The Ultimate Guide to Prepare for Running Your First Half Marathon
Maybe your first run was all for fun: a friend cajoled you into it and you thought why not. Or maybe you started running to lose weight and now you always run every local race in your city. You have done the 5ks and 10ks a couple of times and now you feel you are ready for a tougher challenge.
Half marathon is the next running bib that jumps into your plate. You have never run it before but you feel that you got all that it takes to close the finish line. Well, to be honest, half marathon is totally a different ballgame. The distance, the preparations you need and the mindset are all at a new higher level. It needs thorough preparation or otherwise you will be the first to drop even before hitting the first 10k. However, that should not scare you. This post is all about getting you ready for your first half marathon run.
How to train
Your training should start as early as possible. Some people start their training 3 to 4 months to the day. They understand the gravity of the race and they want to be perfectly ready when they hit the road. Adequate preparation not only prepares your body for the long mileage but also caters for setbacks when life gets in your way. Always have that extra cushion of time in case something happens. Besides, the shorter the preparation time you get the more likely you will burn out and risk injuries.
Set your goals
Start by defining what you are trying to achieve. In other words, why are you running the half marathon? Do you intend to win it or your purpose is merely to cross the finishing line? That is where you start and then work down on a training strategy.
The training cycle
Since you are starting early, you have to start small. Do not run for many miles the first day. Start with 5 and then 10 upwards. This gives your body the room to adjust without burning out. By the time you are 6-7 weeks to the run, you should have clocked the entire half marathon distance. It does not matter that the first time you reach the full mileage you took so long. You can work down the finish time as you get close to the final date.
The long run: Do not neglect the long run. In fact, it is helpful if you could run a couple of them before the D-day. You will not only be making yourself comfortable with the time but also training your mind for the miles. According to Knox Robinson, A Nike+ run club coach in New York, our minds are not used to occupy long emptiness and after one hour, they wander. If you do not train your mind to concentrate on the run, you will find yourself stopping or walking while you are supposed to be running. As you run, change tracks and trails to keep yourself refreshed with new things and keep pushing for a record time.
Mix up your exercises: It is tempting to only run and think that you will be prepared for the actual challenge. Run today, tomorrow run on the treadmill, the other day go for a swim and so on.
Hitting the gym regularly: you may think that pounding the pavement is all you have to do, but going to the gym will keep you strong. With stronger muscles, you will not only improve on your stamina but also ward off any injuries.
Hit the gym at least twice a week to diversify your cross training. Do not forget to strengthen your core as it enhances your running biomechanics.
Get a massage: the kind of training you are doing is likely to cause muscle tension. Getting a self-massage each day will keep you fresh and injury-free. Experts recommend massage for runners since it boosts tissue repair, reduces soreness and improves mobility.
This is your first run and you should think in the lines of what to wear on the running day. It is recommendable that you try your outfit well in advance so that you are comfortable when the time comes.
Running shoes: you should have your shoes months before and not less than two weeks to your running date. They should be well worn in by the time you run to ensure your comfort. It is crucial that you go for gait analysis so that you get the best running shoes specifically suitable for you.
Clothing: It is important to bear in mind that you will heat up fast when running in a group. Therefore, you need the kind of clothing that will help you sweat out. For cold or rainy conditions you will need a long-sleeved wick T-shirt and a Lycra tight instead of a short. For warm weather, capris shorts and a technically tested running T-shirt is all good. For hot weather, you should go for a running vest and a very light running short. Just to be sure, pick your gear in good time to get used to it.
Body fueling is part of what preludes a successful run. You should start eating calorie-laden meals not less than a week to the race. Better still, you should start your athlete-oriented meals a month or two to your running date. Take in more carbohydrates and protein in your meals. Each day you hit on the pavement, do so with your stomach full of carbs. Grains, fruits and starchy vegetables should be part of your meal plans. The week before your running day, you should increase your food intake. It is paramount that your protein portion increases as you get to the homestretch. Some good pre-race foods are bread, fruits, bagels, small portions of butter, peanut and fruit smoothies. You should also take lots of water and other sports beverages. Avoid foods high in fats and fiber for they may cause digestion problems. This is also not the time to try new foods.
There you are. You are now ready to finish your first half marathon. Have all the fun you can for that is all it is if you are well prepared. The best of luck in your run!