No matter your age, gender, athletic ability, or experience with running, anyone can run a half-marathon with the right mindset and preparation! Here are the steps I followed that allowed me to successfully cross the finish line!
Step 1: When and Where
The first step is signing up! The biggest factor in choosing a marathon is allowing enough time for training beforehand. Running a half marathon allows you to see different sights and areas of a location so it is always fun to pick a place you are interested in or have never been to. Cities around the US hold marathons every year including Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Newport Beach, Las Vegas, and many more!
Step 2: Grab Some Gear
The right clothing and shoes can make a big difference in the success and comfortability of training and running. Supportive running shoes can prevent injury and assist in the correct running form. Clothing can help either keep warm through winter months or cool during hot summer months of training.
Although brand and style of shoes is completely based on preference, Asics or Brooks are known to have the most support and prevention of injury during running. Nike does make lines of running shoes, however they tend to be less supportive than Asics or Brooks. The important thing is to research what may be best for your foot, or if possible visit a running store where they can professionally fit you for the correct shoes. The other important factor with shoes is to make sure they are not too broken down or ruined by the time race day arrives. Usually two pairs of the same shoe is a better option to guarantee a good support on race day.
The type of clothes for training depends on the season of when you are preparing to race. During winter or colder months it is important to wear multiple layers and if possible heat absorbing gear to keep your body warm. Most importantly gloves and a hat can protect your hands from frostbite and keep heat from escaping through your head. In warmer months, it is important to wear light, heat reflecting clothing to protect the body from overheating. Although not necessary, more form fitting clothing may prevent legs or arms from chaffing, especially during longer runs.
Other gear than can help make training easier or more entertaining are iPods or music, training programs or apps that can help motivate or track improvements and training, and handheld water bottles to stay hydrated during longer runs or warmer months.
Step 3: Choose a Training Schedule
Most training schedules plan a run 4-5 days a week. It is important to not only stay on a regimented schedule, but also plan runs on the days you know you will have the most time to run. Whether you are new to running or an experienced runner, almost all training schedules are based off of 3 middle distance runs, a short run, and one long run a week. I found the most important part of the training schedule to train your long run on the same day of the week as the actual race. This allows the body to get comfortable and a routine of when the longest run will occur. It is also important to have at least two days of rest during the week, especially for beginner runners. This allows your joints and muscles to rest and strengthen. Training schedules often begin at least 12 weeks before race day, which is important to know before signing up! Other schedules may be 16-20 weeks long. There are also schedules available that can help you reach time and distance goals by a specific date. Remember to choose what is best for you and your experience with running and training!
Step 4: Start Running!
The most exciting part of the whole process is when you officially start training! Even though your first run may be only 2 miles its exhilarating and exciting to know you are on your way to completing your goal!
Step 5: Rest and Stretch
Especially during the first couple weeks of training, your body will not be happy. If you are new to running, many muscles will be sore and tired. It is important to rest and stretch just as much as you are running. This will help protect your body from any injuries and will make the longer runs easier for your joints and muscles.
If during a run your body is telling you to stop, do not feel guilty about walking to taking a break. It is important to train and push your limits, but it is also important to stay healthy!
Step 6: Stay Motivated
Although training for a half-marathon is mostly physical, it is important to stay mentally strong during training as well. During long training processes it is easy to lose sight of the end goal and lose motivation to train. Don't forget to reward yourself for your hard work, and use those rewards to encourage yourself to keep training! Whether its shopping, going out, food, or getting healthy, use those motivators to push yourself to keep going and reach your goals! Although many people participate in half-marathons, there are reasons why not everyone can do it! Training may be hard and make sure when you reach a goal or need some motivation don't be afraid to give it to yourself!
Step 7: Love Those Long Runs
The hardest part to the training are those long monotonous runs. Since your schedule should have the long runs on the same day of the week each week, plan an exciting or different route each week to run. If you live around different parks or near a city, research different routes that let you explore and see different areas around you. Not only can this make long boring runs more exciting but also get you motivated to actually enjoy those 1 or 2 hours of running.
Another important part of those long runs is hydrating and nourishing your body correctly. Make sure you are hydrating before, during, and after every run to keep your body functioning. Also, the correct foods and snacks can not only make those runs easier, but also more enjoyable. Energy chews, bananas, or beans can quickly supply your body with the carbohydrates and energy it needs to finish those longer runs.
Step 8: Get Ready for Race Day
About a week or two weeks away from race day the excitement really starts to rise. You finally are realizing what all of your hard work is coming towards. Its important to prepare your body and mind the right way so when that day comes you are completely prepared!
For me the part that made me realize it was really close, was buying clothes and music for race day. Make sure to check the weather frequently to know what to wear, and how to prepare for before, during, and after the race! Some runners do not prefer to listen to music during the race, but if you do I suggest buying music specifically for the race. Create a playlist of songs that would fit your every mood during running. Songs to motivate, songs to inspire, and songs to relax are all crucial for a race day playlist.
Feed your body and soul what it needs. If there is something you've been craving during all of training, eat it. Most importantly, prepare for what you are going to eat the night before and morning of the race. Loading on carbohydrates will give your body the energy it needs to function properly.
Step 9: Ready, Set, RUN
Finally race day has arrived and all those weeks of training and running is finally going to be put to the test. But don't panic! Always remember your goals and focus on what you want to achieve individually. Know the pace you want to run and plan for what your body will need throughout the race.
Overall remember to enjoy yourself and have fun! Let the atmosphere and experience take over!
Step 10: Celebrate!
YOU DID IT!
You completed your goal and have officially become a half-marathon runner! All of your hard work and effort has paid off and you definitely deserve to celebrate! Whether its just laying back and relaxing, going out and grabbing a drink, or celebrating with friends and family, give yourself time to celebrate what you have accomplished. Remember that if it was easy, everyone would do it! What you have accomplished is an achievement to carry for the rest of your life!