Running a Half-Marathon | My Top Tips! *Requested*
This is a requested blog post. A couple of weeks ago, someone asked if I could share some tips for running a half-marathon. So I thought I'd do a post to get others started.
First off, let me say: I am not a qualified coach, nor am I a running guru! I am just a woman with a passion for running that has allowed me to push past my preconceived boundaries to achieve SO MUCH MORE.
Now that those house-keeping bits are out of the way:
A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to run a half-marathon. Why? A friend of mine who had only started running very recently at the time had run one and she raved about it! I was shocked as I had not even thought of such a thing before that. I'll be honest, I didn't even know a half-marathon race distance existed! I thought it was 5K, 10K and those crazy Marathoners. Imagine my surprise when she danced over to me saying she'd had a blast finishing one and wanted to do another!
Well, my competitive streak had been held under for the last few years (we'll excuse medical school as we were all just pushing each other to do better, yadi yada) and I was able to pretend I was just curious to see if I could do it too. So I did the only logical thing I could think of: I ran a 10K to get that out of the way - I had only run a 5K race previously so I wanted to step up the distance.
It was the worst 10K race EVER! And oddly enough, I am so thankful that it was.
I started off too fast, (deleted sentence) and my feet were on FIRE by the halfway mark. Not in the good "Oh she's so fast" way - in the "I think I am going to combust from the soles up" way! I was at 16th position at 5K and decided (deleted word) to SLOW DOWN and let others pass me! I was (deleted word) praying for water (unheard of for me up till then) and found myself stopping and starting for the remainder of the race!
I actually ran a PB that day, but it taught me the difference between running the distance on my own on a Saturday and really RACING a 10K! As I crossed the finish line, I was thinking, "I'm never doing that again!" I only finished because I'd raised £400 for charity for which people had already paid me. I didn't want to feel like a fraud!
Guess what? A whole FIVE minutes later, I was saying to myself, "when I run the half-marathon, I have to raise more money or have someone cheering me on!" I realised then how much the crowd and marshals telling me I was “doing well” really helped me. I must have looked truly horrible but I'll take any encouragement I could get.
Why did I share this story first? It brought home to me the fact that to run a race, you have to TRAIN for it! This was what I took with me to the half-marathon distance.
That is where you must start: you must be prepared to TRAIN for your half-marathon. No causal jogging along shorter distances will suddenly make you able to run the whole thing in an amazing time! I know that adrenaline can do amazing things - see my first horrendous driving test (actually, let’s not) - but it won't make up for the fact that your body and mind are not prepared for the distance.
So that will be my first tip! I will expand on all of these below.
1Be prepared to train well.
2Long runs are important.
3Know your limits!
4Find a training plan you like.
5Stick to the plan!
*Bonus* Have fun with it!
Be prepared to train.
By this, I mean you must understand that, like all worthy endeavours, your goal will take some work. You need to run more regularly or use your current number of sessions per week more wisely. They must all be geared towards your goal of running a good first half-marathon. This is crucial for crossing the finish line without injury, complete exhaustion or losing your breakfast - trust me, I regularly see all three!
Long runs are important.
You will need to commit to at least one long run a week. This will need to be from the range of 7 miles to 11 miles. You can run a bit slower on these, but you need to make sure you are doing one a week so that your body is ready. It's also important to train your mind to manage running for that long.
Know your limits!
If you haven't run more than 5K before, don't sign up for a half-marathon in less than 8 weeks. You need time to build up to the race distance. I ran 10Ks and more on Saturdays for quite a while before venturing to that distance. The shortest training for people doing such running beforehand is about 4 weeks: I've asked around - even many guys (who often seem more (deleted words) able to do these things at the drop of a hat) have to do 4 weeks of more focused training.
The same goes for goal-setting: don't expect to do it just a little slower than the elite runners! You need to have an achievable goal that you can work up to! Something that makes you push THAT bit harder during the race.
Find a training plan you like.
Don't just pick the one your friend does. Especially if it doesn't appeal to your inner training voice - does it speak your language? To clarify, I mean do you feel at ease doing exactly what it says? I know myself, I don't like not knowing the exact distance I'm supposed to run. So those plans which speak in terms of minutes run were not for me. What if I ran for 2 hours and was still several miles short of what I should have covered in training? I pictured the nightmare of not being able to finish, let alone achieve my time goals.
However, I know my friend loved knowing how long to run for so she could just turn round at the halfway time-stamp and run home! Everyone is different. And there are plenty of plans out there! (Links to some of these at the end!)
Stick to the Plan!
Here I must add, "within reason". Allowing for unforeseen life and scheduling difficulties, you need to stick to your training plan. That seems to be what makes the difference between runners who do multiple races versus those who may find their inner racing "chip" well and truly fried after running a half- or full marathon! By ensuring that you carry out the key workouts for the week, you will be gearing yourself up for a greater chance of success: be it finishing the race or running it better than you dreamed.
Lastly, have fun with it!
This is a journey. A saying that always struck me as a child and probably made me fear marathons inordinately was, "Life is a marathon, not a sprint!"
You see, I'm more of natural sprinter - big surprise I'm Nigerian and played Hockey in secondary school. However, I've always been intrigued to see if I could also be as good a long distance runner. When I found it was all a matter of my thinking, I started chipping away at the wall I'd built in my mind.
You may be familiar with the building blocks of this wall: "I can't do it" or "I'm not built for distance" and "It's too late to start this now". Well, it's never too late to learn new tricks (see what I did there?). And you are the master or mistress of your own destiny. No one can tell you what you can't do. Only you can do that to yourself!
So above all, start believing that you can complete that half-marathon, and you're halfway there.
Thanks for reading my ramblings!
Below are links to training plans that I have encountered:
If you want my first training plan, it's from the book: 'Road Racing for Serious Runners. Multispeed training: 5K to Marathon!' by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. I followed Schedule A (under 30 miles a week at the start).
Fitness Magazine's 10-Week Half-Marathon Plans: here
Shape Magazine's 12-Week Half-Marathon Plans: here
NSPCC Beginner's 14-Week Half-Marathon Plan: here
Runner's World Half-Marathon Plans (10-14 Weeks): here
Later, Ladies and Gents!
Ps: Special Thanks to Steve for casting an expert eye over this write-up!
I'm Lola - a hair obsessed doctor who stumbled into running long distances and baking all the cupcakes.
I blog about life, running and of course, hair! I'm an Altra "Team Red" Sponsored Athlete, so I will do the occasional running shoe or gadget review.
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