(For some reason last night, I said, “Stay tuned for a post called So You Want To Run a 5K,” when I really I intended it to be about a Half… no idea why I promised a 5K post. However, the tips below include information on how to get 5K ready, which of course if the first step to running a half! Sorry for the confusion… my brain is shot due to book-writing.)
Four years ago, I felt like a girl without direction. I started to read healthy living and running blogs at my desk at work and – combined with the urging of BFF Lauren – I started to think about developing a healthy hobby… namely, one that didn’t involve going to work or heading to the bar. Specifically, I wanted to do RACES. Because what could be cooler? And how often as adults do we get to participate in a physical competition that involves a congratulatory medal at the end?!
Also, even back then, I realized that I was a reward-driven person and having a deadline would help me stay on track.
Despite not really considering myself a runner yet (the first time Lauren talked me into a run, I ran 1/4 mile and collapsed on a sidewalk), I decided to sign up for a race. I ran a 10K in Pittsburgh in the snow all by myself, and it was the beginning of a beautiful love affair with running. Since that day, I’ve done 32 races, including 3 half marathons and 2 marathons.
My halves include:
The Marine Corps Half in JAX, Florida: 2:06:30 (October 2008)
The Gasparilla Half in Tampa, FL: 2:03:00 (May 2009)
The OUC Half Marathon in Orlando, FL: 1:58:45 in December 2009
Because race season is nearly upon us in most parts of the country, I’ve been getting a ton of e-mails from newbie runners who are considering running a half marathon. I thought it would fun to share my advice – but remember, I’m not a professional trainer, just a girl who loves to run, and this is just feedback based on my experiences. Talk to a doctor before beginning an exercise program.
WHY THE HALF MARATHON?
- I think this distance is obtainable for most people of moderate fitness in 3 – 5 months.
- Half marathon training doesn’t take over your entire existence the way that marathon training consumes you.
- You’re less likely to get injured training for a half than a full.
- The distance is long enough to make the race seem ‘worth it.’ Some people, even newer runners, feel like they don’t hit a running groove until 5 miles or so in. If you were running a 5K or 10K, the race would be over.
- Most large, popular races are at least a half marathon distance.
- It’s a great physical challenge. A half marathon isn’t half of anything!
CHOOSE YOUR RACE WISELY
- Choose your race wisely to ensure you’re not setting yourself up for failure (or at least a miserable experience).
- Select a race that likely to have moderate temperatures (50 – 60’s are great).
- Look online and try to find a less-hilly course. If the course is hilly, you’re going to need to train on hills.
- Read race reviews on a website like RaceVine.com. Look for a race that is known for being organized.
- Check out the course map to see how well-staffed it will be. My second marathon only had 4 – 5 water stops, which was definitely a negative. A good half should have at least 8 stops, preferably more. Otherwise, you will need to carry your own liquids. Not a huge deal, but something to consider.
- If you’re traveling a long distance for the race, check out this post on Foodie Fresh for details you’ll want to consider.
- Lastly, consider timing. Signing up for a race right after busy season at work could mean your training will suffer.
FOLLOW THE PLAN
- Although I tinker with training plans, I highly recommend that people follow a training plan for their first half.
- If you’re truly starting from ground zero, begin with Couch to 5K. This is a run/walk program that will get you running 3.1 miles in just 9 weeks.
- Other good novice programs to get you up to a 5K include Hal Hidgon or Runner’s World.
- Once you can run a 5K, you can graduate to other half plans. I really love Hal’s plan, which is 12 weeks. The only thing I personally do not like about Hal’s novice plan is that it maxes out at 10 miles (the race is 13.1). Although the aderaline will carry you through, I prefer plans that get you a little closer to the distance. Check out this intermediate plan for end-of-training modifications (add a week or two to the novice if you want to get closer to race distance, don’t skip ahead).
WALK THIS WAY
- It’s okay to WALK! This deserves it’s own section because I know people get really worked up with walking vs. running, and I’m here to tell you that it’s fine.
- Doing walk/run intervals (see the Couch to 5K plan, linked above) can actually make you faster overall than if you just slowly jogged the entire thing.
- Walking gives you a mental and physical break. It can be a huge morale booster if you don’t look at walking as a negative.
- I walked/ran the last two miles of the half marathon that I set a 4 minute personal record. I also walk/ran the last several miles of the marathon that I set a 22 minute PR… basically, walking rules!
- Cross training is very important to prevent injuries and mental burnout. I like biking or power yoga for cross training.
- If you feel a nagging overuse injury coming on, immediately cease all activity until the pain goes away. If it comes back when you attempt to exercise again, go to a sports medicine doctor ASAP.
- If you fall off the wagon for more than a few days, don’t fret – training plans build in room for error. Just start back where you left off.
- Always do your long runs!!! They are very important, both physically and mentally.
- Train with a friend or a local running club to make it seem easier.
- Supplementing with calories becomes necessary over 9 miles (for me; it varies from person to person). Consider Gu shots and or a mix of Gatorade/water to provide you with the calories you need. I take in about 200 – 300 calories during a half marathon.
- If you feel like you need some extra motivation or advice for running your first half-marathon, don’t be afraid to go and seek out a certified personal trainer (for example, this linked-to HTP sponsor helps find local trainers).
- Tips for Runners
- Breaking Out of a Slump Part I and Part II
- Get Faster
- How I Create Training Plans
- Coping with “Bad Runs” During Training for a Race
- Buying Running Shoes
- Cures for Sluggish Runs
- Get Your Game Face On: What to Do the Days Leading Up to a Race
- Running in Hot Weather
- Running in the Rain
- How to Set Race Goals (and Not Drive Yourself Crazy) Part I and Part II
Are you currently training for your first half? Did you recently run your first half? What advice do you have to share with other newbies?