Want to run a half marathon? Great choice! It's the perfect distance to feel like you are taking on a big challenge yet doesn't take hours of training and recovery each week like a full marathon. In 2015, over 2 million people completed a half marathon. It's quickly become one of the most popular race distances. It's not uncommon to find a local half marathon happening every weekend in the spring and fall.
Before you sign up for your first half marathon, consider these things to make sure it's right for you.
Make Sure You Have Time to Train
We've all heard stories or know friends who did little to no training, yet still rocked their first half marathon. Those people are rare. Or they were really, really hurting during the race. It's true that anyone can finish a half marathon. However, it's better to train for it and feel good during the race rather than wing it and be in agony. It takes time to build up your mileage. Make sure you can commit to a training plan.
Find a Training Plan That Works for You
There are oodles and oodles of training plans out there. Ask friends who have run half marathons before what plans they used. If you don't trust yourself, finding a coach is always a good option, too. The best plan should start with a gradual progression in distance that lasts 12 to 14 weeks. There should be a mix of easy running, some speed work and/or tempo runs. Finding a plan that also factors in cross training may also be a good idea if you aren't used to running more than three to four times per week.
Schedule Workouts Like Any Other Appointment
The best training plan is one that you will stick to. If you schedule your workouts like a doctor's appointment or an important meeting, you are more likely to get them done. And make sure you hang your schedule somewhere you can see it every day, or have your phone send you calendar alerts each day with your training plan.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Half marathon training is tough. You are going to feel some aches and pains. Make sure you are icing, foam rolling and stretching daily. If you start to feel more than an ache or pain here or there and it becomes consistent, don't push through it. Now is not the time to ignore it. Keep your big goal in mind. There's nothing worse than pushing yourself too much and ending up injured with a DNS.
Variety Is the Spice of Running
Running is a repetitive sport that can easily lead to injury. Rotate between two pairs of running shoes. Change the surface you run on (treadmills, soft gravel, packed trails, roads). Vary the speeds—longer and slower miles, recovery runs and faster efforts. Definitely make sure you are running your easy runs easy, and don't forget about rest days. Your body needs it to recover from all the hard work it's doing to get you ready for covering 13.1 miles.
Don't Set a Goal Time
Your No. 1 priority is to cross the finish line. Don't worry about what your time is. It's an automatic PR no matter how long it takes you to finish, right? That's a HUGE accomplishment. Celebrate it. Enjoy it. Soak up all the glory.
As you cross the finish line of your first half marathon, remember to raise your arms high up in victory. You set a goal, did the work and achieved something amazing. Take pride in your accomplishment!
And then you can start to plan your second because you'll most likely be hooked.
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