professional image courtesy of EmilyMeganPhotography
So. You want to run a half marathon? You’ve come to the right place. I love the half. It’s the perfect compromise between challenge and trainability. It’s a big enough accomplishment to leave you feeling like you totally rocked something hard, yet it’s still short enough that it’s manageable to train for in the midst of a busy schedule. So, here are 5 things I wish someone had told me before running my first half. You can easily take these tips and apply them to other distances, especially if you are brand new to running and racing.
Tip #1: Don’t set a goal time
Here’s the deal. I’m not telling you not to set goals. I’m not. However, setting a goal time for your first half is something that might set you up for dissapointment. Here’s the mental space you should go in with….crossing the finish line is a HUGE accomplishment. Celebrate it. Enjoy it. Leave the goal pace for future races. If you decide you love the half and want to race that distance again and were able to tolerate the training, then by all means, change things up a bit for your next one and start working on that goal time. But, for your first…just soak it up friend. You did the training, and if you are anything like me, you never thought you’d be able to do that. But you did!! So take the race to celebrate your first long distance accomplishment and leave the pressure off to perform at a certain level. You’ll enjoy it so much more.
Tip #2: GEAR!!!!!
Ok ya’ll. I can’t tell you how many times I hear complaints about shins hurting or the feeling of pounding the road with little support.
Before you embark on training for a half, get a good pair of running shoes. It’s not one size fits all, so I can’t tell you what to wear because our feet are different. So, I’d suggest heading to a local running store and have them assess your gait and footfall pattern. Then, they should be able to get you in a good pair of shoes. You need the support for building higher mileage so don’t take this lightly. It’s important!! Also, if you will be training in the summer months, buy some cool wicking fabrics and if training in winter, appropriate cold weather gear. You don’t need a whole new wardrobe of running clothes, but a few quality pieces will go a long way and keep you comfortable while covering all those miles.
Tip #3: Train Smart
Finding a training plan can be tricky. Google half marathon training plan and you are flooded with options, both free and for a price. So, how do you know which one to choose? I look for several elements in a training plan before I choose one. First would be a gradual progression in distance. Ideally, you want to stick to a 10% increase a week. If you are training for your first half and are not used to high weekly mileage, you want a nice gradual increase each week. Try to find a plan that is about 12 weeks in duration. This should give you plenty of time to safely build your mileage. Second, find a plan that includes more than 3 run’s a week. This may be personal preference, but I have found that a bit more running is ideal. I have done the 3 day a week plan and have ended up injured every time. For me, 4-5 days is ideal. It should include a mix of easy running, some speed work to make your easy pace feel easier, and cross training to avoid injury.
Tip #4: Find a training partner
If you are training for a big race alone, the miles can get long. I’m typically a solo runner. I’ve honestly just never really found someone I was completely comfortable running high mileage with(before Candace that is). You really bond over sweat and stomach issues and blister’s and just all kinds of lovliness that comes with distance running. So, it needs to be someone you are comfortable with. While training for Chicago this year, I recruited one of my closest friends Candace and it made the entire process so much more enjoyable. It keeps you accountable and makes the miles much more fun. We laughed and screamed at spider’s and saw some amazing sunrises together. So, recruit a pal if you can.
Tip #4: Find a Fun Race!!
It doesn’t have to be a destination race(although if you have the resources to make that happen…it is absolutely so fun to find a fun race away from home). It’s not always practical to head out of town, so find a fun local race. Even one that is within driving distance but takes you to a new location so you are running in new territory. It makes it more exciting and interesting if you are running somewhere new. Or, find a fun race with a theme such as the Rock n Roll series.
You may find by having a larger race, trail race, or exciting race with a theme like Rock n Roll(bands and music along the route with lots of crowd support) make the race that much more exciting and something you look forward to even more. Plus, races like this make the finish line a little more exciting as there is a lot going on. Just a thought but obviously, not a must. If you live in a smaller town and have a local half that is right down the street, go for it!! There is something to be said for not having to fight a crowd on race morning and not having to weave in and out of all the people as you run. So, find a race that excites you, whatever that may mean for you.
That about does it!!
I could include so many things in this list, but these are tops for me.
What about you?? What are some of your favorite tips for running your first half?
Or, something you wish you had known before running your first long distance race?