13 things you didn’t discover until you started training for your first ever half marathon
Your friends all called you crazy, but you’ve done it – with little to no running experience, you’ve signed up to a half marathon and feel great about it.
However, now you’re panicking – it’s a lot closer that you thought, and actually training seems like a lot of hard work, right?
It’s not easy, but with the right preparation and training, on the day there’s no better feeling than crossing the finish line.
Here are the many, many, many things you will only discover once you start training, and what to expect…
1. You will need the right pair of trainers
This one is obvious, but the most important. It may seem pricey to invest in a proper pair, but do NOT wear those £3 canvas ‘running’ pumps you own – the amount of use you’ll get out of them makes investing in a good pair of trainers worth it.
Nick Anderson, founder of Running With Us and head running coach at Cancer Research UK, advises: “Invest in a proper pair of running trainers from the word go to prevent injury and make the running more comfortable.
“Go to a proper running store, explain you are new to running ask for a ‘gait analysis’ so that the trainers are properly chosen and fitted to your foot and running style. Good running shops are there to help and make sure you speak to an experienced member of staff!
He adds: “It’s also worth investing in some running kit made of running specific technical fabric. This is vital to aid comfort, they will help wick the sweat away from the skin, feel less heavy and support the correct areas.”
Runners Need provide gait analysis, as does the Saucony Stride Lab, a revolutionary gait assessment with cameras from every angle to provide a 360 analysis of your running stride in motion, designed to pinpoint weaker areas to strengthen in order to improve your run and also recommend the best trainers for your running style.
2. You will have to be organised
Get yourself a training plan to support your goal.
There are many zero to 5k plans out there, which begin with incorporating blocks of walking, and running until you can finally run a full 5k (check out RunningWithUs.com).
This will make the whole process much more fun, structured and successful!
3. Thinking positive is crucial
We often don’t realise this, but a huge part of training relies on your brain, and how you think about your training.
Human behaviour expert and author of Master Your Brain: Training Your Mind For Success In Life Philip Adcock explains: “If you really want to get quicker and fitter, one of the first things you need to do is to believe that you can do it. Your thoughts and beliefs are a hugely important part of the process.
“If something’s not working with your training plan and you feel you’re failing, analyse the original strategy to learn why it isn’t working and then refine the process, rather than throwing it out and starting anew. More often than not, it only needs a little tweaking.”
4. Get a good sports bra
Damage to breast tissue is irreversible, so it’s important you invest in a good sports bra before taking part in any exercise.
Odlo’s Double High Sports Bra, rrp £50, features a two layer system combining optimal hold from moulded inner cups with an outer compression, offering a unique level of support.
5. You WILL get bored
Spotify will become your friend. Make the most of the time- create a playlist that gets you going, or listen to podcasts, like My dad wrote a porno, Serial, Undisclosed.
Everyone Active fitness manager Laura Reay says: “Build yourself a motivating and energising play list that will inspire you to get out of your front door and keep you going. Nothing beats the buzz of pounding the streets to your favourite tune!”
6. Choose a good course
While you’ll obviously be running the same distance, choosing the right course for you is so important.
Some people don’t like to run laps or up hills, so look up the exact route before signing up to make sure you’re excited for the big day.
If you want a scenic, flat run, why not try The Royal Parks Half, which takes in the capital’s world-famous landmarks on closed roads, and four of London’s eight Royal Parks – Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens.
If you’re after a super speedy personal best time, the Reading Half Marathon which takes place every March is a good option, or for an autumn run allowing you to train during the summer months, try the Cardiff Half Marathon.
One of the fastest half marathons in the UK, incredible spectator support throughout the course and an incredible finish line to thousands of spectators in the Madejski Stadium, it’s an ideal course for runners of all abilities.
7. Stay hydrated
Dr Emma Derbyshire, Nutritionist and adviser to the Natural Hydration Council, says: “Hydration planning is essential when you are preparing for a half marathon both for your training and during the event itself.
“Ensuring you drink enough water before, during and after exercise, means your body will get the best results from all the effort you are putting in.”
