Training for a Half-Marathon

Running a half marathon might seem like a lofty goal, but with the right preparation, it can be easier than you think. While you'll need a lot of motivation and a few months of training behind you, unlike a full marathon, running a 21 kilometre stretch is possible for most people. Let's take a look at some of the important steps you'll need to take along the way, from choosing an event and buying equipment through to training and finding enough motivation to keep you on track.

While all half marathons are 21.1 kilometres in length, they are not all created equal. Before committing to a long term training plan, it's normally a good idea to choose a future event so you can start visualising and make appropriate preparations. It's often a good idea to choose a local event the first time around, with most people also looking for a relatively flat course. While a competitive line-up with lots of hilly terrain can be great for experienced runners, most first-timers will benefit from a more relaxed race. 

When choosing an event, it's important to give yourself at least 3-4 months to train, with real beginners often needing up to a year. If you've never trained seriously before, it’s important to start slow at the outset, with huge distances or large volumes a sure-fire recipe for injury. Once you have a specific goal and timeline in mind, it's important to get the right gear to help you on your way. Quality running shoes are absolutely essential for long distances, with good shorts and socks also important. While some people also benefit from fitness trackers and MP3 players, for others they are an expensive distraction.

It may be a good idea to start walking before you run, making the switch to jogging after a few weeks and plenty of kilometres under foot. By running three or four times a week, including one longer run that gets closer to 21 kilometres over the training period, you can slowly gain the confidence you need to tackle larger distances. Along with distance runs, tempo runs can also be used to build your confidence and improve your speed. They should be performed at a comfortably hard pace, meaning faster than your easy runs but not so tough that you’re breathing heavily. It's also a good idea to mix your cardio workouts with strength and flexibility training, with the local gym a great place to find the motivation you need.

It's important to look at the bigger picture when training for a half marathon, by paying close attention to your diet and stress levels and making sure you get enough rest. Whether you can manage a few days each week or an entire dry month, alcohol-free time is important while you train, especially if you like running in the mornings. In order to stick to your training and avoid burnout, it's also important to balance the responsibilities and enjoyment of family, work, and training. While running is traditionally a solitary activity, a group of friends or a local running group may give you the boost you need to hit the pavement when your motivation levels are low.


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