10 weeks have passed since I decided to sign up for my first half marathon and in that time I have signed up to another one, had some amazing running sessions and had some not so great ones too. And with just under 4 weeks until I complete the Royal Parks Half, the thought of crossing the finishing line after successfully completing a 13.1 mile course is starting to feel a little bit real.
If I’m honest, a part of me cannot wait for it to be over! The long runs are boring, especially if your headphones run out of charge. Or sometimes the hangover that you thought you dodged creeps up on you and hits you like a brick wall when you’re six miles from home. That’s tough. But, there is also a huge part of me that has enjoyed this new challenge and all that has come with it. During my journey to 13.1 miles, I’ve formed new friendships that I know I’ll carry on beyond the finish line and I have learned a lot about training, running and I’ve discovered a few new personality traits too.
If you’re thinking about doing your first half marathon, here are a few tips that I have learned along the way, to help you get off on the right foot.
Mentally prepare yourself to go the distance
A half marathon is far! I’m sorry to get off on a negative, but it is. Before I actually started training, I’d heard the words “it’s not that far” so many times, I started to believe that it wasn’t actually that far. That was until I did my first eight mile run. Ouch. If you’re comparing a half marathon to full marathon then no, it’s not far. But if you compare it to a park run, a bog standard 5km…then yes, it feels like you’re running to the end of the earth. Twice! Being fit enough to run the full course is one thing but being mentally prepared to go the distance is another. Select a music playlist that makes you feel like running for hours on end or listen to a podcast keep going. I personally prefer to listen to music and I have power songs trickling throughout my playlist to give me bursts of energy when I feel like I am running flat.
Don’t let mile one fool you
I have made this mistake so many times and I’ve allowed mile 1 to fool me into thinking that I can run a 10 miles in record time. Although Miles 1 through to 6 may feel comfortable, everything after mile 8 will feel horrendous if you set off to fast. Pace yourself. “You’re not Mo Farah”, is what I say to myself when I feel my legs getting faster. Ask yourself “Can I run at this pace for over an hour?” and this will be a good indication to whether you’re going too fast, or too slow.
Share your miles with your friends
The long runs can be lonely so share the miles with your friends. I recently shared 4 miles with my friend at the end of her 22 mile run, and it was agony for both of us, as I had ran 10 miles prior to meeting her. But just knowing that I had someone beside me made me determined to see it out until the end, where I vowed to never run 15 miles again.
Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable
You’ll probably spend most of your runs feeling uncomfortable, which is why you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and the best way for me to do this is with speed sessions. Track sessions see me running faster than fast and squash all of the negative thoughts that I have about running. At track I go beyond what I thought were my limits because there are no limits, I feel unstoppable and this is everything I need to help me finish a half marathon.
Although its hard and requires a lot of training, you’ll come across lots of small victories on your way to running 13.2miles. Like running your first 10 miles, to me this was a huge achievement because up until a few months ago I hadn’t ran more than 3 miles in a very long time! You’ll learn a lot about yourself too. You’ll learn that you have motivation and determination beyond belief and that’s something that you can take away from running and carry into everyday life.
Who else is training for a run? Leave your tips below, I’d love to hear how you’re getting on.