1. Make sure you train
Okay, this sounds blindingly obvious and it will be considered foolish to most people to embark on running a Half Marathon without doing any training. However, it does happen and, of course, the people who do so are daft.
There is more to this point than those people silly enough not to train. Firstly, it is important to train specifically for running a Half Marathon. You may be fit already as a result of going to the gym, playing football, swimming etc, but if your body is not conditioned to running long distances on tarmac, over various road contours and in varying weather conditions, then you will not be ready for a Half Marathon run. Even if you are already fit and active, it is important your training is all about running. Well, not quite all, but the vast majority of your training in the months before a Half Marathon should involve running.
Finally, it is important to complete your training schedule and run on every day you are supposed to. Always remember it is those days when do not want to run but do so anyway that will mean the most on race day.
So, whatever your level of fitness or general motivation, this message is important: make sure you train.
2. Pick the right schedule
A Half Marathon Training Schedule is a great way to not only plan your preparation for race day, but to also ensure you do enough training. Half Marathon Training Schedules are tried and tested with every day of training planned out in advance, making it easier to build training sessions into your daily routine.
Selecting the wrong schedule, however, could be disastrous.
Firstly, be realistic about your abilities. It will be incredibly de-motivating to struggle to complete each day’s training. That is an important sentence as a Half Marathon Training is as much about building mental toughness as physical fitness. By completing every day of training (even the rest days), you are one step closer to completing your ultimate goal. The sense of achievement will be particularly pronounced on the days with long distance runs.
To finish this point, it is also important to avoid schedules that are too easy. It is all about finding the balance – you will want a schedule that is challenging enough that you improve as you train while not being so difficult that you cannot complete each day’s run. It is also important to be realistic about the time you can allocate each day to training. It is no use choosing a schedule that will require an average of one hour training every day if your lifestyle does not allow that.
Finally, choose a training schedule that has been designed specifically for Half Marathon preparation. A lot of the schedules on the Internet are designed for those training for full, 26.2 mile marathons. They are often crudely adapted for Half Marathon Training, i.e. by cutting the runs by 50 percent. It is better to choose a schedule designed solely for Half Marathon Training.
3. Choose shoes (and socks) wisely
Your feet are the second most important part of your body to look after during Half Marathon Training. The mind is the most important part, but feet come a close second, before legs, joints, lungs or anything else.
Choosing the right shoes and socks is therefore incredibly important. This is not about individual brands, but rather the process to ensure everything is right on race day. To achieve that aim, choose and buy your shoes and socks at the start of your training. It is a very bad idea to attempt to break-in new gear close to a Half Marathon event. The earlier you select your shoes and socks, the better. At the very least, you will have time to change your mind and buy alternatives if your first choice is not working.
All the leading brands make great running shoes so we do not have a recommendation on specific brands in this article – that is more down to individual choice. The key point is to choose running shoes. Not cross-trainers or shoes designed for any other purpose – just running shoes. Running shoes should fit well and will offer support.
If you find it generally difficult to find comfortable training or running shoes, you could try a Wet Test. Your local running equipment or quality sports shop should do this, and it should be free of charge (if there is a charge do-it-yourself by simply laying white paper on the ground, wetting your feet, and running over it). If the imprint of your foot is shaped like a driver (golf-club terminology), then you have a normal foot and most standard running shoes should be comfortable. If the imprint is more like a thick club-shape, you are flat footed and may need a shoe that has a firm mid-sole. You will want to stop the inward roll of your foot so stay away from shoes that are highly curved, highly cushioned, or do not have much stability.
If the imprint of your foot narrows dramatically in the centre to look like two eyes (or single quotation marks one on top of the other) then you have a high-arched foot. You will need a shoe that is cushioned with lots of flexibility to encourage motion as your foot is not rotating enough.
Finally, we turn to socks. Socks can often be the most overlooked item of clothing for Half Marathon runners. The advice is to buy running socks as they do not move which reduces the possibility of getting blisters. They will often be left and right footed, which helps in this goal. There is nothing worse than dealing with a small, but painfully crippling, blister in the middle of Half Marathon Training, so indulge yourself with a pair of good running socks.
4. Include strength training in your schedule
Leg strength is a key element of Half Marathon Training. It is one of the main factors in determining whether you run the marathon in the time you want. It is also a factor in determining whether you can complete the whole event running, without having to walk.
In preparing for a Half Marathon, many people say they are prepared for the pain and will just run through it. That sort of comment often comes from people who are fit and are therefore used to training. For many of these people, the pain associated with training gives them a buzz and is part of the reason they keep doing it.
When your legs stop working because they are too tired, however, no amount of will-power is going to make them start working again. The only solution is to prepare your legs for a Half Marathon by including as much strength training as you can.
This may sound daunting, but it does not need to be. Strength training can take many different forms, including using a cross training machine at the gym or going to a circuits or spin class. It could also be much simpler, though. You could do plenty of hill work during your normal training runs – the steeper the hill, the better. Or, you could incorporate speed work into your normal training runs.
Any sort of strength training you do will reap benefits on race day.
