If you've already run your first 5K and progressed to a 10K, you might be thinking about taking the next step. Diving right into a full-on marathon might be a little too much, but a half marathon could be exactly the type of event you're looking for. However, a race of this length can still be a pretty significant challenge. Before you get started, here are some things you should know about half marathon training.
Know When You're Ready
The first thing to consider is whether you have a solid enough running base to get through the training for a half marathon. Runners often look at half marathon training programs, which usually last around 12 weeks, and think that's all they need. Unfortunately, it's not. Those programs assume you're already at a certain skill level when it comes to running.
As mentioned, having a few shorter races behind you is a good starting point, but that may not be enough. As a general rule of thumb, you should be running between 15 and 20 hours each week before you even start training for your first half marathon. Within that mileage, your longest run should be at least five miles.
Once you have this base, all your body has to do is get used to the additional demands that are gradually added by your training program. If you start the program without that foundation, your body will have to work twice as hard—building a base while also adjusting to the workouts, which can be tough.
Be Familiar with the Race
Because of its considerable length, a half marathon challenges your body more than a shorter event. During the actual race, you may experience hydration and nutrition needs that are new to you, so planning for this will be essential. Often, race organizers provide sports drinks and energy gels at specific points along the route. If you can, find out what the exact product is and start using it during your training. This will give you a chance to make sure you like it and that it works well. Even if you plan on using your own drink, lock down a recipe and use it while you train.
This may seem obvious, but consider the date of the race when you're booking it and planning out your training routine. Running programs are designed to bring you to your peak, so make sure you have plenty of time to get ready and hit that peak as scheduled. Part of knowing the race also means understanding and training for any changes in elevation. After all, you don't want to be surprised by rolling hills when you're already several miles into the race.
Study Your Plan
There are a lot of different half marathon training plans out there, and each takes a slightly different approach. Make sure the plan you choose is appropriate for you. For instance, if the plan expects you to run eight miles on the first day but you've never run more than five, you should assume that it's probably too advanced. You'll also need to consider how often you'll have to run and whether you can fit it into your schedule. Does the plan ask you to run every day? Can you do that? Be realistic before you commit.
Don't Forget to Cross-Train
When you're training for a race, you run, right? That just makes sense. However, you should be mixing other forms of training into your routine, too. Strength training, for example, can better prepare your body for the challenges of the race and can help you avoid overuse injuries during your regular routine. Keep in mind, though, that running is still your focus, so don't overdo it when cross-training.
With the right mind-set and training, almost anyone can run a half marathon. Start with these tips, be patient, work hard, and don't give up. Before you know it, you'll be crossing the finishing line.