Guide to running a Half-Marathon for the first time

Let me tell you a little story about my journey towards being able to run my first half-marathon. I have always been a rather outgoing and sporty person. I love the way running makes me feel. When I study for a long time or just have a lot of my mind I find that going for a run is the best cure to clear my head. Even if I haven’t done anything all day but I have gone for a run with my dog I feel like I’ve achieved something. However, the idea that I would actually complete a half-marathon this year would have never crossed my mind 12 months ago!! 

 

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For those who  would like to be able to run the city2surf or a half-marathon (or any similar running event) keep on reading for some helpful tips!

 

Happiest 5km – The Colour Run

 

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At the beginning of the year I would usually run a casual 5km (about 30 minutes run) around my block about three times a week. I then signed up for the 5km Colour Run. This event was truly fantastic! I ran with a few girlfriends of mine and we had lots of fun and did not find it too hard at all. 

 

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Nike Run

After having completed my first running event I decided to try something a little bit more challenging so I signed up for the 10km Nike Run. I had never run 10km before so decided to do a little bit of training. I slowly began to run for a longer period of time. One day I actually did a full 10km run and found it rather difficult! I ran it in about 1h10minutes which is pretty average speed but a bit slow. I was happy though, all I wanted was to know I would be able to cross the finish line of the Nike Run! On the day of the event I forgot my Ipod so I was worried about running for so long without any music to keep me motivated… However, being surrounded by so many other runners really gave me a boost of energy and I finished the race in 55minutes. My pace was pretty uneven throughout the race though. I realised that I was running much faster by the end of the race than at the beginning which surprised me! Upholding a regular speed was something I wanted to focus on for my half-marathon as a way to save energy during the run.

 

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City2Surf

 

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My next challenge was to run the city2surf. Again this was my first time running that particular race. I did not have a strict training program. What I tried to do was to exercise 3 to 4 times a week with one 5-7km easy run, one or two gym sessions (so either weights training or cardio or a mix of the two) and one longer run per week (about 8-10km). I never actually ran more than 10km while training so I was a bit nervous to do the full 14km especially because I heard the ‘heartbreak hill’ was a killer. When it finally came to the day of the event I was feeling a bit sick with the beginning of a cold. However, that did not stop me from finishing the race. It was such an amazing event particularly because so many people participate in it and finishing at Bondi Beach was such a highlight! My finishing time was 82 minutes which I was quite pleased with. However, I had a pretty bad recovery! I had a really bad fever the two days following the race and my cold got worse. I would advise to really avoid doing intense exercise if you are sick, even if it is just the beginning of the illness. Nevertheless, I did really enjoy the race and I am planning on doing it next year again!

 

Note: I went out a couple of nights before the race and I really paid the price! My advice is to keep away from alcohol for about a week prior to a long race, you will feel much better during and after the run that’s for sure!

 

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Blackmores Sydney Half-Marathon

 

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This running event was definitely the one I was most worried about. You really need to train to be able to comfortably run 21km. The reason for which I wanted to train was not only to be able to complete the course but also because I wanted a much better recovery than the one after the city2surf.

 

Running Food 

I bought a few fitness and running magazines to obtain some proper information and advice on how to prepare for a long race. I realised that what I was eating really influenced my performance. Basically, if you are going to go for a long run make sure that you eat some good food (preferably carbohydrates) about an hour (or more) before your run. Carbs doesn’t just mean white break or pasta. You can find healthier forms of carbohydrates very easily. Examples include:

  • Cereals, grains and nuts
  • Vegetables, especially starchy veg like potatoes, corn, peas and beans.
  • Fruit, particularly apples, bananas and pear
  • Dairy food like milk, cheese and yoghurt.

 

Personally, I like having either some roasted almonds or maybe some muesli with fruit before my run. I usually eat about an hour before I exercise. If I don’t eat before I run I can feel very low on energy and tired which makes the run unpleasant and if I’m really tired I may even fall over or just run much slower than usually because I’m just not as focused. 

 

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Running gear

Another important thing is running gear. I invested in some proper running shoes because I found that running for a long time started to hurt my knees. I immediately felt the difference with trainers which have more support. I also suggest running with some good pumping music, it helps me keep motivated! Other than that, as long as you have a good pair of shorts or leggings and a comfortable top there are no rules as to what you should wear while running!

