Marathon Training

Five ways to conquer your first half marathon

The challenge of 13.1 miles (or 21.1km if you’re looking for an even more impressive number) is something that very few people will ever complete.

The half-marathon distance is a significant step up from 10km, but it’s achievable even for those of us who need to fit training in with a busy lifestyle.

Give yourself time

If you can run 5km now, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that you’ll be able to run a half in two months with the right training plan.

However, illness, holidays, injury and life, in general, will always give you unexpected setbacks. Be realistic when you’re looking at events. Think about your current fitness level and how long it will take to get to where you need to be.

Don’t set yourself up to fail – build in some excess time so you’re ready for life’s little surprises.

Get the right shoes

The impact of pounding the pavements for hours week after week can be incredibly stressful on your joints, and especially the knees. That’s why, whether you decide to kit up in the latest running-specific clothes or not, the one thing you can’t compromise on is your shoes.

Everybody’s running style is different so what works for your friend might not work for you. Our interactive run shoe finder can help you to select your perfect running shoes.

Make sure you also consider the terrain you’re running on. The cushioning on road running shoes is optimized for tarmac, whilst trail shoes offer the support and grip you need off-road.

Find the right training plan and stick to it

Be honest with yourself. How much time do you have to train? What is your current ability level? Is the course hilly or flat?

Runner’s World has some great training plans covering all ability levels and goals.

Whatever plan you choose, provided it’s from a reputable source, it has been designed to help you get to where you need to be in a sensible way, with speed, distance and recovery sessions built in.

There might be days you feel unstoppable but don’t be tempted to add extra miles but pushing yourself beyond the plan could result in aches and pains, hampering your efforts in the days afterwards.

Don’t ignore pain

There’s a difference between feeling a bit sore from increasing the mileage and actual pain. Many runners learn the hard way that, although it seems like a good idea at the time, pushing through pain can result in injury that leaves you out of action for weeks.

If the pain gets worse as you run and doesn’t go away when you stop and rest for a bit, that’s a bad sign. Also, if you press on a bone where you have soreness and you get a sharp pain, that’s another sign you might need to stop and seek help.

Learn to listen to your body. Don’t skip the rest and active recovery in your training plan, even if you feel good. If in doubt, get an expert opinion from a physio. A couple of missed sessions here and there won’t have as much effect as several weeks out from injury.

Test everything

Nobody likes nasty surprises. When it comes to race day, stick to what you know so you don’t get caught out.

Once you have a good idea of what you’ll be wearing, make sure you wear it on your longest training run. That way, if there are any niggling issues like rubbing seams or falling waistbands, you’ll have time to act.

You’ve probably heard this before, but never wear brand new shoes on race day! Even if they’re the same brand and model as your old ones, they take time to wear in.

Don’t stop at clothes and shoes. Don’t take anything with you that you haven’t run with before. Make sure you’ve tested your nutrition, headphones, sunglasses, race belt (if you’re using one), even your hairstyle – it will give you so much more confidence on the start line.

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