Tips for Running a Half Marathon
Easy does it
When training for a half marathon it can be tempting to increase your mileage straight up and step straight into those longer distances… Too be able to run 21 km.. I’m going to need to get lots of practise running 21km’s right? Not necessarily. Increasing your mileage too quickly can actually have adverse affects on your performance and can even lead to injury. The best way to prepare for your half marathon is to gradually build on your current distance and work your way up from there. For example, if your current distance is between 5-10 kms keep the majority of your runs there, gradually increasing your run by 10% week to week. Have one longer run each week to help prepare you for the extra distance between 10-20kms or 60-90 minutes.
With any type of training variety is key. Run on different surfaces, vary your distances and add in some resistance.
One great way to prepare for any endurance event is to add hill sprints into your regime. Hill reps increase your cardiovascular and muscular strength, as well as prepare you for mental fatigue come race day. Look for a hill that takes between 20-30 seconds to sprint. Jog down in between each rep for recovery and completing as many reps as your form lets you, aim for 2-3 sets of 5.
Cross training is also extremely important as it helps reduce the likelihood of repetitive use injuries whilst also aiding your body’s preparation for the big event. Some excellent forms of cross training for runners include; Yoga, Pilates, swimming and cycling. All these sports whilst low impact are great for strengthening and conditioning key muscle groups to help you get the most out of your run.
If your planning on squeezing in one solid week of training before you big run… forget about it! The last week is all about the R&R.
Tapering is a method used by most athletes that involves reducing their training load in the week/s leading up to a competition or race. It is an effective method that will allow your body to recuperate and conserve energy to ensure you’re in tip top shape come race day.
I recommending running a maximum of 3 times this week, no longer than 10kms. If you need to move opt for some of the cross training sessions outlined above.
Dress to compress
Having the right gear can make all the difference in your preparation and your performance on race day. The last thing you want is your shorts riding up or shirt rubbing 5kms into your half marathon…. I’ve had to learn that the hard way.
My favourite tights for running any kind of distance are my full length Skins compression tights. They are incredibly comfortable and I know that they are not going ride up or leave me with a painful rash or chafe half way through my run.
Wearing compression gear also increases blood flow and helps prevent muscle fatigue whilst training and racing. The increased blood flow will also help reduce muscle soreness in between your sessions.
Chances are you have heard of ‘Carb-loading’ but why is it so important? Carbohydrates are the best sources of energy when it comes to any sort of endurance event, especially distance running. If your carbohydrate stores are low you will start burning into your fat and protein stores which can slow your body’s processing down and increase your chances of muscle fatigue.
This doesn’t mean you can take yourself to the nearest buffet and fuel up with anything. If you want your vehicle to run smoothly you’ve got to give it the good stuff.
The best foods to fuel up on the day before a race are generally high carb, starchy foods that can be easily absorbed. For example, rice, potatoes, oatmeal and pasta.
During this time it is also important to steer clear of high-fat foods—like creamy sauces, cheese, butter, and oils—as well as too much protein. Both nutrients fill you up faster than carbs and take longer to digest.=
For best results, start ‘Carb Loading’ at least 2 days before the race to ensure your stores are fully loaded before the big race. If you’d like to count your carbs a good rule to work with is 8 grams of carbohydrates per kilo of bodyweight. That’s 560grams per day for a 70kg adult.
Just keep sipping
Keeping hydrated is critical, both during the race itself and during entirety of your training program. It’s important however, not to rely solely on water; drinking too much water can damage the balance of electrolytes in your body which itself can cause muscle fatigue and cramping. To keep the right balance I like to have a mixture of coconut water and water in the days leading up to the race. Electrolyte drinks such a Gatorade and Powerade can also be beneficial but keep in mind that these are filled with lots of additives and additional sweeteners which are not great for the body.
On the morning of the race drink small amounts of water from the moment you wake up, but again don’t overdo it. You want to be hydrated for the race but not overly so, otherwise you will be paying frequent visits to the porter loos.