How to Train for a Half-Marathon (Or Any Race Really)
In about 12 weeks we’ll be cheering on our star runners at the Great North Run! After running my first half-marathon earlier this year, I wanted to share my top tips so you can get out of the running blocks and across the finish line… and hopefully still smiling at the end!
Whether you’re training for the Great North Run, looking to run your first 5K or happen to be a seasoned runner pondering an epic ultra-marathon, a sponsored run is an easy way to fundraise (perhaps for Church Army *nudge, nudge*). So here’s hoping this might inspire you to sign up for your own little challenge.
So without further ado, here’s my simple tips for the racing novices among us (like me!)…
1. Plan, plan, plan
The best place to start and to keep your training on track is to know what you’re aiming for each week. I found an achievable 12-week training plan online, printed it out and pinned it up in my dining room.
Once you’ve found a plan, it might help to add your runs to your diary. One of the hardest things about running is convincing yourself to actually do it. If the run is already in your diary, the decision has been made – that’s the first step!
2. Track your runs
I’d never tracked or timed any of my runs, before my half-marathon training – I ran until I got bored (which was pretty quickly!). Tracking myself helped me aim for increasingly long distances and actually achieve them! Don’t feel like you have to invest in a sports watch though – I began with Strava and I’ve been recommended Runkeeper. For these apps to work, you’ll need your phone on you whilst you run, but it’s worth it!
After each training run, I crossed it out on my training plan. It was a bit like a star chart – very satisfying!
3. Don’t do it alone
A bit like the rest of life, running is harder to do on your own! Ask some friends to sign up to a race with you and keep each other motivated, or join a local running group. I thought running group were intimidating but eventually talked myself in to going to the group down my road. The people are lovely and it’s great to run and sometimes a chat (depending on whether I have any extra breath left) with others.
When it comes down to it, I think the hardest bit is the battle in the mind and the commitment to training. Life is tiring, running isn’t easy, but there are days you just need to grit your teeth and tell yourself you WILL do this! There were definitely multiple times you’ve caught me on a run telling myself (out loud!): “You can do this! Just keep going, just keep going!”
Remind yourself you CAN do this. Yes, it’s hard, yes, it’s an uphill battle (sometimes literally – those hills are killers!), but persistence is key. There was one day when I was running a regular route with a long uphill climb home and halfway up the hill, it suddenly dawned on me that this wasn’t nearly as hard as it used to be. Treasure these moments and celebrate them!
5. You don’t have to go fast, you’ve just got to keep going!
I’m competitive – I love being fast and I love overtaking other runners at parkrun! But I quickly realised I wasn’t going to run the distance if I was always going full pelt. Pacing is key.
Maybe for you its the opposite – you know you are slow and that’s something that bothers you. But remind yourself, you might be slow, but you’re a winner for choosing to run at all!
The important thing here is to not compare yourself to other people – you don’t have to go fast, you’ve just got to keep going!
Bonus: Prepare for some post-run celebrations!
Once you finish your race, exhausted but a champion, medal in hand and full of pride, I’d suggest you ride the adrenalin wave with some victorious photos, proper grub and a relaxing bath – you’ve earned it. If you’re fundraising, make sure you update people on your achievement – it’s the perfect time to plug for those last minute donations!