How to Prepare for Your First Half Marathon
If you have recently watched the London Marathon or any of the other big distance running events and dreamed of competing yourself, then the best place to start is a half marathon. But even this reduced distance isn’t something you can just jump into – you need to plan and prepare yourself over a period of time to do your best on the day.
The key to success in running a half marathon is to get yourself a training plan and stick to it. A quick Google search will yield plenty of ideas and most experts say to work to one that is longer than 10 weeks’ duration.
Look for a plan that you know you will be able to stick to with your other life commitments. For example, if the plan says run for a certain time or distance every single day and you know this won’t happen, then choose a different plan.
Plans are often labelled as beginner, intermediate and advanced but don’t assume that a beginner plan is best, even if you are just that. Look at the details of the plan, make sure it fits your level of fitness and will take you forward.
Quality of running
Experienced marathon runners will tell you that it is the quality of your running that counts, not the quantity. Just racking up tons of miles don’t necessarily get you in the right place for your half marathon and can actually increase the chance of an injury.
Varying the tempo of your run is an important part of training. A mid-week tempo run would normally consist of a 1 mile warm up then running at one mile blocks at different pace. Try to aim for a one mile high speed run, around 30 seconds faster than your normal speed for a 5,000 metre distance.
As you build up strength, you can make these high tempo periods a little longer. This helps the body utilize the oxygen in the muscle layer to create energy and increases its ability to take in more oxygen.
Lastly, don’t forget to choose good running trainers that will prevent any foot/ankle injuries.
Diet and supplements
Marathon running isn’t just about hitting the road and clocking up the miles – it’s about preparing your body with the right nutrition and the use good sports supplements. Just like with training plans, there are lots of different ideas about diets out there but there are some basics that work for everyone.
The amount of calories consumed should vary depending on the workout you have planned. You burn around 100 calories per mile that you run, depending slightly on size. This means you need to eat enough so that you don’t get through too many calories and feel weak at the end of your run.
One idea for a good diet when preparing for a marathon is that you have 60-70% of your calories from carbohydrates such as grains, pasta and bread. Another 20-30% should come from fat sources including nuts and oils while the remaining amount should come from protein such as fish and meat.
There are no one size fits all for a half marathon run preparation but good planning, good diet and the wise use of supplements to help can lead to success, even if that success is just finishing the race.