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Last week, as I was completing a 9-mile run on the treadmill, I started brainstorming ideas for upcoming posts. I want to write about our trip to Legoland, I still have some Hawaii posts to put out and I need to write something about long flights with kids (I have awesome tips!!!). But, I realized, first and foremost, I must write my thoughts on training for a half-marathon.
Disclaimer: I have two successful half-marathons under my belt. I am currently training for my third, which is in two weeks. I am not a physician, nor am I a personal trainer. I am just sharing my amateur experience. I hope you realize that if I can do it, so can you!
Half-Marathon Training Tips
Print out a training plan. And stick to it… more or less. I had wanted to do a half for years, but was really nervous about not having enough time to devote to the training. After seeing a few other moms complete half’s, they told me as long as I can do one long run a week, increasing my distance each week, I could do it.
For each race, I have more-or-less followed the Hal Higdon Half Marathon Novice Plan. Not each day to the letter, but the outline of the longer runs. This plan starts 12 weeks before the race, and historically, I am in good enough shape to start up around week 3 or 4. This plan includes a 5K-race week 6 and a 10K race during week 9. For my first two half’s I did a 5K around that time, but not a 10K. This time around, I could not find a 5 or 10K here in New York, in January, which was a bummer.
At the end, this plan has you running a 10-miler the week before the race. For my first two half’s, I completed my longest run (10 and 11 miles) two weeks out, based on what I had going on in my life.
For each pass, I essentially did one short run a week (outside or on a treadmill, 3-4 miles), one strength training class, and one long run. Maybe one other run or cardio workout if I could fit it in. This was adequate to get the mileage under my belt and to be able to run the whole 13.1-mile race at a good pace.
Schedule your long runs. For each go around, I put dates on the plan and made sure I knew what days and when I would be able to do the long runs. When training for the Long Island half, I had my cousin’s wedding one weekend, and I knew I had to do my 9-mile run that Saturday morning. It was cold and pouring rain, but I had to get it done!
This helped me feel a sense of control, in a life where I have to be flexible and fluid. And having the two race weekends built into this plan afforded me some wiggle room if a long run wasn’t in the cards one week. It also helped to have a partner that supported me, especially in the time it took to do the long runs on the weekends (this fact should probably have been a separate bullet point…)
Strength Train. I know for me, when I’m doing a lot of strength training, I am a faster racer. I like to do cardio on my own (running outside, or biking) but I like group fitness for strength training. I take core fusion once a week through our High School’s adult Ed, and I go to a local fitness studio once week. I just joined Crunch, and they have some great classes like Belly, Butt and Thighs Bootcamp and Cardio Tai Box. In a pinch, or with a friend, I might do this Pilates video (free on You Tube) or a Pure Barre DVD at home.
Power Gel. I use Gu Sports Energy Gel when I run distances of 7 or more miles. I would highly recommend that if you plan to use these during the race, you train with them. I tried a few before I found a flavor I like. These gels have a strange consistency and definitely took some getting used to! Personally, this is the one I liked the best.
Hydration. Along the racecourse, water will be plentiful, but when training I have had issues with thirst. I would plan my long runs to go through a local park where there were water fountains. And this water pouch comes highly recommended by my uncle, although I have yet to purchase. I also keep a stash of Power-aides at home, for after the run. I rarely have these types of drinks but after a long run, I feel I need to replenish my fluids!
While training, I up my water consumption all around, and forgo the alcohol a few weeks before a big race! I know for me it really helps.
Make note of the weather. For my first half marathon, I started training in earnest around the first week of March for a May 1st race. Since spring is so fickle here, I made note of the temperature, and what attire was comfortable for running. Treat long runs like a dress rehearsal! The day of the race it was in the 40s and raining, but I felt confident in what layers to wear. I was also so glad I was forced to do a long run in the rain, because I wasn’t nervous about it and knew it would be fine. At this point in my running career, I know exactly how to layer up for weather in the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s etc. Very important come race day.
My third half-marathon is coming up and I would love to beat my previous race times, 2:14:18 and 2:12:52 but I just hope to pace myself well and finish strong. Since the race is in Florida, I am nervous it will be hotter than I am used to. But I am looking forward to racing, and will probably sign up for a spring half closer to home. I would like to add more speed work into my fitness routine now that I know how to add the distance. Maybe some track running or use the treadmill for interval training? I’d love to hear reader advice in this area!
What are your best half-marathon training tips?
Photo via Visual Hunt
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