I cried at mile 11 and was absolutely done mentally). Not only was I getting tired but I was putting pressure on myself because I knew it was possible to beat my time. Don’t forget that I had trained for my first half marathon increasing mileage each week combined with body strengthening and done this in 2 hour and 22 minutes which I had beaten by 4 minutes last year.
What a crazy feeling to know I could beat that further with only around 60% of running! But the dip came, and it came fast. Maybe proper fuelling would help this better, or maybe it was the lack of training but I struggled after mile 12. This is the point where I felt I should just run. I know I can run, and certainly more than 1.1 miles but really I couldn’t.
We got to an icy pathway when I was told to walk (by my Garmin) and I thought that actually it was a good time to walk. This is probably the only time I heard those famous words of, “go on you can do it” because I wasn’t running. We weren’t very far from the end and I felt sick, I was distracted by my Garmin – between being, “oh my gosh I can get a PB” and “ah what’s the point I can’t!”
The lady from running club, who I had been toing and froing with encouraged me on. I said several times during the race how amazing it all was because I can never normally keep up with her – and here we were right near the end at the same time.
The Finish Line
There was a big inflated finish line ahead at the end of a straight pathway and she told me to go on and sprint. I know I can’t sprint for long and waited for my Garmin to say it was 13.06 miles before picking up the pace that makes the wind blow around me. I past several other runners but it felt so far, there were just two more people to get past but I knew I couldn’t do it. In fact my best bet was just to try and keep up with them and come in immediately behind them.
It was actually my slowest sprint but my Garmin actually recorded the race length as 13.2 miles so I had sprinted for much longer than I normally do. I took over 4 minutes off my half marathon personal best time and I was elated!
Post Half Marathon (after Jeffing)
After the half marathon I stayed awake until bedtime – this also never happens as I get tired so easily. My legs did ache and I did take a couple of pain killers, but they did not keep me awake all night! The next day again my legs were painful but not too bad compared to other half marathons. I have even been able to use the stairs normally.
Emotionally I am a bit all over the place but it isn’t the best time of year and as I didn’t sleep early I probably am over tired. I felt that it was the nicest half marathon though and came away not only with a personal best but people saying awesome things to me (another lady at the end was telling me I was amazing, and expressing to someone else how great I was too!)
I would definitely recommend jeffing and not just to those who think it’s because they can’t run far without stopping but as a technique. I am sure I will use it again this weekend at Staverton 10.