The half marathon is the most popular racing distance in America, with the number of finishers increasing by at least 10 percent every year for the past decade, according to Running USA. While 13.1 miles sounds like a lot, it’s more feasible than a full marathon in addition to being a pretty impressive accomplishment. If you’ve made the decision to sign up, following this tips can help you cross that finish line.
Build a base first, don’t go from the couch to a half-marathon
If you’ve just decided to become a runner, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can train and be ready in just a few months. Most training plans assume that you’re already running at least 15 to 20 miles a week, including a long run of 5 miles or more. One of the most common causes of injury is building weekly mileage too soon and too fast. Once you’ve built your base, you should plan on training 12 to 16 weeks before attempting a half-marathon.
Long, slow runs are essential
Running longer distances helps to prepare you for the endurance you’ll need on race day. In the beginning, you might want to start out with a weekly 5 mile run, building up to 10 to 12 miles over the course of your training program. Don’t run too long too fast, your longer runs are meant to be at a slower pace. If you get bored, find a new route or create a new music playlist. Accomplishing new distances is a great way to build your confidence for race day.
Add hill workouts
Hill running is a great way to increase cardiovascular and muscular strength as well as boost confidence on race day when you’re challenged with steep hills. Even if the course you plan to race isn’t hilly, adding hill workouts at least once a week will pay off by helping you to accomplish your goal. Aim to run uphill for two minutes at a 5K race pace and then jog easy downhill. Always keep in mind that running downhill too quickly can cause knee injuries.
By cross-training on your non-running days, you can help to prevent injuries and optimize your running fitness level. Strengthening your core by practicing Pilates or Yoga can even help you run faster and even improve endurance. Cycling, swimming, elliptical training, and rowing are also great cross-training options.
Don’t forget about nutrition
Your body needs the appropriate fuel throughout your training program, not just on race day. While you need carbs, there is no need to significantly increase your intake and they should be complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains like brown rice. You also need healthy fats and protein from foods like nuts and seeds, coconut oil, and wild-caught salmon. Eliminate or at least limit processed foods which can deplete energy levels and weaken your immune system.