How to Prepare for a Half Marathon

That header makes it sound like I know what I’m talking about, doesn’t it?

Caveat. I am not a coach or even an elite runner. I have 14 Half Marathons under my feet (you thought I was going to say belt, didn’t you?) since March 2009. In those miles, I’ve come to realize a sharable nugget about preparing for a Half Marathon (HM) –  there is a difference between training and preparing, and both are quite individual.

Entire sites, books, podcasts, training programs and magazines are dedicated to How to Train for your… HM/M/10K/5K/Trail… They are prescriptive, for the most part – a week-by-week physical agenda. That’s the physical training part – the miles, cross training, nutrition, etc. Preparing is training plus the soul element, the goal setting and mental coaching. It’s the emotional part of running and racing. Put training and preparing together, you have something that is really personal.

Take my husband and me for instance. I’m very intentional (read: Type A+) in everything, and it influences how I need to train. Paces and splits are calculated. I know my progress on this course for the last three years (1:56 in ’09, 1:46 in ’10, 1:42 in ’11) and have a sense of what I might be able to accomplish in 2012. I’ve trained to that goal six days a week with a mix of runs, yoga and weights, right up to carefully scheduling the last two weeks of running to include one last good tempo run (even though it wasn’t) last week, and taper with light, short runs and yoga this week.

Even the outfit is planned – Oiselle of course – and including my new, lucky just-in-time-for-a-St.-Patties-Weekend-race arm warmers. Training has built the confidence that this race, though it likely will not be a PR (it’s really crowded and hilly), will feel good and will be fun; and that I can be fast enough to run at the front of the pack and feel like I’ve earned it.

So proud to run for Oiselle, and ready with my lucky green arm warmers!

My husband is in it for the fun (the Georgia HM is a really fun race because you get to see the city), is running with friends from work. He has a fantastic finish time goal, and will surely grin all the way through because the cheering sections are awesome, he has the perfect playlist, and Springtime in Atlanta is too amazing to be believed without seeing it for yourself.

His training has been to run one or two times during the week, and a longer run on the weekend. He works a lot, isn’t a total run nerd (like his wife) and is very reasonable. He’s an enviably natural athlete, and while the race might hurt him a little, he’ll have more joy than pain, and know that he’s earned some day-late St. Patty’s Day beer (it’s not a great idea to drink beer the day before a race). Good stuff. He is ready!

I am trained and prepared like this is my job (for the record, sadly, it’s not). This morning’s last pre-race run was spent visualizing the course, and coaching myself to be optimistic. Funny, I find that I’m a bit of a Stewart Smalley when I race, cheering on the other runners even along the course (guess it’s good to do that for me too).

As promised, here are some HM training resources for those of you who think you’d like to join me for the next race.

  • Runners World 12 Week HM Training Program
  • Pace Calculator
  • Nutrition (Keep in mind there are lots of varying advice about what to eat. It really comes down to eating the most nutritious and hydrating elements you can before, during and after your race. It’s also about knowing how your body functions with and without food in your stomach.)
  • Shoes and Gear – The Runners World Shoe Finder is a great resource. The best thing to do is to know as much as you can about your gait (look at the wear patterns on your old running shoes), your mileage and your needs, and then take that information into a good running store where they care about that stuff and will let you run around in different shoes to find your best fit.

Remember the immortal words of Dr. George Sheehan – “It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”

When you’ve trained and prepared, you have won. That’s probably the best training and preparation advice there is. (Oh, and remember to have fun.)


4 thoughts on “How to Prepare for a Half Marathon

  1. Love that George Sheehan quote – may I tweet it? So true. I guess I was victorious over that little voice 11 days ago. Should pay myself on the back for that. Have a fun race this weekend! And kick some booty while you’re at it!

  2. Pingback: (Half) Mental | mewruns

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