Being successful at the half marathon takes knowledge, planning and execution. And a little courage. When you train smart and effectively and develop and execute your race plan, you'll turn the half marathon into something you can be proud of. Here is a mile-by-mile guide to help you make your next half marathon your best one yet.
Before the Start Line1 of 16
Confidence comes from being prepared. So prepare by doing the proper training. Follow a systematic training plan that includes all of the important components—mileage, long runs, tempo runs, and intervals.
Mile 12 of 16
The first mile can be a cluster at big races, so head toward the outside to avoid traffic bumps.
It's easy to be emotional at the start of a race, but running with your emotions in the first mile rarely works. It often makes runners start too fast, only to slow down in the latter stages of the race when fatigue gets the better of them.
Don't let your head get ahead of you; draw on the data from your training to know what pace you should start and ask yourself in the first mile, "Can I honestly sustain this pace the whole way?" If the answer is no, back off the pace immediately. If the answer is yes, then go for it.
Mile 23 of 16
By the middle of mile two, the crowd should be opening up and you can start to enjoy the race. Think of your race in segments. There's nothing you can do about mile nine when you're running mile two. Divide the race into smaller, more manageable segments and focus on each segment at a time. If you're shooting for a specific time goal, focus on attaining that goal at each mile checkpoint.
Be patient with your pace. It's still early, so conserve energy for the latter miles when you'll need it. The more patient and relaxed you are now, the better you'll run during mile 10.
Mile 34 of 16
Runner legs! Many folks say by mile three they find their rhythm and feel like they can go the distance. Focus on your legs and your breathing. Try to get as comfortable with the pace as possible.
Mile 45 of 16
Thirsty? Grab a sip of water—or swoosh and spit. If you're not, you don't need to drink at every water station. Just drink enough to stay hydrated.
Mile 56 of 16
Your mind may be saying, "Why am I doing this?" Shut the nerves off and enjoy the views.
Mile 67 of 16
Time for a body check. Is your back straight or hunched? Are you swinging your arms correctly? Is your chin up? Is your breathing rhythmic? Remember there's a medal and a big bottle of chocolate milk (and beer!) waiting for you at the end.
Mile 78 of 16
It's easy to let these middle miles get away from you. But now that you're in the second half of the race, it's time to focus. The best strategy to run a great race and have a positive experience is to run the second half equal to or slightly faster than the first half. So use mile seven to sharpen your focus for the next few miles. Take a gel, drink some water, or splash it over your head—anything that will cause you to sharpen your focus.
Mile 89 of 16
Talk to yourself. Successful people talk to themselves, verbalizing and solidifying in their own heads what they want to accomplish.
Say to yourself, "I'm strong," or "I'm fast," or "the other runners are even more fatigued than I am." Pick a specific landmark on the course and say to yourself that you're going to hold the pace until you get to that landmark. And then do it again for another landmark.
Mile 910 of 16
You may be tired, but know you're more than half way there. As you start to fatigue, it's easy to let the race control you. Focus on being in control and dictate the pace.
Mile 1011 of 16
Find a runner close to you and stick to his or her shoulder like glue. When it starts to get late in the race, it helps to use other runners to hold your pace. You're not in the race alone—you've got hundreds of other runners who can help you. Use them. Stare at someone's back and let him or her pull you along. It's much easier to hold a pace when you have someone else doing the work.
Mile 1112 of 16
Draw on deeper emotions. Not only do emotions stimulate the secretion of hormones that can help your race, it can also help you fulfill your physical potential.
Mile 1213 of 16
Focus and execute. To be successful, focus all of your attention on putting one foot in front of the other. If you have someone who inspires you—a coach, a running partner, even your grandmother—call on him or her to give you the strength to finish.
Mile 1314 of 16
The finish line is close! Dig deep, let your emotions come to the forefront, run with your whole heart, move those legs, and become the runner and the person you want to be.
Mile 13.115 of 16
You're a sprinter now! Show your inner cheetah and run as fast as you can. Don't think. Just run. It's only 160 meters to the finish line!