09:12:00

HOW TO RUN YOUR FIRST HALF MARATHON


A few weeks ago I ran my very first half marathon. It was something I'd wanted to do for years and had constantly talked about, so when I visited the GI Jane Bootcamp and the lovely trainers questioned why I'd been putting it off, I bit the bullet and signed up to Vitality Run Hackney (more on bootcamp here). While running 13.1 miles seems impossible when you first start running, it's not as bad as you expect. I managed to complete it in 2 hours 14 minutes, which I was pretty happy with (although the freak heat wave that made me feel sick for days after probably added on a few mins to my time!) and I'd definitely do another. So although I'm so expert, I thought I'd put together some tips and tricks on getting off your ass and round the race track...


TRAINING

1. Don't put it off
It probably goes without saying that you should start training for the half marathon sooner rather than later. It's better to have a good level of fitness when you start training properly, rather than giving yourself two months to get from couch to 21k. It's possible, but it will make your life easier if you have longer to train. I started running long distances about six months before my half marathon. I definitely didn't run enough in the lead up to the big day, but I'm sure having a basic level of fitness in the months prior helped me.

2. Buy some decent trainers
This sounds basic, but it's so important. A few years ago I went to Runners World to get my gait measured and buy some new trainers and it changed my life. Having painful feet when you run isn't normal and it can be helped. Buy the shoes.

3. Experiment
Something I wish I'd done when I was in training was experimenting with certain products. I'm talking gels, energy drinks, running clothes and taping up my dodgy joints. It kinda came as an afterthought for me, by which time it was too late. It's worth seeing if these things could help you while you've still got time.

4. Get motivated
Keeping your motivation is tough, but it really helps having a race day to work towards and there are plenty of ways to keep going. Buy new workout clothes that you enjoy wearing, find a running pal to train with, give yourself goals each week, run for a charity you identify with and above all, try not to panic. Whatever happens, you'll get there. 

5. Rest
In the days prior to your race, you need to rest. That means winding down the training, getting tonnes of sleep, eating loads of carbs, cutting out alcohol and drinking lots of water. Your body will thank you.


ON THE DAY

1. Stay hydrated - but not too much!
The day I ran the half marathon, it was 27 degrees. Naturally, I panicked about the weather and downed pints of water in the morning. Obviously it's important to be hydrated and to take the water you're given on the race track too, but I pretty much needed to pee the entire time I was running. I saw a few runners queueing up for the toilets during the race, but I sure as hell wasn't going to add ten minutes onto my time for a toilet break. So the moral of the story is that slow and steady wins the race. Don't overdo it.

2. Eat a good breakfast
Make sure you eat a good starchy breakfast a couple of hours before the race stars, like porridge. You need some energy but you don't need to be stuffed to run 13.1 miles. You'd be surprised!

3. Sugar high
As I mentioned before, it's great to experiment with gels and energy drinks before the run. I was given Lucozade sport and jelly babies during the race, which helped keep my energy levels up when I felt like I was going to give up. Plus why would you say no to sweets?! 

4. Positive Mental Attitude
I was terrified before I started running. It was a hot day, I was worried I couldn't really do it and I'd built it up for years. But when I started running, I adopted a positive attitude and told myself 'you can do this.' It helps to keep your motivation up and it makes the whole experience far easier. The race I took part in also provided amazing entertainment and the crowd were incredibly encouraging which helped too.

5. Treat yourself
When you've finished the race, you deserve to treat yourself. Plan to meet your friends straight afterwards and eat whatever you want. I went for a roast meal straight after I completed my race. After all, I earned it! You also deserve to take some time off from running after such a big achievement. I had a week off from all exercise (mainly because I was a bit unwell due to the heat), but I didn't feel at all guilty!


I hope this has helped you if you're considering signing up, but there are heaps of training plans available online to keep you going if you're looking for something more specific. The idea of running such a long distance might seem scary, but you won't regret it. I certainly don't.

Daisy xox
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