How to Train for a Half Marathon
By: Kaanan Shah
It's Sunday morning and you’re scrolling through Instagram. Either you just woke up or you’re already off to brunch, waiting for the subway. You see a photo of a friend, medal in hand, with some caption about 13.1 miles. You’re either commenting the 💯emoji or thinking “Wow, I wish I could do that! That’s amazing!”
Well, you can! A half marathon, or 13.1 miles, seems extremely daunting. I ran track and cross country in high school, but I never ran more than 5 miles, so 13.1 sounded absolutely insane to me. Then I thought, “Let me try.” That was the most pivotal point, and why I’m going to give you running, training, and motivational tips on how to train for a half marathon!
Start small. If you are a beginner, start with small distances, but be consistent. Even if you start with a half mile, that’s okay! You’ll build up from there. You should also be consistent with how much you’re running. If you work out five times a week, try to make two or three of those running days to start, and slowly keep increasing from there. Running sounds horrible to a lot of people, but if you allow yourself to clear your mind, you’ll be amazed at what your body can do and how good it actually feels.
Have a plan! Specifically for race training, you will need a training plan. I printed out a calendar and placed it on my wall so I could keep myself accountable. I adapted my training plan from Hal Higdon’s plan. He is a writer, contributed to Runner’s World magazine, and was a competitive runner. He has a training plan for virtually every type of race and every type of runner, from novice to advanced.
Even if you are a seasoned runner, strength training is one of the most important parts of race training. Strengthening your leg muscles will make running easier.
Keep a good balance between running outdoors and on a treadmill. Outdoor running will be more like race day, so you’ll want to run outside more. If you feel injured, running on a treadmill or grass will be softer on your bones and joints.
Stretching is equally as important. Stretching is extremely tedious to most people and they think they can get by without doing it. Those 10 minutes of stretching before and after a run, will be a game changer. It loosens up your tight muscles and will further the progress you’ll be able to make. Typically, you should stretch your quads, hamstrings, “butterfly,” and calves and do each stretch 3x/ leg for approximately 15 seconds per stretch.
Don’t be afraid to “cross-train,” meaning doing a different type of cardio to build your endurance and work different muscles. Swimming, the elliptical, and spin are great alternatives to running and will make you look forward to a different activity each week.
Take days off. You cannot train or run 7 days/ week. Your legs and your body need to recover and rest.
Shoes! Getting the right running shoes for the way you run and the way your feet are built is imperative. Try to go to a local running or sports shop where the workers have more training than in a normal shoe store. They will have you jog to see if you pronate, or place your weight on the inside of your foot, or if you have extremely flat or arched feet. Buying shoes based on those factors will change your workouts completely. Those Nikes and Adidas are super cute, but if you’re training you need a good running shoe. So put your cute athleisure sneakers aside and get the right shoe for you. Finally, you have to change your running shoes every 300-400 miles. If that is at the end of your training season, hold off until after the race. Do not get new shoes less than 2 weeks before race day. You will want to break them in by integrating them in slowly with your old shoes. If it is mid training season, you can break in a new pair of kicks for race day.
Eat, drink, and you’ll be merry. Your diet is also important during training. Typically eating healthy is important for working out. Now, I’m not saying you can’t have a plate of nachos or ice cream. But fueling your body with protein, carbs, and vegetables will make your body ready to perform at its best. More importantly, hydrating with water and refueling your electrolytes and carbs while running is extremely important. I got a handheld water bottle to have during the race and training. Also, your body will need replenishing after forty-five minutes of running, so keep some sort of re-hydration gels with you on those long runs.
Music makes you lose control. Playing music while running keeps you going! Make an awesome playlist and you’ll forget how long you’ve even been going for. I listen to a lot of EDM and fast-paced hip-hop to pump me up.
A map that leads to you. During training, you’ll want to see how many miles you’re training. I use Map My Run. It tells you each mile and your times.
Don’t wanna change a thing. Race day is like another day of training. So keep your breakfast, clothes, playlist, shoes, and accessories the same. You don’t want to shock your body with something you when you already have that adrenaline pumping.
Mind over matter. Last, but certainly not least, it’s all in your head. Your mind is your biggest setback and your biggest supporter. Your mind tells you when you can’t keep going. Your body is far stronger and if you keep a strong mind, you’ll be amazed what your body can do.
I hope this encourages you to start running or training for a race! Running is an amazing escape and making a goal for yourself, makes it so much more enjoyable. Good luck!