Training For Your First Half-Marathon
Congratulations – you rock.
I thought it was only appropriate to discuss the ins and outs of properly preparing for and racing your first 13.1 miles.
Step 1: What NOT to do. Exhibit A: Me.
When I lived in Europe in 2011, I will never forget the weekend I was visiting friends in Paris. We were all up late one night and someone mentioned that the half marathon was that weekend.
Hey Jess, you run. Want to do it tomorrow?
Me: Well, I haven’t trained at all. We haven’t been sleeping much. And I have been killing it on the cheese, macaroons and pastries, but sounds like a perfect idea!
Step 2: Follow a training plan.
Whether your goal is to meet a specific time or to just get across that finish line, following a plan has always help to motivate me to get in the miles. There are different types of training that a good plan will offer including tempo, fartlek and a steady pace. You should be doing all of them to do well on race day.
Step 3: Find some people as crazy as you and train with them!
Having a training buddy increases your chances at sticking to a plan. They also will help call you out on improper form and you can chat and stretch at the end! They may even share their foam roller if you are lucky!
After every long run, I go through a ridiculous routine of barefoot running in the grass interspersed with deep lunges, stretches and reaches. Once I am cooled down to a proper level, I stretch out my calves, foam roll and either jump in the pool or ice my calves and thutt (thighs and butt!). Remember to factor in a cool down and stretch routine into your run time. It may seem inconvenient, but take it from someone who has suffered from an ongoing injury – you will be grateful in the end!
5. Watch your nutrition:
Timing is important. Don’t eat a meal two hours or less before a run. I wouldn’t recommend an apple from personal experience. On a longer run, (90 minutes plus), pop something in your mouth with sugar and carbs. I have used everything from gels, larabars and my current favourite: dried apricots and dates.
I take fish oil for my joints and probiotics for digestion.
6. Know when to rest.
It is easy to feel that missing a workout will cause you to fail on race day. Quite the contrary! If you are feeling peckish from increasing milage too quickly or other lifestyle factors – take some time to set the reset button before continuing on. Your body will thank you for it!
7. Cross train.
Don’t just run. Especially if this is your first half. Make sure you are strengthening your muscles and working on the lateral plane of movement as well. I find biking a a great low impact version of running and swimming provides great strengthening and movement on multiple planes. Also, I find yoga and weights are a perfect addition to a training schedule.
8. Know the race course.
Take the time to map out the course and mentally prepare for what is ahead. Make sure that they are providing well equipped rest stations and never consume a drink or food that you have not tried before at a race! Also – never hurts to figure out where the toilets are! 😉
9. Mentally train yourself.
A half marathon can be tough. I make a point to train with discomfort. I will go on my long runs in the middle of a scorching afternoon or mid snow storm. I will run through blisters and numb legs, headaches and colds. Why? It is not sadism, but rather allows me to be as effective a runner as possible on race day when all conditions are perfect and hopefully leads to a personal best!
What half marathon are you running this year?