What You Might Not Know About Training for a Half Marathon
Have you ever considered training for a half marathon? (or a 5k or a full marathon?) Here are a few things I learned when I decided to take on the challenge as an amateur runner.
So, I did it. I went ahead a put my money where my mouth (or blog?) is and signed up for a half marathon in December. I’ll be running the TriGirlSports RunGirl 13.1 here in Houston, and am officially “in training.” It’s a USA Track & Field Certified Course through a park and around some water, so I hope it’s less dull than the 5k I ran which was mapped out by weaving around in a big parking lot.
There are a few things that I always hear, like “wear the proper shoes” and “don’t increase your mileage too quickly.” Here are a few bits of lesser known advice I’ve been given my friends and fellow runners:
Train and Run with a GPS Watch
I’ll be training with my Garmin Forerunner 305 (now discontinued but similar to this Garmin 910XT) and giving updates here on the blog. The Garmin 110 is a great affordable option for a GPS watch if the more intense models are off-putting. If you are looking for a heart rate monitor watch without worrying about a GPS, Polar FT4 and FT7 are solid choices.
UPDATE: Since this post was originally written newer, better technology has come on the market, including all varieties of smart watches with heart rate capabilities from Apple, Samsung, and Pebble. Shop around for the best bang for your buck and your specific needs. Keep in mind that chest straps are still more reliable for heart rate monitoring than wrist measurement and that many heart rate running monitors don’t do great with GPS tracking. Always read reviews!
Be Properly Prepared for Your Climate
Because I live here in the humid South, I try not to do all of my running outside. It is really hard to stay cool and hydrated on a humid run, and my feet blister too much if all my training is done outdoors, so I try to do shorter runs on the treadmill and at least one long weekend run outside. I do my outdoor runs with a PR10 belt to keep water handy at all times. This and this are also great options.
Treadmill Training is Good, Too!
Treadmill training often gets a bad rap from distance runners. Moving ground under your feet is not quite the same experience as the ground moving under your feet, but developing endurance, working on form, and getting into good cardiovascular health are all vital to a runner, so if a treadmill is your best option then train away! Peanut Butter Fingers has a good post about treadmill training for a half here.
Runners Eat Differently
Nutrition for long distance running is quite a bit different than the cut cycle of a body builder. Runners need to eat a balanced diet with 50-65% complex carbs, and 30% fat with lean protein filling in the remainder. This helps build glycogen stores that are needed to push through the miles and keep muscles fueled. Also, avoid too much fiber the day before and the day of a race. Nutritionist Beth Jauquet gives a great nutrition plan at Outside Magazine. A friend of mine also gave the wise tip that trying to aim for weight loss during training is unwise. You have more important things to worry about!
Begin Hydration Early
Hydration begins well before race day. Showing up at the starting line, drinking a giant bottle of water, and crossing your fingers is a quick way to get cramps, need an immediate bathroom break, or at worst, hyponatremia. Get into the habit of carrying around a water bottle and keeping hydrated whether you are running or not that day. The first timer’s guide at HalfMarathons.Net has a good set of hydration tips.
UPDATE: This article is focused on tips the average person might not know about training for a half marathon, so I didn’t write the big, obvious tip you will find just about everywhere. GET GOOD SHOES. Shoes may not matter as much for shorter distances, but once you pass beyond a mile or two, gear really does matter. Be sure to check out my holiday post, “The Ultimate Gift Guide for Runners.” Some people prefer light weight trainers, some like barefoot, and some (like me) opt for a lot of arch support. Go to your local running store and get fitted!
Looking for a different kind of race to run? Challenge yourself and sign up to be a Spartan! (Visit this post for a coupon code.)
Do you have any tips for training for a half marathon? Share in the comments and be sure to subscribe to the blog, like the Facebook page, follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, and use the social media buttons below this post to share these 5 tips to fit in a busy mom workout with your friends.
UPDATE: Thanks for helping make this my most popular blog post to date! If you want to read how the race went, click HERE.
RESOURCES for TRAINING FOR A HALF MARATHON