A Complete Guide to Committing to, Training for, + Running Your 1st Half-Marathon
By Savannah Hemmings
Until you’ve run your first half-marathon, it’s hard to imagine running thirteen miles straight. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it. We have faith in you, Beauty Beaners!
Sure, it can be an intimidating goal. It seems impossibly long. And hard. But, fortunately, those of us who have completed one in the past are here to help you.
Let’s start by emphasizing the importance of planning. Without a guide and a schedule, the journey to the finish line could be a treacherous one — one laden with injuries and pain. It’s absolutely essential that you map out the number of miles you will run from week to week, the cross-training you plan to incorporate, and how you will increase your distance. This should happen gradually, and you should be tuned in to how your body is reacting to new distances. Luckily, you don’t have to come up with all these details alone. We’ve got the complete guide right here!
Give yourself time to build up mileage.
Despite the gusto you must be feeling right now, do not go out and sign up for an event scheduled for next weekend — or even a month from now. Depending on how many miles you’re comfortable running right now — that is, how many miles you can run straight through — you’ll need more than a month to prepare. If you’re starting from zero — and you don’t run regularly right now — give yourself six months, at least, in order to avoid injuries. If you can go out and comfortably complete a three to six-mile jog, you’ll need about 10-12 weeks to get into half-marathon shape.
Choose your event.
Now that you’ve narrowed down a timeframe, it’s time to pick a race. There are a couple things to keep in mind when doing so:
- Check course specs to determine how hilly/difficult the terrain will be. You don’t want to train on flat ground and show up for a race through the mountains.
- It might be best to avoid races with time caps. Cut-off times can just add extra stress for first-time runners.
- What do you want the scenery to be like? If you can afford or have time to travel for your race, your options will obviously be greater.
- Do you want it to be a big event or one with fewer participants? Some races receive thousands of registrations, while others foster just a few hundred.
- Some races are way more expensive than others. Keep your budget in mind.
Get your gear.
Running long distances requires having a dependable, sturdy, well-fitting pair of running shoes. The shoes should be designed for running, specifically. If you’re already using a particular brand, and that’s working for you, stick to it. Invest in tops and bottoms that breathe and won’t chafe. Also consider extra gear, like a running belt for water and phone storage, and lace anchors to keep your shoelaces out of the way.
Adhere to a training schedule.
When choosing a plan that works for you, consider your starting point. How many miles can you run right now, straight through, without feeling discomfort? The first week of your plan should be similar to this — to what you’re doing right now. From there, the schedule should add mileage gradually.
Generally, plans incorporate a blend of cross-training (biking, swimming, weightlifting, etc.), short runs, long runs, and rest days. You shouldn’t be adding more than one or two miles to your long runs each week. In other words, don’t go from a maximum distance of five miles one week, to running 10 in the next. Gradually increasing is the key.
In the week before the race, you should be able to run at least twelve miles without stopping or feeling discomfort. You should also rest for one or two days before the race — take off completely or do an easy workout. You don’t want to burn yourself out by doing something difficult the day before the race.
Another thing to keep in mind is to always listen to your body. Throughout the training process, consult a medical professional if you experience pain. It could be general soreness, but it could also be something more. Minor injuries can turn into major ones if you continue to run on them.
Embrace race day.
Lay everything out the night before race day. Most half-marathons take place in the early morning, so you’ll want to have everything ready ahead of time, like your outfit, shoes, iPod with the perfect race-day playlist, directions to the event, etc. Then, do these things on race day:
- Wake up early enough to have an energy-boosting pre-workout breakfast.
- Try to go to the bathroom before the race starts.
- Dress comfortably.
- Don’t do anything that you haven’t been doing during training — don’t eat unfamiliar food, wear new shoes, try a new hairstyle, etc.
- Cross the finish line with a smile!
Good luck! You’ll do great!