When I read the comments from the Go Sport ID giveaway, many of you said your goal in 2012 was to run your first half marathon. I loved hearing this from so many people!
I've only recently become a half marathoner. I ran my first race in the beginning of November and I ran my second race January 7 of this year! I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I truly love the 13.1 distance and I do have years of running experience (even though I took a few year hiatus). I also keep up with articles and new training plans. Running bloggers have provided tons of inspiration as well as tips that really helped me with training and racing. Here are some of my favorite tips as well as things I've learned along the way that hopefully will help some of you while you are training!
1. Find a training plan - Before you go out and start training for the race you've just signed up for, do some research and find a training plan that works with your schedule. I personally followed Runner's World's training plan for a first-time half marathoner for my race in November, and for this past race I combined a few beginner and intermediate training plans I found on the Runner's World website to make my own plan. Make sure you give yourself enough time to train for a race. Training plans can range anywhere from 6-18 weeks. I think 10-12 weeks is an ideal amount of time to train for a race. Most importantly, make sure you are realistic with the plan you decide to use. I do best running 3-4 days a week. My training plan with 5 days of running did not wind up working for me. Lessons learned.
2. Invest in quality shoes - Make sure you visit a running store and get fitted for the best kind of shoes for your feet. They have been trained for what to look for, and can identify whether you need stability, motion control, neutral cushioning, etc. shoes. These places can be pricey for buying the shoes, so I usually look on 6pm.com, runningwarehouse.com (my favorite), or Zappos. Good shoes are essential to running success!
Some people have asked what shoes I wear. I run in Asics Gel Kayano 17. I love the Kayanos and have been running in Kayanos since 2003. I can't wait for the 18s to come out this spring!
3. Be able to run 3 miles first - Before starting a half marathon training plan, it helps a lot if you can run at least 3 miles comfortably prior to beginning the plan. With this base, the long runs in the beginning of the plan (5-6 miles) are attainable, as well as the tempos and interval workouts. An improper base could lead to injury or plain old discouragement.
4. Some runs will be bad - Some days, running will suck. It will be too hot, too cold, too early, too late, you're hungry, you're tired, whatever the case may be. The best thing to do for this is accept that the run didn't go as planned and move on. Don't let one bad run deter you from moving forward toward your goal. You can do this! The occasional bad run will not ruin your training!
Running in the summer in MS is freakin' hot. And its sucks.
5. Indulge - You are working so hard! Make sure you take time to relax, enjoy yourself, and indulge in something that is a reward! Go to the movies, buy a new dress for your rockin' runner bod, make cookies, or do like I do and stuff yo face with frozen yogurt. Whatever you do, just make sure you treat yourself for all the hard work you've been doing!
Frozen yogurt is always amazing. And Zach always judges the amount that I get. Whatev.
6. Have fun with running - This training plan of yours lasts several months. Have fun with it! I am always getting new jams for my running playlists or signing up for smaller races to spice it up and have fun. Strategically placed 5k's and 10k's can actually work out nicely for your training.
I find that wearing orange and black for a Halloween run was festive. And Zoe also enjoyed running in her candy corn bandana. We had many smiles from passing people.
7. Have a support system - Tell your family and friends about your training and how your runs are going. They are proud of you and your accomplishments and they can provide encouragement for you as your training progresses! You can also coerce them into being your running partners.
Zoe! Run every single run with me!
8. Do the long runs - Completing the long runs was something I struggled with during the training for my first half marathon. I did have a knee injury in the beginning of September, but when it was healed enough for me to run, I just stayed in my safe zone and ran the longest run of 8 miles once before heading to Savannah for 13.1. This is probably why I struggled horribly after mile 7 during the race. This time around, I ran a long run every week, ranging from 7 miles in November to completing 3 10-milers in December. This past race was significantly better and I was way more confident headed into my second half. I did struggle a little around miles 11-12, so I know next time I need to run probably two 12-milers leading up to the race. Regardless, the long runs helped my confidence as well as my overall race experience, so I really recommend completing as many of the ones on your training plan as you can. They are essential.
9. Cross train - I did not do this the first time around or the second time around. But I've already begun doing it for the third time around. Strong legs, arms, and core is crucial to overall performance, general health, and will help prevent you from getting injured or overworking your body with too much running. It's tempting to run every day while training, especially in the aftermath of a really good run. But I knew during both races I wasn't strong, even though I had the endurance. All I have been doing since last April is running, and while this is awesome and I have a lot of endurance built up, I'm not strong and it's a miracle I wasn't injured from running so much (my knee injury was a fall, not during a run or caused by running). This time around, strength training and yoga are already in the mix.
10. Don't try anything new on race day - Use your long runs as test days for trying out what gels, chomps, fueling strategy works for you, how you need to hydrate, and what upsets your stomach. Some people are sensitive to certain types of gel or food. I can't eat any dairy before I run, so I know not to eat yogurt on race day morning. I also know that Powergel works best for me for fueling during a race. Test out all the products and meals on days you are running long as a trial for race day. This also works for your outfit. Make sure your race-day outfit is comfortable for a long run. You do not want to be uncomfortable or chafing with an upset stomach on race day!
11. Don't get intimidated - So now it's race day, and you've prepared well and are at the start line. There will be lots of hardcore runners that can run a half in 1:30 and have been doing this for 25 years and will be talking about the 35th marathon they ran last month. Do not let these people intimidate you. They were first time half marathoners once too. I usually just keep to myself, talk to Zach, or make friends with the nice people around me. Gather all the pep talks and support you can. And listen to "All I do is Win".
12. Bring throw away clothes for the start - If you run a race in cold-ish weather, make sure you wear gloves or a sweatshirt you can throw to the side of the start or the road during the race. It's better than freezing while waiting for the race to start, and you don't want to get stuck carrying your nice running gear. Fall races or early spring races where the weather warms up nicely as the morning progresses but are freezing at the start is where you will see this happen often. Hit up Walmart or the Dollar Store.
13. Have fun during the race! - This is by far the best advice I have for anyone. You have come this far - make sure to enjoy it! Look around at the scenery, crowds, and other runners. Listen and enjoy the bands on the course. Read the funny signs the spectators are holding up. Enjoy the race experience, even if you aren't making your goal pace or your leg hurts. Have fun! Not every race will go as planned, you won't always PR, but you will always have fun!