So you’re getting ready for your first half marathon? Congratulations! While committing is an accomplishment in itself, actually crossing the finish line requires plenty of work. No one wants to be the runner who starts seriously training the month of the event, bolts out of the starting line on the day of the race, and quits soon after due to lack of preparation.
The truth is, what you do months and weeks before the marathon matters as just much as what you do on the day of the race. Follow these training tips to prepare well for your first half marathon in 2018.
1. Pick a training plan and start early!
This is a crucial first step for every budding half marathon runner. You’ll find training plans online that range from two weeks before the race to 12 and beyond. The important thing is to pick a plan that suits your current running fitness level and start early. You might have been able to cram for a written test in grade school, but there’s no shortcut to marathon running prep.
For first-time marathon runners, longer plans are recommended. Find one that works for your schedule and stick with it!
Bonus tip: The Rush Cycle Run Club is hosting an 8 week program to train for the Encinitas Half Marathon starting January 8, 2018. Get more information here!
2. Find a partner or group for better results.
Research shows that group training inspires better distance running and athletic performance overall. Because training for your first half marathon can be a monumental task, capitalize on the performance and motivation benefits that come with finding a partner or group to train with.
The accountability, encouragement, and fun that group training provides can’t be replaced, so seek this out early on in your marathon prep if possible.
Bonus tip: The internet, your local gym, or athletically-minded friends can help you find the best training partner or group for you. If the half marathon you’re interested in has a social media presence, try posting there as well—another person may be looking for someone just like you!
3. Practice your race pace.
As you might expect, preparing for a half marathon is different compared to shorter races. Factors like “race pace” become much more important on the day of the event—but you can and should practice this beforehand!
We recommend practicing your race pace at least once or twice a week during workouts so you can be comfortable at this speed during your first big race. A rookie mistake is that some runners get so caught up in the excitement of the marathon day and the prospect of making a splash that they turn up the heat way too quickly. The result? They drag behind in the final miles of the race. Does practice make perfect for your first half marathon? Maybe not perfection—but a good race pace will definitely keep you from getting burned out when it counts!
Bonus tip: Read the next point for an excellent way to practice your race pace!
4. Do a long run every week.
When it comes to preparing for your first half marathon, remember: you need to see what your body is capable of endurance-wise in the months and weeks leading up to the big race. Doing a longer run every week can help your body acclimate to long-distance running in ways that sticking with shorter runs will not.
As you get used to running longer distances, you’ll find your physical endurance and mental toughness grow—which is exactly what you’ll need to find success on race day.
Bonus tip: Join a local 5k or 10k sometime before your marathon. It’s the perfect way to lock in your race pace and practice the next few points!
5. Practice fueling your body in preparation for race day.
Here’s a big one: What you put into your body makes a huge difference leading up to and during race day. Be sure to practice fueling and hydration during longer runs and workouts to know what your body responds to best. Failure to optimize in these areas contributes to first-time runners crashing and burning—especially in the later miles of the race.
By the way, while some people focus exclusively on mid-race fueling, don’t forget to develop a plan for pre-race and post-race fueling as well. Those moments are definitely important too!
Bonus tip: If you’re running the Encinitas Half Marathon on March 4th, know that we’ve got a great partner to assist with your hydration. Ultima Replenisher is our official electrolyte drink sponsor for the event! Read more about them here.
6. Don’t forget the importance of recovery!
Everyone wants to do their best come race day. However, don’t push yourself to the point of injury and fatigue! Failure to listen to your body can result in a world of hurt in the weeks leading up to your half marathon—as well as during the marathon itself.
Be sure that your training regimen includes rest days and lighter workouts. Proper recovery habits and hard work when you are training go hand-in-hand, and will help your body prepare for your first half marathon like a true athlete!
Bonus tip: Proper nutrition and hydration both encourage proper recovery. Discipline here will help your endurance in the race!
7. Research your race beforehand.
Preparation for your first half marathon should include being a student of your race. Again, let’s use the Encinitas Half Marathon as an example.
Be sure you’ve studied the course map, which includes mile markers and other helpful information. Drive the exact route sometime before the race so you have an idea of what to expect. Create a detailed “race day” plan as well, so when that glorious day comes around, you’re ready in every way!
Pro tip: Study your race’s website and reports of those who have run the race before. Who knows what helpful information you’ll be able to find!
8. Be realistic about your expectations and don’t give up!
Running a half marathon for the first time can be a daunting task. Still, when your training gets tough and you’re not sure if you’ll be able to finish, don’t give up! Just conquer your fitness goals step-by-step, day-by-day.
On the other side of the spectrum, first-time runners should rein in their expectations as well. Stay humble! Don’t be humbled come race day because your personal goals had no basis in reality (or because you bit off more than you could chew).
Ready to Run?
Get excited for what’s ahead! Running your first half marathon can be an incredibly meaningful and fun experience if you prepare well. Apply these 8 tips and you’re sure to be on your way.
Not sure which half marathon to try out this year? The Encinitas Half Marathon is known to be a great experience for first-time marathon runners. But regardless of which race you choose, happy running—and happy preparing!