I completed my first half marathon last week. Just being able to type that feels like a huge accomplishment. When I first signed up, I did exactly what you have probably just done to find this page; I googled ‘how to train for a half marathon’. Now I’m sure that you will find a whole host of training plans written by people a helluva lot more qualified than I am, which is why I am not about to start telling you how many fartleks you need to do in a fortnight (What?! Exactly.) However, in the spirit of many post-event reports, I am going to give you 3 key learnings that I took away when training for my first half marathon.
1. Get a Training Plan (and stick to it!)
This doesn’t need to be a super strict or a super specific plan, unless of course you are training for a specific time. My only goal was to finish. I only started thinking about times, once I had been doing the plan for a while and started to realise what kind of time I was going to be able to achieve. Take some time choosing the right plan for you and don’t set yourself any unrealistic expectations. If you have a really busy job or travel a lot, you probably won’t be able to train 5 times a week, so don’t aim for that. You are more likely to stick with a programme that you have really planned well.
The plan I used was MyAsics – they have an iPhone app, with an online version and email reminders and you can choose whether or not you want to train 3, 4 or 5 times a week. I looked at my lifestyle and realised that I should aim for 3 runs a week and start 12 weeks before the race. I liked that the app told me when to run and how far to go. If I was not quite achieving the goals it set me (i.e. when I was on holiday in 30degree heat I didn’t run as far as planned), I would get an email to readjust, which was a great touch that kept me engaged. Although I have to say that I still loved using my #nikeplus for everything because of the integration with my music and the auto-voice feedback – running both apps at the same time!
2. Do Not Freak Out When You Cannot Stick to Said Plan (for reasons out of your control)
Runners get injured. Pretty often. I hurt my ankle and had to stop running for about 3 weeks which wasn’t fun, but I still got back to it, readjusted my plan and completed the race in good shape. Keep going! And by the way, in order to avoid injury, it’s best to cross train, so do try yoga and other activities to mix it up.
3. Wear the Right Shoes (if you do nothing else!)
I learned this the hard way too. So I’m giving you the info now before you end up with black toenails and painful feet (yes, really!). If you are used to running about 10k, then you may not have noticed the painful toes yet, but after 10-12km it is a fact that your feet swell half a size and that your running shoes need to accommodate that. This was not a fun discovery for me as I am already a size 8 (UK – US 10) which meant that I had to skip all of the fun, neon stylish kicks out there at the moment and buy some boring size 9 black ones, which I hated doing because I had my heart set on orange. But I have to say, they have been one of the best investments that I have ever made. I recommend that you just do it (pun not intended). Forget vanity, buy a bigger pair and suddenly, hitting 15-16km in a training session won’t seem so bad.
So there you go! Enjoy your training!
And for those interested, I completed the Ealing Half marathon in West London at the end of September. I really enjoyed the race atmosphere but the course was a bit boring to be honest – not quite city, not quite countryside… I’m thinking of trying the Palace Half next and trying out a new route. The Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon takes place on Sunday 29th March, exactly four weeks before the London Marathon 2015.
Let me know in the comments below if you have more tips for first time half marathon runners.