About 6 years ago, I ran my very first half marathon in St. George, Utah with my dad and uncle. My dad is an avid runner and has run many races including marathons, half marathons, and two ultra marathons. I was super excited to run, and surprisingly not that nervous. I was cheerleading at the time, so I was exercising A LOT. Since I was in pretty good shape, I thought a half marathon would be no big deal at all. I trained mostly on the treadmill for about 4-5 miles at a time. I think the longest run that I went on before the half was a whopping 7 miles… split up. I ran 4 miles on the treadmill, got home and ran 3 miles with my dad… you could say I was super prepared for this race. Haha I didn’t really follow a training program and didn’t really even think about doing a long run to prepare for the race. The night before the race we ate a spaghetti dinner and got ready for bed. I slept great and woke up early to get ready for the race. As usual, we left to the race late. We quickly left and of course, got lost on the way. Luckily we parked our car with just enough time to watch the last of the runners run right past us. The race definitely started before we got there! We laughed a little as we walked to the starting line, and started running the race by ourselves.
Obviously I was not prepared for this race at all. I have since learned a lot about training for races and running them. Unfortunately it took me a few races to learn that I am not a natural born Olympic distance runner from Nigeria and that I actually do need to train and prepare for races to get a good time. When I finally trained and prepared well for a half, I felt great during the race and afterward.
We got an awesome reader request for training for a half marathon. Here are a few simple tips to follow if you are training for a half marathon, or thinking about training for one.
- Build a base of running: Most training programs assume you can run 3-5 miles already. If you are not to this point yet, practice running, and choose a race that is later in the year so that you have more time to train. If you need to start out by walking, that is completely fine. And hey, if you want to walk a half marathon, that is totally acceptable! People do it all of the time. There are also plans that allow you to walk and run to finish the race.
- Make a plan and set a goal: There are dozens of training plans out there. Research them out and find one that is right for you. Two awesome websites that I really like and that offer many different training plans are Hal Higdon Marathon Training and Runnersworld.com. They offer training programs for runners of all levels. Runners World also offers training programs to break certain times.
- Have a goal in mind: Whether that goal is to just finish or to get a specific time, have a goal of why you want to do the race and how you would like to finish. As you do more races, you can set different goals and work towards beating your previous ones. Having a reason to run is also a good idea. Whether your reason is to get into better shape, run in honor of someone, or to accomplish a hard task, having a reason will keep you motivated and excited about the race.
- Cross Train: Doing different aerobic exercises on your off days of running, will help optimize your running performance. Light resistance training and core exercises are also beneficial to your running fitness. Swimming, biking, doing the elliptical or row machine are all great ways to cross train.
- Imitate Race day: Practice doing what you are going to do on race day. If you are going to take gels or drink a sports drink, practice with the same gel and sports drink that you will use during the race. Practice what you are going to eat and drink before the race and also what you are going to wear. Don’t try anything new on race day.
- Don’t overdo it: Adding too many miles too fast can result in injury. Make sure that you do not run or train more than your body can handle. Listen to your body! If you feel overly exhausted one day, don’t be afraid to take a rest day and readjust your training schedule. A good rule of thumb is to not boost your miles more than 10% each week. Doing speedwork intervals where you run faster for a period of time and then slow down and repeat will improve your time. Speedwork can increase your risk of injury if you are not ready for it, so make sure you have established a good running base before you start this. Also, make sure you are not adding too many things at once- don’t add speedwork, hills, and increase your mileage all at once- remember don’t overdo it!
- Research the race: It is nice to know what the course is going to be like. Is it flat? Are there many hills? Where are the hills? Research the racecourse so that you know what to expect.
- Rest! Take rest days! You do not, and should not, run every single day of the week, especially if you are just beginning to run. Skipping rest days can increase your chance of getting injured. Again, listen to your body. If your schedule says that you are supposed to run, but you feel super worn down, take a rest day. Your body needs rest to repair itself. You know your body best.
Next step, sign up for a race! Another important thing is to have fun! Have fun training and enjoying the excitement of getting ready for the race. Especially have fun running it. There is so much excitement at the beginning of a race, it really is motivating. The adrenaline and energy that is at that starting line makes running the race all worth it! The end is even more exciting! Knowing how hard you have worked and how dedicated you were to accomplish something difficult is very rewarding.
Good luck and have fun!