Tackling a half marathon is a challenge. The run up to the big day will consist of three main fundamental focuses:- a training plan, nutritional planning and mental toughness.
Here are the most essential tips for preparing to run a half marathon
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A structured training programme is key to helping you reach the finish line. Depending on whether you are a half marathon fresher or a seasoned runner, there is a training plan for everyone.
We are lucky to have a multitude of resources at our fingertips that provide us with the right guidance and tools for race preparation. There are running magazines such as Runners World, online training plans, training videos, blogs etc …
The idea of running your first half marathon might be slightly daunting, but do not let that throw you off track. The first month will no doubt be hard, but try to maintain your focus. Ask a friend to join you. Naturally, you will depend on each other to get through those tough moments, where you feel you cannot run that extra mile.
Do some research in your local area and I’m sure you will find a run club. The thought of running with a group might be off putting at first and you’ll most likely ask yourself if you will be able to keep up with the rest.
This shouldn’t put you off as the great thing about a run club is that there will also be other fresher runners in the same boat as you. It is common that within a run club there is a split between the expert, intermediate and beginner runners.
The best thing about a run club in my view is that there will be pacers for each ability group who will keep you motivated. Lastly, sign up to short 5km charity races or fun runs and slowly build up to 10km organised runs or more. All this will help prepare you for race day! Just as experienced runners, the focus is geared to personal bests, increasing the speed and taking it to the next level.
Even though getting out there and running is vital for half marathon training, building strength is also key. It will help you achieve higher speeds and mileage, reduce the risk of injury by correcting imbalances and improve your overall running form. If you’re a member of a gym, it might be worth checking out the gym’s timetable and booking yourself into a class!
There’s always a part of us that will wish we can just become professional long distance athletes overnight, but when looking at the real picture… think… no pain no gain. After all, you’ve got to learn to walk before you can run, right?
The running ritual- you psyche yourself for your run, you get motivated, you prepare your running kit, headphones on and you are good to go! …the next step – you open the front door and it’s pouring down with rain. Automatically for a couple of seconds, you contemplate whether it’s worth getting soaked.A part of you is thinking about stepping back inside and just having a warm cup of tea on the couch!
Don’t let a bit of cold water falling from the sky put you off! Take a deep breath and enjoy nature’s changeable weather conditions. Just as they say, a little bit of rain won’t hurt anyone! I find that having your running kit on helps put you in a running frame of mind and the chances are, once you’ve got it on, you’ll feel too guilty to take it off again without having gone for a run!
Next, the mental phase – is that stage when your mind is telling you you can’t run any further.
Rule 1- distract yourself from this thought and focus on another one like the objects around you (always looking out for traffic if you’re running on the road!).
Rule 2- keep going- do anything but stop, just slow your pace down even if it means you have to walk for a while. Walking for a recovery period doesn’t go against any rules and is advisable. Keeping these points mind will see you run straight through the mental brick wall…
There are two main obstacles, faced by anyone running a half marathon. The first is a loss of energy and the second is dehydration.
In the build up to the race, and during the race itself it is paramount to be carb fuelled and hydrated with fluids. As soon as you begin to increase your millage while training, you should adapt your diet plan accordingly by upping the intake of carbohydrates. This can be done by increasing your portion size of foods such as potatoes, pasta, rice, cereal and bread. Starch based foods are the best for carb loading, so think about adding these to your shopping list during your training period..
As for hydration, don’t rely solely on water; drinking too much water can affect the balance of electrolytes in your body. Have a mixture of sports drinks, natural fruit juice and water (maybe trying flavored water, rich in nutrients as well).
Hydration tablets are also great for this, chuck one in your water bottle and they’ll keep you optimally hydrated. If you can find hydration tablets with electrolytes even better, they will alleviate cramps, help muscle function, consume and burn energy efficiently.
But note to self, if you eat unfamiliar food or drinks the night before your half marathon race, then you could have a very uncomfortable experience during the race. Make sure you don’t try any foods for the first time the day before or on race day.