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By Tina Haupert
So you've tackled a bunch of 5Ks and conquered a couple of 10Ks. What's next on your list of fitness goals? A half marathon perhaps? A half marathon is a great distance because it's long enough so you need to work for it, but not so long that training completely consumes your life. The half marathon is my favorite distance to run, so here are my top tips for training for your first!
During my long training runs, I always bring some sort of fuel with me. Running for such a long period of time requires a lot of energy, so I make sure to have a continuous supply of calories coming into my body so I don't end up hitting the "wall." As a general rule, I aim to consume 150 to 200 calories for every hour of running, so, for me, this means that I eat or drink something every six or so miles. My favorite sources of fuel are GU and Shot Bloks because they're convenient, but packets of honey, jelly beans, Swedish fish—pretty much anything that gives you quick energy—will work!
Try the run-walk method
One of the biggest misconceptions about training for your first half marathon is that you need to run continuously from start to finish. Instead of running full out and then getting tired and discouraged, try adding some scheduled walking breaks into your runs. For instance, during my long training runs, I would sometimes alternate nine minutes of running with one minute of walking to allow myself time to catch my breath and give my body a little rest. But, I didn't lazily walk during that minute. I kept up a good pace and tried to cover as much ground as possible. When it was time for me to start running again, I always felt more energized, which helped me keep up my pace, and knowing that I had a break coming soon helped keep me mentally strong when the run got really challenging.
Record your runs
When training for a half marathon, I always keep a record of my runs (on my blog and/or calendar) to track my progress and keep me motivated. I document information about my training runs, including the distance, time, type of workout, gear used, and how I felt during and after. If you're looking to lose weight, you can also note your progress on the scale in your records. Keeping tabs on my progress and seeing how far I've come during my training is really motivating and helps me on track to achieving my goal on race day.
Keep reading for three more helpful training tips.
Take it one mile at a time
Thinking about running 13.1 miles can be really overwhelming, especially if it's your first time running that distance. I used to get discouraged by the high mileage of my training runs, but I learned if I focused on one mile at a time, it made the run a lot more manageable. On especially long runs (the ones over 10 miles), I would break up the miles into smaller chunks, so, for instance, a 11 mile run would be one 5-mile run plus two 3-mile runs. Mentally, it was a lot easier to wrap my brain around these shorter distances, so I didn't feel totally overwhelmed by the idea of the high mileage.
Don't run every day
You might think you need to run every day to properly train for a half marathon, but new (and even seasoned) runners need rest days to recover. Long distance running is hard on your body, and you'll probably feel tired and sore while increasing your mileage during training. Be sure to listen to your body and stop if you feel pain. The last thing you want to do is get injured and not be able to run on race day. For me, I know my body can't handle multiple days of running without rest, so I incorporate plenty of rest and cross training into my schedule to keep me healthy and happy.
Remind yourself of the end goal
Whether your training plan is 8 week or 18 weeks, training for a half marathon requires a lot of time and energy. During my training, there are often plenty of times when I don't want to run–I'm tired, I'm busy, it's too cold outside–but, of course, these are just excuses. If I remind myself of my end goal, I'm much more likely to lace up my sneakers and tackle my workout. I know if I want to train properly for race day, I need to stick to my training to ensure that I cross the finish line with a smile on my face!