Most people don’t run their first half marathon without feeling a little anxious. There’s a lot to think about and so much to learn. Even as a seasoned runner, the half marathon is a different beast. 13.1 miles is a long way and it requires sheer preparation and determination to finish.
Competing in an endurance event like this is a huge accomplishment, no matter what your finishing time may be. The initial months leading up to the big day can be extremely overwhelming and will often result in self-doubt. But someone who’s properly prepared both mentally and physically will find the race to be an immensely satisfying experience. Follow our 5-step process and you’ll be well on your way to conquering your first half marathon.
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This cannot be emphasized enough; you need to put in the miles if you want to have any chance of success on race day. At a minimum, you should be running at least 20 miles per week, with a long run of 10 miles thrown in there at least once a week. But as the race gets closer, you’ll need to start running even more. The last few weeks before the race should be a gradual taper, where you’re running less so your body can recover and be fresh for the big day.
However, you should give yourself some time to adjust to the mileage. If you’re not used to running long distances, it’s best to ease into it instead of jumping in head first; illness, holidays, injury, and life, in general, can all get in the way of training, so be patient and consistent. In order to get things started, a half marathon training plan is very helpful as it’ll guide your runs and make sure you’re on track.
Set a Realistic Goal
Part of the fun in running is setting goals and then watching yourself crush them. But it’s important to set a goal that’s actually achievable. Running a half marathon is a very big deal, but if you’re not used to running long distances, it might not be realistic to expect to run the whole thing at once. Your goal could be anything like finishing the race, running a personal best, or negative splitting (running the second half faster than the first).
Goals can be different for every individual based on their current fitness level, experience, and motivation. For beginners, it’s wise to consider races that are a little bit more manageable, such as a 5k or a 10K. People with much experience on their hands usually go for a time goal, or try to tackle a longer distance.
You might be thinking why should I set a goal if I’m not even sure I can finish the race? Well, having a goal gives you something to strive for and keeps you motivated throughout the training process. Pushing yourself to reach new milestones is what running is all about; the key is to make sure your goal is realistic and achievable.
A great training plan half marathon will give you some guidance on what’s achievable and how to go about reaching your goals.
Build Mental Toughness
One of the most important aspects of running is learning how to deal with the pain. When your body starts to give up and you want to quit, that’s when your mental toughness will be put to the test. It might sound cliché, but mind over matter is very real in running. You need to learn how to push through the tough moments. We can’t just will our bodies to keep going when we’re physically exhausted, but what we can do is control our thoughts and emotions. Mental toughness is something that can be trained and developed over time.
A few things to make this possible are having a positive attitude, staying focused, and being prepared for the worst. The first step is to get rid of any negative thoughts that might be going through your head; if you believe you can’t do it, then you probably won’t. Second, keep your eye on the prize and don’t get distracted by things that are out of your control, such as the weather or other runners. And finally, be prepared for the worst by knowing what your breaking point is and having a plan to deal with it if things start to go downhill.
If you can find a buddy who’s a little bit faster or has more experience, they push you to new levels. Join a running group or club; the camaraderie and support of other runners can go a long way – the social aspect will help take your mind off the pain and make the miles go by faster. In addition, set small goals along the way so you can have mini victories.
We offer a half marathon training plan for beginners to get you started on your journey.
Listen to Your Body
A pair of shoes, some comfortable clothes, and you’re good to go…or are you? It’s vital to listen and be in tune with your body, as it will give you the signals when something’s not quite right. Maybe you need to alter your diet, increase your mileage slowly, or add some cross-training workouts into the mix.
Running is a high-impact sport and puts a lot of stress on our bodies, so it’s crucial to take care of ourselves both before and after runs. There are a lot of variables that can affect our running, so be aware of how your body is feeling and take the necessary steps to make sure you’re staying healthy. Pain will happen, but if it’s sharp or lingering, it might be a sign of an injury. Don’t try to push through it; instead, take some time off to rest and recover.
Our half marathon 16 week training plan has built-in rest days to make sure your body is ready to take on the mileage.
To avoid injuries, warm up properly before runs and cool down afterwards; 10 minutes each should do the trick. Incorporate some dynamic stretching (active movements) into your warm-up to get your muscles moving, this type of stretching prepares your muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues for performance and safety. After running, do some static stretching (holding stretches for 30 seconds or more) to help your muscles recover and prevent soreness. It allows your muscles to return to their original resting length.
Proper Nutrition and Hydration
Never run on an empty stomach; if you don’t have time for a full meal, at least have a snack or energy gel – and remember, our bodies are made up of mostly water, so it’s no surprise that we need to replace the fluids we lose when we sweat.
What is a good time for your first half marathon?
If it’s your first half marathon, crossing the finish line anywhere between 2 hours 20 minutes and 3 hours is a solid goal for beginners. (1)
Running like a pro doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time, patience, the right marathon training plan, and a lot of hard work. With a great plan and a positive mindset, your running will improve immensely. With these five tips in mind, you’ll be on your way to conquering your first half marathon.