I have had a handful of friends reach out to me asking how I train for half marathons, so if you’re one of those who are wondering, I have good news for you: I am a runner not because I run fast, and not because I run far. I am a runner because I run. You must know this first before I go on with any more of my running advice. Running is a dreadful, awful thing (so some think), but for me it is a rewarding, amazing sport. I have learned to love it, let alone I have learned that I can not live without it. It isn’t about the times, the number of miles, or the most expensive shoes. It’s about you; pushing yourself, your mentality, your limits of what you think you can do. Whether you are prepping for your first half marathon or your 15th, make the most of your 13.1-mile experience — from sign-up to finish line — with these ways I’ve learned to love it.
1. It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.
I haven’t always been able to run a six minute mile. At one point, an eleven minute mile was the best I could do, three miles at a time. But whenever I finished my run, I was proud of myself. It didn’t matter to me about my time or my pace, I was simply happy I had gotten my workout in for the day and I was satisfied for that reason alone. However, once you start running, don’t stop, because it seems like it’s ten times more difficult to start again. The best thing to do when you want to quit is to slow it down, bring back your pace for a minute or two, and tell yourself there is nothing wrong with taking it slow. Anyone who has the energy, drive, and ambition to go out and run should be applauded!
2. Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running.
I love a lot of things about running, that’s why I tend to do a lot of it and not a lot of anything else. It’s the adventure, the people, the spectators, the course, your support system. It’s you against yourself, you against your competitors, and you against the mountains. I love running because it is simple. Put on your shoes and go. There’s nothing else quite like it.
3. It keeps you from overthinking the little things in life.
I think inner peace is a lovely goal, and I’d like to think I get there a bit more with each run. Writing, baking, reading, cracking jokes with my husband, or being with loved ones also help but I crave a run like nothing else. Running provides you with the ability to take all your emotions and leave them on the pavement. It is a way to relieve stress & anxiety and bring positive energy into your life.
4. Think quality over quantity.
I’ve never followed a strict training schedule but here is my quick rule of thumb: Plan to take about 15 weeks to prepare for your race. Every other week, increase your distance by 1.5 miles until you’re running/walking 13 to 14 miles. Your longest long run should fall two weeks before your half-marathon.
5. Keep your confidence going (for 13.1 miles).
Each time you pass another competitor on the course, allow yourself the feelings of achievement and fulfillment, but also give them a wave of encouragement and support. After all, they are experiencing the same breathless agony you are. And each time someone else passes you (trust me, it’ll happen), let it motivate you to dig deep within yourself and find an extra ounce or two of strength.
6. You can run anywhere and at anytime.
I love doing the same old runs where the route is so familiar I’ve named parts of it. I love travelling and running on new terrain. I love ignoring the watch and just running on how I feel. I love the fact that all I need for a good run is a decent pair of shoes and a trail.
7. Running can be the highlight of your self-care routine.
You feel a rush of endorphins by running. It improves your cognitive function and makes you excited for learning. It helps you feel confident, fearless, and healthy. You can listen to music or you can relax in the peaceful, quiet morning. You can get a boost of energy that will get you through your work day, your mom day, or your school day. You can make running friends, too, and not to mention, a post-run shower is the best shower ever.
8. You can eat a lot of Pink Starbursts.
Obvious, but perhaps less existential, is that running burns calories. If you love to eat, running is the best! I hardly follow a strict eating schedule (hence the Pink Starbursts) but I know that your main focus with endurance training should be to pay close attention to your hydration, make sure you’re eating the right kinds of carbs, and increase your protein and vegetable intake. I’m typically not freely willing to eat carrots and broccoli but Kashi Go-Lean cereal is my go-to meal for 12 grams of protein, 13 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of whole grains. The best part about it is it doesn’t taste like cardboard (like most other plant protein cereals)! Just be sure to eat well and drink a few gallons of water during race week to maximize your running performance!
6. Research the race.
Scope out the elevation map to pinpoint where the hills are located. Also check out at which mile markers water and/or aid stations will be provided. Find out where Porta Potties will be placed along the route, too. My little secret is I arrive at the start line as early as possible and use the Porta Potty two, three, or even four times before the race begins to rid of what I call “The Nervous Pee.” Seriously, does anyone else experience it?! I feel it every single race!
7. Recover. Rinse. Repeat.
What you do after your race is just as important as what you did before. Most of the time I can barely walk down the stairs for a few days like a normal human after I exert all of my speed and strength for 13.1 miles, and that’s why it’s important to properly recover. In my experience, don’t stop moving after you cross the finish line. Stretch, hydrate, and refuel at the food tent. I always think running 13.1 miles is a lot of work for a free banana, but I’ll promise you’ll love it at the end! And last but not least, book yourself an appointment with the nearest foam roller.
7. Sign up for your next race!
Races rarely get easier, but you will always get stronger, faster, and better. Run if you are looking for something to accomplish. Run if you enjoy making friends. Run if you want to restore balance in your life. Run if you desire more time in nature. Run to appreciate your body. Your greatest moments while running allow you to see how wonderful your life is and you will never want those moments to stop.
13.1 miles might seem impossible to you now, but you will make it, as long as you take it one week — and one mile — at a time. You can start today, so ready, set, RUN! And have fun while you’re at it 🙂