Preparing for Your First Half-Marathon

training_half_marathonChances are, if you're reading this, you have developed a case of "marathon envy." Perhaps you're tired of driving behind mud-splashed Subarus with those "26.2" oval stickers on the back. Or maybe your closest friends have all started bonding about their marathon training and you feel left out. Whatever the reason, you have found yourself curious whether you can make it through a half-marathon, let alone a full one. Better to start with something manageable like a half-marathon than to bite off more than you can chew, but how do you prepare for that?

 

Unless you were a track star in high school or you were born with a runner's body, your first thoughts about running a half-marathon don't revolve around winning. You could be more concerned about whether you can finish, and that's understandable. Fortunately, there are several tried-and-true methods for getting your body marathon-ready in a few short months, but it does require a commitment.

According to an article on Active.com, "How to Train for Your First Half Marathon," the first question you should ask yourself is this: "What kind of a runner are you?" Are you into motion control? Do you prefer running on a trail? Do you run for cross training or because you truly enjoy it? Answering these questions may help you develop a customized training program that suits your running style.

How do you get started?

Whatever your reason for running; the most important thing to do first is to register for an event nearby. This will make you accountable for finishing what you started, but make sure you give yourself enough time to train. The ideal timeframe is 12 to 14 weeks out, so be sure to build in enough time for life's little detours. Remember you might need to go out of town on business or you could be taking a vacation soon, so give yourself enough padding in your training schedule to adapt to the continual progression of distance. Hint: now might be a good time to stock up on your favorite bottled water and a good pair of running shoes.

What if you're new to running?

If you're someone who is entirely new to running and you don't have a consistent base of mileage (ideally 3 or 4 miles, at least three times per week), that is entirely okay. However, it does mean that your training period will be a little longer. Plan on a six month training period, knowing it can be done in less time, but you why not give yourself enough time to make the transition less painful?

Choose an event where you will feel comfortable

Rather than choosing a marathon event that's halfway across the state, it makes sense to do it closer to home. One reason is you might be able to train on the course where the race is run. Consider it having "home court advantage," so to speak.

If you cannot find an event nearby, why not make it a "destination marathon?" It is always in your best interest to run by scenery that inspires you to keep going. Maybe you've always wanted to run through Northern California's wine region, or you want a scenic mountain backdrop by a lake.

Lastly, be sure the event supports your pace, which may be run, run-walk, or walk) and that the course is at least somewhat similar to your home terrain. The important thing is to keep it simple, respect the road and be prepared. Wherever you roam, be sure you remain hydrated throughout the race with your favorite Colorado spring water.

Find a suitable training plan and be consistent

It's amazing how well the body adapts to new challenges and how efficiently it improves, even allowing you to make minor changes along the way. The key to marathon training is to keep going longer and stronger each time, tapping into your body's inner reserves of endurance but remembering where you started from.

Avoid the temptation to make radical changes to your training plan just because you want to run a half-marathon. Switching things up a notch, (maybe up to 10 percent) will help in transitioning toward the half-marathon goal of 13 miles. Trust me, your body will thank you for getting started on your training and you will start to feel the difference almost immediately.

Group training keeps you accountable

Not everyone enjoys exercising in groups, but running can be a lonely sport. Research has shown that training in groups helps you run longer and complain about it less. It may not make sense for your daily runs, but it's a great way to get through the longest run of the week. Avid runners say the miles fly by as they catch up with friends. Join an existing group or create your own; and don't forget your favorite Rocky Mountain spring water!

Photo Courtesy of Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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