Running a half marathon (13.1 miles/21.1km) for the first time can be daunting, no matter what level you’re starting at. Here are our top tips to get you ready for race day, in time and injury-free.
1. Find the Right Training Program For You
A pretty quick Google search will find you plenty of half marathon programs to choose from, but how do you know which training schedule is right for you? Start by thinking hard about your current level of fitness and how many training days you can commit to every week. It’s a (half) marathon, not a sprint – in order to make it to the finish line you’ll need to be honest with yourself. Plan for enough gradual training time, and always respect those crucial rest days.
2. You don’t need to follow it to the last letter
So you’ve got your half marathon training schedule and you’re ready to follow it perfectly. Well, it’s great if you do – but remember it’s also okay if you don’t. A training plan should help you monitor progress and stay motivated, but it’s not a Pass or Fail test. If you didn’t hit the right miles per week or you had a manic few days at work, it’s not the end of the world. At the end of the day, half marathon training should be fun (at least some of the time).
3. Find a running group or partner
If you’re not feeling that motivated, think about finding (or starting!) a running group. You’re much less likely to skip runs if there’s someone else you’d be letting down – plus, you’ll have someone to chat to during the slower paces. Beginner half marathon groups are especially great when you’re doing this for the first time as you’ll share the full experience together, from your doubts along the way to the glory at the end!
4. Listen to running music or a podcast when training
As long as you are careful of cars when road-running, listening to something can make all the difference to your training. A great playlist with running music can really energise you, while a podcast can make you feel doubly productive. If you go one step further and do some work-related listening, you’re barely sacrificing anything when going out for more time-consuming long distance runs.
5. Interval Training is great
When you’re bored of long runs and the same old running exercises, interval training can be a great break – switching between those high and low intensity bursts is a highly productive fitness training method that keeps things feeling new. If you’re especially achy one day, you can also try a run walk program or cross-train with some swimming or cycling. While your half marathon is the goal, running longer distances isn’t the only way to push towards it. Mentally and physically testing yourself in new ways will pay off on race day and afterwards.
6. Stay Hydrated
You’ve probably heard various common guidelines at some point: 60 ounces of water a day, a glass for every cup of coffee, load up on those hydrating fruits and vegetables. Well, there’s a reason for it! Maintaining steady hydration (as in, don’t just chug water after a long run) is essential for safety, fitness and consistent muscle function. Try to keep those guidelines in mind throughout the full length of your training.
6. You don’t need to do the whole distance in training
The first time you manage the entire half marathon distance can absolutely be as you cross the event finish line. You definitely don’t need to have run the whole 13.1 miles in training. Many people will comfortably finish having only run 10–11 training miles, so don’t stress if your longest distance is yet to come.
7. Remember the medal
That half marathon training plan isn’t there for the fun of it – you’ve got a race to complete! So when your alarm is shrieking at 6 in the morning and your bed is singing a siren song, think towards that goal. Whether it’s a box-tick on the bucket list or the beginning of a bigger journey (full marathon, anyone?), you can be sure that finish line will feel damn good. There’s nothing like the feeling of your very first half marathon; keep the bigger picture in mind and have fun!