I’ve had a few friends sign up for their first half marathon and text me about training advice. After my third half last year, the Columbus Half Marathon, I posted about tips for race day. Today, we're going to back up and talk about all the crap to do before getting to the big day. This is just what I've learned over the past year through the 3 races I did. I am no expert but these things worked for me and I'm hoping they will work for any aspiring half marathoners out there!
My absolute number one tip before you get in to your training is buy new shoes!! This is one of the most important things a runner can do. Get them at a specialty shoe store like Dick’s, The Finish Line, or locally at Front Runner or Road Runner (not Kohl’s or Target.) They have an educated sales staff who can measure your feet, watch your gate, and tell you the best shoe for you. I always used to wear Nike’s but when I started getting stress fractures, I finally got my feet measured and was told Nike shoes are probably the worst for my specific feet. Damn. They showed me what shoe I should buy and I haven’t had any issues (knock on wood) since! It’s also important to get new shoes every 300-500 miles. So if you’re training for a half, you’ll probably go through 2-3 pairs of shoes before your actual race, depending on your training schedule.
While making a training schedule, my advice is to save your long miles for the weekend. I was fortunate enough to receive a training schedule for two of my races since that’s one of the perks of Team In Training, so I didn’t have to make my own. But I liked how the most miles I ever ran during the week was 6, and I liked how the coaches only had us run 2 times during the work week. If you haven’t run much before starting this schedule, I suggest you don’t run the day before your long runs. For example, if you choose to run your long miles on a Saturday, take Friday off. I also suggest you don’t run more than 12 miles before the big race. You should start tapering (progressively lowering your miles) about 2-3 weeks before race day. So, if your race is on May 5, you should run 12 miles the weekend of April 7 and then start going down each weekend after that, running 4-6 miles the weekend before the race and 2-3 miles the Thursday before the race.
Listen to your body! If you are supposed to run 9 miles one day and you are at mile 5 and feel like crapola, don’t push it. You can run/walk to 9 or you can run 9 another day. Trust me, nothing sucks more than injuring yourself and not being able to do your race. Opposite of that, if you’re at mile 9 and you feel like you can continue, go for it! It won’t hurt anything and you’ll probably get an extra dose of endorphins while you’re at it.
I touched on this in my post about race day, but I'm going to expand on it today: Train outdoors. Don’t solely train on a treadmill. Run in the rain, wind, snow…you never know what the weather is going to be like on race day, especially if your race is in the Midwest! I prefer running outside because on a treadmill you only go one pace. Outside, you can slow down or speed up depending on how you feel. If you are having trouble breathing, slow down. If you hear a good song and feel like picking it up a notch, run your little heart out. The treadmill doesn’t allow for that.
Hydrate during the day, and not just on days you are training. Drinking water all day will help with cramping and dehydration. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you aren’t sweating. Take it from the saltiest sweater in all the land: drinking water all day, every day will help tremendously during your runs.
There are about a million things out there you can eat or drink during endurance training. As far as Gu, gels, drinks, etc, go, I don’t use anything other than water. I suggest trying different stuff and seeing what you like and what you don’t. What you eat/drink during the race is 100% personal preference.