Where To Start With Half Marathon Training
So you've decided to sign up for your first half marathon – congratulations! It can be daunting trying to figure out where to start, so we've put together this handy quick guide so that you can get out there and be as ready as possible for the race.
1. Get the gear
Your first port of call should be investing in good quality fitness clothing so that you're not held back by what you're wearing. There's nothing worse than going on a long run and being hindered by running leggings that keep falling down and a running vest that keeps riding up and chafing. What's more, it's key to invest in running gear that is specifically designed for running and features sports technology such as sweat-wicking and multi-way stretch.
Your key pieces of gear should be a waterproof running jacket for running in changeable weather, reliable leggings that won't fall down, and a running top and shorts that wick sweat to keep you cool and comfortable.
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Once you're fully comfortable in your training outfit, you're ready to move on to step 2.
2. Find a training plan
A lot of people will try to train for a big race by just 'winging' it or making up their own training plan. Unless you are a certified coach, this is not recommended! Without a structured plan, you are far more likely to skip sessions and not do as much training as needed, resulting in a poor performance on race day and less enjoyment of the race.
Make sure you do some research and find a great half marathon training plan that suits your ability level and the amount of time you're able to dedicate to training. We highly recommend checking out Hal Higdon's Half Marathon training plans as he has something for everyone and they are time tested to prove they work. Once you've decided on a training plan, you're ready to move on to step 3.
3. Fit training around your daily routine
There's no point finding an awesome training plan but realising you can't follow it because it doesn't line up with your work and home commitments. For first timers, it's advisable to try and run a minimum of three times a week when training for a half marathon, but four times a week would be optimum and this is what most training plans will call for.
Take some time to figure out when is the best time for you to run. Is it before work, at lunchtime, after work, or at the weekend? You will also need to fit in some cross training sessions in order to bolster your training and improve your performance. Make the effort and make time for your training sessions but don't be unrealistic with your expectations. Getting up at 5am for a run before work sounds effective in theory, but is a different story when it's pitch black outside and you're tired!
Once you've settled on a training plan and training routine, you're ready to move on to step 4.
Read more: Cross Training Workout For Runners
4. Develop a hydration and nutrition strategy
If you have run a 5k or a 10k then chances are you were fine to just run and maybe grab some water from a hydration station on the course. However, the step up to half marathon distance will mean that many people will need a hydration and nutrition strategy in place so that you don't 'hit the wall' and run out of energy resulting in a possible DNF (did not finish).
As with everything, you will need to find what works for you. Some people react well to energy gels while for some it upsets their stomach. In general, it's advisable to try and fuel with 'real food' such as protein balls or other small snacks as these are easier on the stomach and will give better energy boosts. Make sure you practise fuelling while running in your training so that there are no surprises (or gastric disasters!) on race day.
With regards to hydration, figure out how much water you're going to need for the duration of the race. How are you going to carry the water? You can never rely fully on aid stations around the course as you don't know how frequent they'll be or if they'll have water left when you get there. Will you want a hydration bag or will you carry a water bottle in your hand? These are all things you need to decide for yourself and practise to find what works best for you.
Once you've nailed your nutrition and hydration, you're ready for the final step.
5. Train for the course
If you live in a very flat area but the race will include some hills, it's vital that you train for these. You can do this on a treadmill if there are no inclines for you to practise on outside. If the race is off-road or a trail race, make sure you get some practise on these types of terrains.
Additionally, be aware of the time of year of the race. Is it likely to be very hot or very cold? Train accordingly, especially as your hydration and nutrition strategy may need to be adjusted.