 

 

Training Guide

I strongly believe that there is not one specific way to train for a half-marathon. Everyone is different and so I would suggest simply listening to your body and only using this training plan as a guide. I made myself a simple training plan based on a guide I found in a running magazine. This is a 10-week program. However, if you are a generally sporty person don’t worry if you only start the training about 6 weeks before the race, that should still allow you enough time to get well trained for the race. Remember, the aim of the training is to make your body used to long distance running. To me, running is only a question of habit. Once your body is used to running for long periods of time you will find that you can easily complete a half-marathon without too much pain along the way!

 

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Week 1:

Monday – Rest or cross train (gym etc)

Tuesday – 30 minute run

Wednesday – Interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Thursday – Rest

Friday – 40 minute run of gym session (group class exercise for example)

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – 10 km run

 

 

Week 2:

Monday – Rest or cross train (gym etc)

Tuesday – 30 minute run

Wednesday – Interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Thursday – Rest

Friday – 40 minute run of gym session (group class exercise for example)

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – 10 km run

 

  

Week 3:

Monday – Rest or cross train (gym etc)

Tuesday – Interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Wednesday – 40 minute run

Thursday – Rest

Friday – High intensity interval training at the gym

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – 12 km run

 

  

Week 4:

Monday – Rest or cross train (gym etc)

Tuesday – 40 minute run

Wednesday – Interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Thursday – Rest

Friday – 40 minute run of gym session (group class exercise for example)

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – 13 km run

 

 

Week 5:

Monday – Rest or cross train (gym etc)

Tuesday – High intensity interval training at the gym

Wednesday – 50 minute run

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – 15 km run

 

 

Week 6: (this is recovery week, so reduced volume and no fast running)

Monday – Rest or cross train (gym etc)

Tuesday – 40 minute relaxed run

Wednesday – Interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Thursday – Rest

Friday – 30 minute relaxed run

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – 10 km run

 

  

Week 7:

Monday – Rest or cross train (gym etc)

Tuesday – 50 minute run

Wednesday – Interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – 15 km run

 

 

Week 8:

Monday – Rest or cross train (gym etc)

Tuesday – 50 minute run

Wednesday – High intensity interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Thursday – Rest

Friday – 40 minute run

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – 15 km run

 

 

Week 9:

Monday – Rest or cross train (gym etc)

Tuesday – Interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Wednesday – 50 minute run

Thursday – Rest

Friday – 40 minute run or interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Saturday – Rest

Sunday – 10 km run

 

 

Week 10

Monday – Rest or cross train (gym etc)

Tuesday – Interval training at the gym (try to do both cardio and weights)

Wednesday – Rest

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Rest

Saturday – Enjoy your first half-marathon!

Sunday – Recovery

 

  

About the actual event

 The Blackmores Half-Marathon began at about 6:30 in the morning. I am not a morning runner so I was a bit worried about that! I made sure I woke up early and I had some muesli with banana for breakfast. This gave me some good energy for the race. As soon as I began running I couldn’t help but smile. The course was amazing. We began by running over the harbour bridge and then ran down to the circular quay. After running for about 17km I started the get sore legs but I just pushed through. Listening to my iPod and being surrounded by so many runners of all ages helped me keep motivated. I was so glad that I had trained because the run was not nearly as difficult as I expected it to be, just because my body was used to running long distances! I finished the race in 2h08minutes which I was very pleased about. My new aim is do run a half-marathon in under 2hours and maybe one day run a full marathon!

 

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Recovery

As a general rule, the more you train the better your recovery will be. However, due to the length of the run it is very likely that your legs will feel tight and a bit sore after the run no matter how much you  trained. A great way to minimise muscle pain is to hop in a cold pool, bath or shower after your run. The cold water will help the blood circulation in your muscles. I was really surprised to see how much it helped my muscles! Having a magnesium chloride salt bath is another way to help muscle recovery. Make sure you drink lots of fluid as you will be dehydrated from the race. Eating food high in protein after sports also enhances muscle recovery.  

 

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I hope this post inspires you to get outside and start running because, trust me, it is the best thing you could do for yourself. 

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