As some of you know, last winter I ran a half marathon. I had an amazing life changing experience that you can read about here, and also learned a thing or two about discipline and pushing my body farther than I thought it was capable of. I’m not a runner. I’ve never been good at it but I had in my mind I wanted to run a half marathon, so I did. You can too.
Here are a couple of tips that I put together, based on my experience, if you’re thinking about signing up for one:
1. Run- Well duh, right? But honestly the first tip I have to offer when training to run a 13.1 mile race is to just run and commit to it. If this is something you really want to do, then just get out and start exercising as soon as you can. The more exercise you do over the course of training, the better you’ll feel during the race. And make sure you have some quality shoes too. Click HERE for general Brooks (the shoes I used) on amazon (where I bought mine).
2. Find a program that works for you– You might be at a different fitness level than I am. So it’s super important to find a training program that you think you can handle. I literally just googled “half marathon training program” and found one that I thought I could do. I ended up tweaking it a little bit, but for the most part it worked great. If searching on google seems too stressful for you here’s a beginner’s book I found on amazon that would definitely be a great option as well.
3. Don’t shoot for perfection– In the beginning of my training, I would get so worked up if I didn’t follow the program to a T. But I learned fairly late in the game, that this is MY program and I can alter it however I want to. If I only feel like running 3 miles today, then that’s what I’ll do and I’ll run 5 miles on a day that I’m feeling more motivated. And if you have a day where you’re feeling extra motivated then keep going. I had days where I was only supposed to run 3 miles and ended up running 8 because my run felt good. Take advantage of those good days.
4. Cross train– My program set a day or two aside to train in a way other than running. So I could have done some weight training or other kinds of aerobic exercise (biking, rowing, swimming, etc.). I was lazy and used these days as rest days, but I recommend actually cross training. I think running would have been MUCH easier if I would have mixed it up and did something besides solely running to help build my strength and endurance.
5. Plan for your long run– Every week you’ll have a “long run” that will be your longest run of the week. Plan for this. Find a day when you’ll have the most time or plan according to the weather. I might be a bit dramatic but if I ran more than 10 miles at at time, I always brought a source of sugar (I would chew up dried cranberries, but you can also find glucose packets that I link later on in this post that are easy to consume while running) to give me a boost of energy. It’s worth a shot to help you get through the long miles, right?
6. Don’t change your diet days before your race– I thought it would be an awesome idea to “carb load” before my race. While I do think this can be beneficial I definitely had no idea what I was doing and felt bloated and gross a couple of days before my race. I’ve heard that eating a high carb diet earlier in the day the day before the race and then eating light the evening before, and light if anything at all the morning of is a good way to do it. I just don’t recommend trying to do something crazy different that might upset your stomach. I recommend talking to someone who has more experience on this or I found this book on marathon nutrition that I think would be super helpful too.
Here are a few extra items that I’ve considered buying before that I think would make your running experience better as well! A lightweight fanny pack could give you a spot to keep your phone, keys, and glucose packets (I’ve been wanting to buy one but haven’t yet). Some glucose packets to give you quick efficient sugar energy (you’ll probably want some form of sugar to give you an energy boost during the long runs and especially race day). A reflective light vest in case you run in foggy or darker conditions (highly recommend one of these). And if you’re running during the winter like I did you’ll want to get something to protect your neck and lower half of your face from the cold (not necessarily this specific one but definitely something to keep your neck warm, you’ll appreciate it)! This is definitely not a must but my phone would almost always die during my runs because of the low temperature so something like this could potentially help with that. And last but not least, if you’re taking your dog with you who if your baby is like mine HATES to be on a leash I recommend getting a gentle leader to help them run with you (I have this exact one in large and was BLOWN AWAY that it worked pretty much instantly).
The best thing you can do is have fun with your half marathon. Enjoy it. Find music that you love or podcasts that keep you occupied. Go at your own pace and shoot just to finish. My goal was to not stop. I wanted to run the whole thing. Find your goal and commit to the miles. I promise if you get your mind 100% in, you’ll surprise yourself. Good luck!
PS: Email me with questions if you have any!