So you want to run a half marathon? What a great choice – I love the half!
Apparently I’m not alone either. Over 2 million people (of which over 60% are women) completed a half marathon in 2015. It’s the perfect distance between to feel like you are taking on a big challenge that’s a huge accomplishment yet will still have a life outside of running.
In August of 2007, I started training for my first ever race. And yes, it was a half marathon. I didn’t really know anything about running. I ran about 3-4 miles a few days a week and that’s about it. I didn’t know anything about training plans, paces, workouts or running gear. I only knew that I wanted to run a half marathon before I turned 30. A friend suggested I try a Hal Higdon training plan because it worked for her sister’s, friend’s husband or something like that. I taped it to my fridge and followed it exactly.
Each week, I ran a little bit more. And each week, I grew to love running even more.
In early November, I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon. I felt awesome and was quite proud of myself. From there, it sparked a desire to not only run more but to learn more about the sport that is now such a big part of my life.
Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about training for a race.
Find a training plan that works for you.
There are oodles and oodles of training plans out there on Google and in books. Ask friends who have run half marathons before what plans they have used. If you don’t trust yourself, finding a coach is always a good option, too. The best plan should start with a gradual progression in distance that lasts 12-14 weeks. There should be a mix of easy running, some speed work and/or tempo’s. I like to have a plan that factors in cross training too.
Don’t set a goal time.
Personally, I don’t think it’s a good idea to set a goal time for any first time race. It’s an automatic PR no matter what your time is, right? Your #1 priority is to cross the finish line. That’s a HUGE accomplishment. Celebrate it. Enjoy it. Soak up all the glory.
Schedule workouts like any other appointment.
I love a plan so if it’s written down, I’ll follow it and get it done. Treating a workout like a scheduled doctor’s appointment or an important meeting, you are more likely to get it done. And make sure you hang your schedule so you can see it everyday. Hanging a printed copy on the refrigerator for all to see works for me.
Pay attention to your body.
Half marathon training is tough. You are going to feel some aches and pains. Make sure you are icing, foam rolling, and stretching daily. If you start to feel more than an ache or pain here or there and it becomes consistent, don’t push through it. Now is not the time to ignore it. Keep your big goal in mind.There’s nothing worse than pushing yourself too much and ending up injured with a DNS.
Variety is the spice of running.
Running is a very repetitive sport which can easily lead to injury. Rotate between two pairs of running shoes. Change the surface you run on (treadmills, soft gravel, packed trails, roads). Vary the speeds – longer and slower miles, recovery runs and faster efforts. And definitely make sure you are running your easy runs EASY.
Run your own race.
This is true for any race distance but more so for longer. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and start out too fast. That excitement can only take you so far before you start to tank. Your goal pace should be easy and steady. Save the sprinting for the last 0.1 as you cross the finish line.
As you cross the finish line, remember to raise your arms high up in victory. You set a goal, did the work and achieved something amazing. Take pride in your accomplishment!
And then you can start to plan your 2nd half marathon because you’ll most likely be hooked.
What is your favorite race distance?
Do you have any half marathon tips?