5. Get in the right frame of mind
Being mentally fit is as important as being physically fit when it comes to being successful in a Half Marathon run. It is no different to any other sport, or in fact any other aspect of life. If you are not in the right frame of mind, it is very hard to achieve your goals.
The most important things is to stay positive throughout your training. Tell yourself every day that you feel good, fit and strong. That may sound silly to some, but it does work. Treat every completed day’s training as an achievement and congratulate yourself for taking another step closer to your goal.
It is hard to stress just how important mental positiveness is to training and completing a Half Marathon. There are hundreds of stories of sportsmen and sports teams who loose despite being more skilled than their opponents. Lack of confidence and poor mental attitude are often to blame. Even for normal people (like the majority of us non-athletes who run Half Marathons) can be affected by not being in the right frame of mind. There are many stories of men and women who run on the day of the Half Marathon far below the standard they were regularly achieving during training.
Of course, mental toughness and a positive attitude will not by themselves get you through a Half Marathon. You will need to do the physical training, but remain positive while doing so and constantly tell yourself you are doing well.
6. Train with others
Half Marathon Training can be a lonely pursuit, particularly when on a long run. Runners do many things to relieve that loneliness (which, occasionally, turns into boredom), including listening to music or radio programmes through headphones (try also listening to audio books as a page-turning bestseller is a great way of getting through a run).
Sometimes just being entertained while running is not enough though. The solution to loneliness, boredom and low motivation is obvious – run with others.
You will have to make sure the person or people you plan to run with are at the same level of training as you. You will not want to be held up by a running partner who cannot keep up with you, and similarly you will not want the strain of running faster than you are comfortable with so as to keep up with a quicker partner.
One final thing on this point – running with others does not necessarily mean running with other people. Dogs make great running companions and are the partner of choice for many in training.
7. Fund raise until you can’t fund raise anymore
There are two main reasons for fundraising ahead of running a Half Marathon. The obvious first reason is that charities and good causes will benefit from your efforts. This is of particular importance if your chosen charity has had a personal influence on your life. If it was not for the millions raised around the world every year by people running Half Marathons, charities would be much worse off.
The other reason for fundraising is much more selfish. If you use your Half Marathon entry to fund raise, you will be under a greater obligation to compete on the day and ultimately complete the race. Following directly from this sense of obligation will be a greater motivation to train. It will no longer be just a personal decision of whether you feel too tired on a particular day to train as another thing on your mind will be not letting down the charity you have selected, or the people who have committed to give you money on completion of the event. That could be enough to keep your training going when motivation is low.
8. Stay hydrated
Studies have shown that being as little as 2 percent dehydrated can have a negative effect on your running performance. Being dehydrated can make you run slower and may make you feel sluggish and light-headed. You may also start to cramp. It is therefore important to make sure you take on enough fluids while Half Marathon Training.
Fluid intake should start before your training run. Ideally one to two hours before the training session where possible and the amount you should take should be between 8 and 16 ounces (250mls to 500mls). Throughout the training session, the same amount of fluids should be taken for roughly every 30 minutes of training. This should be done by sipping rather than gulping down large amounts or you will just find that you will need to go to the toilet.
The type of drink you choose is down to personal choice, but it should be cold rather than warm. Water works well, as do sports drinks.
You may need to plan your fluid intake on training runs. Such planning has been shown in studies to improve performance. There is a more practical reason for planning in that when training, you are on your own and will need to carry enough drink to get you through to the end of the run. It will be different on race day when often the organisers will have drink stations throughout the course route.
Finally, it is important to drink after your training run. The amount you will need will vary depending on how strenuous your training run was. As a guide, you should drink enough so that you will have to go to the toilet within about an hour of finishing your run.
9. Sleep and eat well
This may be common sense, but for many people living busy lives it can be a challenge. As much as it is possible, meals should contain high energy, non-processed food. Heavy, starchy meals will feel like a lump in your stomach so should be avoided. Fruit and vegetables should be eaten as much as possible.
You should eat at least 30 minutes before your training session, more if it is a larger meal. Also try to use the toilet just before going out for your run as it is not just about putting good fuel into your body – having a system that works well is also important.
Sleeping well is also critical. Because of the modern and demanding lives many of us lead, it is not always possible to get 8 hours sleep every night. However, your Half Marathon Training will progress better if you get plenty of rest. Your body needs time to relax and recuperate when going through a Half Marathon Training Schedule, and sleeping is the best way to give your body this time.
10. Try everything before race day
Everything you have read in these Top 10 Half Marathon Training tips, and every other piece of advice you get when preparing for your race, should be tried well in advance of the event. Do not, for example, buy a new pair of running shoes a week or two before your race. In fact, do not do anything in the week or two before the race that you have not done many times during your training.
The clothes you plan to wear on race day should be worn on training runs – if it is going to chafe, it is better you find that out well in advance. This applies to everything, from your underwear to your t-shirt; your socks to your hat.
The fluid you plan to drink during the race should be used while on all training runs, and if you plan to use energy gels make sure you try them in training long before race day. Before long training runs you should also try to eat the food you are planning to eat before the event.
Finally, most Half Marathon events take place in the morning. If possible, train at a similar time of day, particularly on your long training runs.