I hesitate to call myself a runner. I haven’t participated in any race longer than a 5K in all my 26 years. I ran track in high school and have continued running consistently since then. I’ve just never taken the jump and signed up for a marathon. The day has finally come for me to bite the proverbial bullet; I just signed up for my first half marathon.
The second I signed up I was overcome with one very specific fear: “What if I poop my pants? The fear of injury, not finishing, or any other rational fear associated with participating in a long distance race never even crossed my mind. Obviously I have my priorities in order.
Anyway, if you’re a newbie runner with a desire to race, you’re not alone. In the past decade, the number of people who run at least 25 times a year has increased by 60 percent. On an personal level, starting a running routine that results in a race takes time, focus and determination. If you’re interested in tackling your first half, follow the eight tips below to get started.
- Get Rid of Your Doubts
If you’re like other first-time half marathon runners, you’ve talked yourself in and out of giving it a try time and time again. You pump yourself up and are set to go; you tell everyone you know what you’re planning. Then, you start to really think about how far 13.1 miles is and you start to think that you could never finish it.
Remove doubts from your thought process. Post motivational quotes around your house, your desk and your bathroom mirrors and follow every doubt with something positive. Eventually, as your training progresses, you’ll have more faith in yourself.
- Give Yourself Time
No one can go from couch potato to runner overnight. Instead, training for a half marathon takes time – even if you’re planning on walking it. For experienced runners, 12 to 14 weeks is ideal; for those with less experience, three to six months might be more appropriate. To make your training official, pick a race that is far enough out to give you time to train appropriately to prevent injury and other disasters.
- Gather Some Gear
Sure, you can go to social media to ask friends for gear recommendations, but here’s the thing: Everyone is built differently. Running shoes that are great for one person could actually hurt another. So, where do you start?
First, find out more about your feet: learn about your arch, find out whether you are neutral or if you pronate and how your feet strike the ground while running. The best way to do this is to visit a local running store that offers a gait analysis. The experts there can then make recommendations on which shoes are best for you.
- Pick a Training Routine and Schedule Your Training
If you’d like, you can set out to try to run a little more each day, or to write your own program. Chances are, this will end in fatigue or injury. For your first half, it’s best to rely on the experts. Run a search for proven half marathon training programs for beginners. Then, schedule the training runs into your daily life. If it’s on your calendar, you’re more likely to follow through.
- Find a Running Buddy
Everything is better when you share it with someone else. Running is no different. Find a friend interested in running the half with you, or at least running on a schedule. Running with someone is more effective than going solo: It gives you a reason to get out of bed to run, removes excuses and pushes you to do your best. Pair up for best results.
- Don’t Evaluate Your Progress After a Bad Run
Not a single experienced runner can look back at their training for a given race and say that they rocked every run. We all have bad days, days that make us want to throw in the towel and give up on running altogether. However, just like you shouldn’t evaluate your progress at the top of a hill, you shouldn’t judge your success based on a bad run. Know that you’ll have the opportunity to shine on another day and keep going.
- Learn to Fuel Properly
While there are hundreds of race gels, protein bars, running beans and other foods that promote themselves as perfect for runners, each runner’s needs are different. Change your overall diet to include a balance of protein and carbs, along with adequate hydration. Then, during runs, practice to find out what’s best for race day; you may have to carry your own fuel instead of relying on race aid stations to prevent stomach disasters.
- Take One Mile at a Time
When race day arrives, congratulate yourself on your efforts to get there. Then, remember your training. Know that you did what you could to prepare for the day and leave the rest on the sidelines. Take one mile at a time and know that you’ve accomplished something you never thought you could. If you’ve followed the steps above, you’ll be good to go. Enjoy every mile and be proud of what you’ve done.
Today marks Day 1 of my training schedule. I’ll update you all on my progress as I go!