Half marathon training: Tips 8 & 9

Tip 8:  Enter another race beforehand

Don’t go forgetting my pointers about over training, but if you can keep within the 10% mileage rule I suggested in the previous post then it could pay off to get more racing experience in before your big half.

If you have several months until half-marathon-day (HMD), then I’d suggest a 10k a month beforehand. You should be able to run this at a faster pace but this distance is long enough that it still tests your endurance.

Gauging the right pace is important but so is getting used to running in a pack of people. If you’ve been doing all your runs solo up until now then you might not realise that weaving in and out crowds of runners will expend energy.

Also the hours leading up to the start line of any event can be draining. A combination of excitement and endless queuing can induce anxiety in the best of runners. Getting actual experience of a race day (albeit a shorter race that you might not care for) can help settle nerves when the HMD rears its head. Entering races will also teach practical lessons, such as pinning your race number to your shirt before you’re wearing it.

I ran for UN Women for the 2018 ASICS London 10k. As part of the Westminster 100, I was lucky enough to be running in the same team as Kelly Holmes.

If it’s not logistically or financially viable to enter a race, search for a local parkrun here. Events are held worldwide and are completely free.  It’s technically not a race but you’re still provided with a finishing time and you’ll gain that experience of running with masses of people. Many parkrun courses are trail and hill-based so these weekly 5ks are not to be sniffed at.

If you’re lucky to live near your half marathon, schedule in some time to run parts of the course beforehand. Most races publish their routes in advance. If yours hasn’t then use the previous year’s course for guidance. Don’t fixate on the finish time when running the race route in advance: The purpose of this run is to get accustomed to what you’ll be facing on HMD (hills, trail etc.). Whilst some unforeseen factors can hinder your performance (weather, GI issues), there are an equal amount of race day occurrences that will pleasantly surprise you.

Race day crowds are renowned for cheering and yelling out names on the bibs of each runner. Hearing applause and high-fiving kids as you sprint past will get you through the tough parts. Unlike training, there will be aid stations so keeping hydrated will be easy. Plus you’ll be brimming with adrenaline. All of these could contribute to a faster finishing time.

Quitting booze had a monumental impact on my fitness, but the combination of all my other tips have made my running better than it ever was.

 

Tip 9: Have fun!

It’s likely that you’ll have paid to be in this race, so you ought to enjoy it.

High effort running is not easy and you might despise those race photographers, but smiling for photos could inadvertently help you. This study here in the Psychology of Sports and Exercise concluded that smiling during exercise could reduce your perceptions of effort. I’ve employed this technique during training and have found that it instantly relaxes my body.

Despite the sweltering heat, we’re all smiles here! It was the hottest day of the year so it was very sweaty underneath that sash…

Be proud of your achievements, especially if you’re running for a charity. I find that raising money is more challenging than running miles.

If my above tip about racing left you deflated then see if you can recruit a friend to join you for the race. For some, having a running buddy can ease race anxiety. I tend to race alone and it usually results in me making friends with someone in the starting pen. This actually happened at The Big Half 2019. I got chatting to a girl behind me in the Portaloo queue and we ended up crossing the finish line about a minute apart. Entirely overwhelmed, we embraced and congratulated each other before heading our separate ways.

So those were my final two tips on Half Marathon Training!

Speaking from experience, these nine tips I’ve discussed were the most relevant for furthering my running. Two years ago I could barely run a mile without gasping for water whereas now I’m going on long 12+ mile long runs for fun.

Quitting booze had a monumental impact on my fitness, but the combination of all my other tips have made my running better than it ever was.

Your running journey is unique to you but hopefully these bits of advice may have opened your mind to trying out different kit or even a change of pre-race breakfast.

I would love to know what has been important for your first half marathon. Do you have a burning suggestion for tip number 10? 

Comment below or get in touch @pink.cirrus

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