She advises sipping water in small amounts at regular intervals before, during and after exercise – don’t gulp a large amount of water in one go before and after your training session.
Also, sports drinks may be beneficial if you are undertaking regular high-intensity training and exercise lasting for more than 1 hour, but they do contain calories to stick to water for anything less.
8. At one point, you will want to give up – but don’t
While you envisage yourself taking to running like a duck to water (how hard can running be, it’s just fast walking?), unless you’re physically very fit already, realistically you won’t be able to run far to begin with, and you shouldn’t push yourself too quickly to up the distance.
Helen Rothwell, a fitness motivator from Everyone Active recommends: “Start with run/walk intervals, and during the run intervals go slow.
“You are trying to find a pace that you can maintain for a long period of time, so if you start to feel out of breath then slow down some more and find what works for you.”
Running With Us founder Nick also adds: “As motivated as you may be, running is a high impact sport and must be integrated progressively into your exercise routine.
“Running 3 times per week or every other day, is generally a safe place to start and this can be progressed, as the body gets stronger.
“Be prepared to walk/run if building fitness and gradually reduce the amounts of walking in the weeks ahead. 20 minutes might be 1 minute easy run/ 1 minute brisk walk in week one but by week 4 could be 20 minutes continuous or 4 minutes run/ 1 minute walk.”
9. Forward plan meals
You can’t run on an empty stomach, but it’s hard to know what to eat before a big run to get enough energy without feeling too full.
Anita Bean, a registered nutritionist recommends: “Before: Eat a high-carb easy-to-digest breakfast (such as porridge or granola) 2 -3 hours before the start or a small high-carb snack such as a banana or a CLIF energy bar 30- 60 minutes before.
“During: If you’ll be racing longer than 90 minutes, try to consume 30 – 60 g of carbohydrates per hour. This energy can be any high-carb food or drink that works for you: sports drinks, dried fruit or CLIF SHOT energy gels. Drink according to thirst.
“After: You’ll need protein to repair your muscles as well as plenty of fluid after the race. Milk, recovery drinks and sandwiches are great recovery options.”
10. You will become obsessed with running apps
You won’t want to run unless it’s monitored, tracked and logged in some sort of app.
Whether it’s downloading an app like Map My Run on your phone, or buying a specialist device, it’s important to be able to see your progress,
For example, the TomTom Runner 3 provides live stats on the go such as distance, speed and pace.
The built in cardio sensor tracks heart rate straight from the wrist whilst being able to play over 500 songs you can store on the watch meaning you don’t even have to take your phone out with you on the go.
11. Mix it up
Ideally you need to do a whole load of other exercises to keep your body injury free and in peak condition.
Celebrity fitness expert and Solgar representative Laura Williams advises: “Mixing up your running with other cardio workouts in essential for keeping fitness tip-top and bones and muscles injury-free.
“Not only will a spinning class work muscles that running just doesn’t reach, it’ll also boost fitness minus the impact of a tough tarmac session.
“Marathon season is great time to delve into new classes – tackle tight hip flexors in a yoga class; work on increasing upper body strength in a circuits session or carve out your core in a weekly Pilates class – your body will thank you for it in those last few miles.”
12. Yoga is a saviour
It’s the perfect exercise to stretch those muscles and give your joints a break.
Matt Miller, a Body Building Champion turned yoga and fitness Guru and founder of Broga® fitness yoga, explains: “Whether you’re training for a 10k or a marathon, extensive training is a recipe for over-tension and injury.
“You probably never thought of yoga as a means to help improve your running technique but it can do just that.
“Just 10 minutes every morning when you wake up or before your run will be amazed at how your body opens up and how noticeably it will help your with your training.”
13. The effort is SO worth it
All of a sudden, you’ve become that person that posts on social media about running all the time, and you’re obsessed.
Other people will be bored to death by your status updating your followers on how quickly you can run 5km or what energy gel you recommend, and think you’re smug, but with all the hard work you’ve put in, that’s fine- you’ve earned the right to be proud.