Sorry I didn’t have a weekend recap post for you guys yesterday. I was actually fairly sick over the weekend with a nasty cold, and spent the majority of my time switching between the bed and couch with a box of tissues glued to my side. Apart from a nice BBQ with my family on Sunday afternoon, there wasn’t a whole lot going on over here, so I didn’t think it was worth recapping. Luckily I’m feeling much better now. 🙂
Today I thought we would talk half marathons. After outlining a few races that caught my eye a couple weeks ago, I reached out to the race organizers for the Trimara Sports Holiday Half Marathon to see if they would be willing to cover my race entry fee in exchange for a review on the blog, and they said yes. Hooray!! Now that my next race is officially on the books, I’ll have to ramp up my training once again, which is always a fun process.
Given this news, I thought today would be the perfect time to outline the steps I usually take to prepare for a half marathon. Hopefully this will be helpful for those of you who have never run one but would be interested in doing so. With that being said, here are the steps I follow to prepare for a race!
1. Find a race, and register.
When I first decided I wanted to run a half marathon, I had no idea how to go about finding one. How does one hear about these things? At first I was searching mostly on Active.com, which has a lot of search options, but then I discovered Running in the USA, which has now become my go-to race resource.
My favorite part about the Running in the USA website is its “Mapshots” feature.
From this page, you can search for races by month, distance and location. For example, during my last search, I knew I wanted to run a half marathon on the East Coast sometime in November or December. The Mapshots tool allowed me to see all of the races that fit my criteria on one easy, interactive screen.
Once I have my list of contenders, I carefully review each race to determine:
- What the course elevation is (will I die on hills? Can I PR?)
- When the race is (do I have enough time to train? What will the weather be like? Is it a Saturday or a Sunday race?)
- How expensive the registration fee is (can I afford this? Are there cheaper alternatives?)
- How big the race is (how many people are running it? Is it going to be too small, or so big that I will have trouble running at my own pace? Is there a cut off or a lottery?)
- Where the race will take place (how will I get there the morning of the race? Do I need to pay for a hotel? Drive? Take public transportation? Fly?)
There are a lot of critical questions to consider when making your decision, so it’s important to do your research and not make a spontaneous choice.
After reviewing the basics, I usually search on Google to see if I can find any race reviews from other bloggers. While this isn’t always successful, it has been really helpful for me in the past and has allowed me to get a really good sense of a race.
At this point I usually get a gut feeling that will pull me toward one race or another. A lot of times the location or time of the race has the biggest impact on my decision (especially if it’s a scenic course!), but sometimes I just get excited from the race website or pictures, and I’ll know that’s the one I should do.
Most importantly, do your research and make sure the race you’re signing up for is really something you want to commit to.
Then register! Don’t second guess yourself; if you’ve thought it through and you know you want to run the distance, click submit! You can do this!
2. Make a training plan.
Of course, there are a million half marathon training plans available on the internet. Heck, just type in “half marathon training” on Pinterest and you’ll instantly be rewarded with hundred of plans. However, I like to make my own plan that’s customized to the workouts I’ve been doing and the dates I will actually be running. That way, if I know I have a work event, vacation, or other obligation on my calendar, I can schedule my training around them. It works well for me!
For my first half marathon, I trained with 2-4 shorter runs per week, with one long run on Saturdays. While I still loosely follow that type of plan, I now incorporate other types of workouts (strength, speedwork, etc.) so I don’t get injured, burned out, or bored with running.
As you probably know, I’ve been doing some track workouts with Anne lately, and have still been working on the Kayla Itsines strength workouts a couple times a week, so I’ve incorporated those workouts into my training plan below. I’ve also left plenty of days blank, which I can either use for additional short runs, Fit Crasher workouts, or rest days.
When you make your plan, you probably want to work backwards from race day, adding as many weeks as you need to in order to feel comfortable. When I started training for my first race I could barely go more than 2 or 3 miles without stopping, so I used a long training plan that slowly built up my stamina. Even if you can only run 1 mile now, there’s no reason why you couldn’t run a half in about 16 weeks!
3. Start training, and stick with it!
Once you have your race and training plan mapped out, it’s time to start training!
Plans can be difficult to stick to, especially if you plan to tackle your long runs on weekends like I do. This can mean skipping a Friday night out at the bar with friends in exchange for a long run early Saturday morning, but to me there is no better way to kick off a weekend than with knocking out a bunch of miles. You just feel so accomplished afterword!
Try to look at your plan like a promise to yourself, and don’t skip any of the workouts. Of course life happens and plans change, but I’ve found that skipping workouts can be a slippery slope; as soon as you skip one it’s easier to skip more and more. It will be tough at times, especially if you’re on vacation, hanging out with friends who aren’t running, working long hours, etc., but just remember if you don’t do the training, the race is going to be that much harder. That thought always kicks my butt into gear!
Sometimes training might require waking up before everyone else and heading out for a solo run, but I actually find that to be pretty fun!
If you follow your plan and slowly increase your mileage while taking plenty of rest days, you’ll be totally ready come race day.
4. Run the race!
A couple days before your race, start getting all your gear ready and make sure you have all the logistics planned out. Do you know how you’re getting to the start? Do you know where to pick up your packet? Do you need the bag check? Do you have a playlist ready? Make sure you plan out all the details ahead of time, so on race day you can relax. Also don’t try anything new on race day – make sure you have a game plan for your outfit, gels, water breaks, etc.
Right before the race you’ll probably feel a flurry of butterflies, but just go with it! If you’ve followed your plan and worked hard, you’ll do just fine. 🙂
Question of the day: What do you do to get ready for a half marathon?