Beginners Guide To Running a Half Marathon

I’ve finally pulled myself out of bed from a whirlwind long weekend. My legs are still reeling from Sunday. It was my second attempt at a half marathon and my brother’s wedding day!
This event was part of the Sydney running festival, in which the course took me through some of the most iconic spots in Sydney’s harbour. Can’t say it was a spectacular day because it wasn’t. It started to pour rain on us half way through, which was a welcomed relief on an over heated body!
As most of my readers aren’t professional athletes, this blog post is designed for beginners. Hopefully you’ll get a few tips on how to start paving the way to completing a half marathon one day.
Now to clarify a few things, a half marathon is 21km, yes 21…
It’s a hard fact I found very hard to swallow, so let’s be frank: you have to be pretty committed and want to do this because it’s a hard slog. There are no half hearted attempts because it will show through on race day. I’m not going to lie to you either, it damn well hurts. It’s the most painful sporting competition I have ever done in my life.
To train up to running a half marathon it’s all about the timing. You need to give yourself at least 3 months if you’re starting from scratch, or longer if you want to finish with a reasonable time.
Here are my 10 top tips for running a half marathon:

Get a run coach- If you’re a newbie to running I suggest you get a run coach or DIY coaching to improve your technique. It’s something I have invested in this year that has made a difference to my shorter distance speeds. I went form running a 6.30min/km pace to 5.30min/km on race day.  It also prevents injury and helps you sort out muscular imbalances caused by running, which is key if you want longevity in the sport.

Start out easy- Do short easy runs of 2-3km and build it up. My boyfriend was supposed to do the race with me. However he ended up with shin splits due to trying to train up for it at the last minute. His running wasn’t consistent from week to week and it took its toll when he decided to do interval sprints on the treadmill. Race day rolled around and he had to give away his ticket.
Dedicate at least 3 days a week to run- Run fitness is quite unique. It’s a combination of cardio fitness (heart and lung capacity) and also leg endurance. At these distances your legs need the endurance to produce high leg turnover for at least 2hrs of running or more! It’s because of this you need to run at least 3x a week to condition your legs. Doing some leg training like squats, lunges and burpees also helps.
Download Apps to keep you motivated- I run with an app called STRAVA.  It’s super popular in the running community and it’s kind of like Facebook. You can add friends, join groups and have people give kudos to your runs. It also keeps tabs on all your run stats, like how many km per minutes you ran. My trusty app actually said I did 22.9km on race day, I ran an extra 1.9km unnecessarily! 
This is useful information to use, to gauge if you’re improving or not.  Another program I use is called Spotify. It’s a music library app you pay an $11 subscription and you basically have an online library to every single song that ever existed. It beats paying for each song one by one on iTunes.
Get your nutrition right- This of course is a topic dear to my heart, I always happen to be around people discussing nutrition during training or at race events. You know what? It really pays to see a professional rather than guessing what you should do.  Going carb free, if you’re a runner, is an absolute disaster at those distances, don’t even consider it.  You need to eat before a race and before your training sessions, something small but carbohydrate rich.
At races don’t overdo the supplements either.  I ran past some runners carrying 8-10 gels or holding 2-3 x500ml drink bottles on belts- most of which I observed where still full at the end of the race!
On a half marathon I use one gel… yes, just one. I drink 1 cup of Gatorade at the mid point and water throughout. Water bottles weigh you down, which slows you down and gels in excess isn’t helping your waistline or teeth. Of course men and women have different requirements for carbohydrates during running so that’s why it pays to get a sports dietitian to get a race day nutrition plan done.
Do what I say, not what I do!
Last year I was quite cheeky and only gave myself 3 weeks of prep time. My regime was 3 weeks of 3 x 9km runs per week,  which got me by with a similar race time as this year 2hrs 7minutes.
My training regime this time was;
  • 1x track interval session per week with the triathlon running squad, which consisted of 1hr of long distance sprinting. Total distance approx. 3-4km
  • 1x 10-12km long run per week
  • 6-7km run every second weekend
I think this year, with the longer prep time, I wasn’t in pain as quickly as last year. The first half of the race was faster than last year, with times falling within 4.15-5.30min/km pace for the first 10km. Then I bombed out because I couldn’t sustain the speed. Pacing is very important at those distances, something I haven’t mastered yet. 
Lastly, after racing do not wear high heels your legs and calves will hurt. Heels are no place for race day recovery. However when it’s your brother wedding you have have to deal with the pain and dance!


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