Training for my first half marathon has taught me a few things along the way.
The main lesson has been flexibility. The training plan may call for 30 minutes speedwork, or for a 16km run, or for a 50 recovery run on a Tuesday, but this has to fit in with what you are doing and how you are feeling. Sometimes it is just not possible to do the 50 minute run that day. Don't fret. Don't get disheartened. Definitely don't feel a failure - after all, you are doing a lot more than an awful lot of other people and you have a goal many would not even consider aiming for.
The training plan is, after all, just that. A plan. It's not called a training must do. Or a training contract. It's not written in blood (although blood, sweat and tears may well come into it).
So if you can't run today because you had to work late, the kids had karate club or dental appointments, the dog gave you those eyes and you had to take him for an extra walk, don't worry. Get up early tomorrow morning and squeeze it in if you can. If you don't run because you feel tired or run down (but not because you are lazy and you would just prefer to be at home eating chocolate), see the double dose of vitamin C, multivitamins, hot honey and lemon and an early night as all part of the training plan - there is no point in training if, come the day, you are hit by a bad case of the lurghy.
Half marathon training has taught me that sports massage is a mixed blessing. I went along with a mild backache and came away with tight glutes and a sore knee, raging thirst and a hunger that makes runger seem like being 'a bit peckish' (but that's a story for another day!).
It has also taught me a few things about how to deal with the different types of training runs in a way that suits me best.
For example, if the training plan calls for a tempo run, it is better to set a distance goal, rather than a time goal. With a distance goal, I am more likely to run faster. There is a very simple reason for this; the faster my pace, the quicker I cover the distance and the sooner I can get back home and eat chocolate.
Conversely, if the training plan calls for an easy/recovery run, it is better to set a time goal, rather than a distance goal. With a time goal, I will be less tempted to increase my pace (and therefore turn an easy run into a tempo run), as a 40 minute run at a 5 minute/kilometre pace takes the same amount of time as a 40 minute run at a 6 minute/kilometre pace. However, running for 40 minutes at a 6 minute/kilometre pace will use less energy and therefore I will have more energy for eating chocolate when I get home.
Do you see a pattern here?
(I am not sure eating chocolate was part of the training plan, but hey, the key is flexibility, right?)