Ten Tips for Training for a Half Marathon

I thought now would be a good time to share my training tips as no doubt many people will have started training for the various half marathons, marathons and many other running races out there. I’ve done a couple of half marathons now and while I don’t claim to be a fitness, health or nutrition expert, I’ve learnt a few things along the way which I think could be helpful, particularly for those of you who haven’t run a half marathon or similar before. We all have to start somewhere right? So, let’s get to it:

1. Set yourself a realistic timeline – Especially if you haven’t done much running before, you’ll need to start off slowly and gradually increase your distances. Make a plan of how far you will run initially and build up to your end goal, i.e. 13 miles if you’re running a half marathon. And you could also do this for your timings as well, say if you want to complete your race in a certain amount of time or beat a personal best.

I found using a tracking app like the Nike+ Run Club or Map My Run to be super helpful. You can see how far you’ve run and your times, which helps to push you that bit further and keep improving.

2. Get into a routine or set up a schedule – I was bad at doing this and would definitely follow this advice in future! Getting into the habit of doing something makes it so much easier to keep on track. And if like me you know that certain times of day or week don’t work for you (for me it’s weekday evenings as I often end up working late and I just don’t have time to go for a run), find a time and day that does and stick to it as far as possible. If you’re a slave to your diary/calendar, stick it in there and it will make you more likely to do it if you set aside time for it.

3. Don’t beat yourself up for not feeling motivated 100% of the time – We all lead busy and demanding lives and sometimes life gets in the way. Case in point – in the UK last week it properly, full-on snowed – in March! If you don’t want to risk breaking a leg or freezing your nips off in -5 degree weather, or if it’s something else entirely that’s got you feeling like you just can’t face it that day; take a short break and press the reset button. Taking a bit of time off to get back on track won’t do any harm.

4. But also remind yourself why you’re doing this – There were points when I just didn’t feel like going for a run but there was no good reason for it. This is totally normal but reminding yourself of your goal will help motivate you to go out and do it even when you don’t feel like it. My goal was to raise money for the wonderful charity Tommy’s who were so supportive, and also just to go out there and challenge myself. You will probably feel a keener sense of achievement when you do it even if your head is telling you it just wants to hibernate and eat mini eggs all evening.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice – If this is your first time training, or even if it’s not, it’s totally normal to feel a bit daunted or overwhelmed. Ask for a bit of advice if you’re stuck in a rut. My suggestions would be:

– Friends, family or colleagues who have done this before as they will likely have been in the same position as you at one point so may be able to give advice on what worked for them

– If you’re running for a charity or in one of the bigger races like a half marathon, the charity or event organisers will normally have experts on hand for you to call or email if you need advice

– If you go to a gym or have a personal trainer, ask them for a bit of help – they can also advise you on your diet – see point 7 below

– Join a specialist online forum and get advice from people who have likely been in your situation before

6. Be kind to yourself – We all get derailed by illness or injury, and I think you just have to give your body a rest in times like that as often you will do yourself more harm or damage in the long run.

Don’t put your health at risk – for example, I had a (minor) kidney infection a couple of days before my last half marathon and I rested rather than squeezing in a couple of runs and got medication. I was by no means feeling 100% when I ran the race, but I felt like I was well enough to do it and I pushed through the discomfort and drank my body weight in water to stay hydrated. Luckily it didn’t set me back, but my point is, be mindful of when you’re not feeling well and really ask yourself if you’re well enough to run and if it will do any long-term harm if you do; particularly if you have a running-related injury.

7. Stay hydrated and eat the right foods – Drink a lot of water, both when you’re running and not running. If you’re running a big race the organisers will normally tell you in their email communications what sponsored drinks they’ll use on the big day – for the London Half Marathon it was Lucozade Sport (and water obvs), so I used Lucozade Sport on most of my training runs and I do think it gave me more energy.

Like I said, I am not a nutrition expert, but it’s easy to do your research and find out what you should be eating pre and post runs. You’ll be amazed at how much better you will feel if you cut out alcohol and refined sugar, even if just for a little while! You’ll feel a lot more energised and less sluggish.

8. If you listen to music when you run, put together an awesome playlist – Of whatever kind of music you’re into that gets you going and feeling like you could conquer the world. (‘Touch the Sky’ by Kanye always does it for me.) I would highly recommend putting a playlist together for the big race itself as you don’t want to be faffing around with your phone while you’re trying to get in the zone (poet over here?!)

9. Get family and/or friends to come and watch you on the big day – I can’t tell you how lovely it is to have some support on the day itself. When you’re feeling knackered and wondering how much more of it you can take, seeing your loved ones in the crowd totally lifts your spirits and motivates you to keep going. Even just knowing they’re there really helps. The big organised races often have tracking apps that spectators can use to see where you are – which is great for planning ahead and getting to a spot where they can see you run by.

10. Stay positive and don’t panic at race time – If you’re prone to worrying like me, to ensure that on the big day itself you can concentrate on just being awesome, give yourself less to worry about and a couple of days beforehand make sure you have all the information you need about the race and plan how you’re going to get there (particularly important if you live in a city and relying on public transport).

On the day, have a really good protein-filled breakfast and think positive thoughts! Enjoy the race, particularly if it’s a half or full marathon; there will be such a wonderful atmosphere and so much to take in. Trust yourself – your training has got you this far, just believe in yourself. You’ve got this!

I hope this has been helpful, and by all means if you have any other tips, feel free to share them in the comments!


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