10 Tips for running a (half) marathon

July 01, 2024

Running a half marathon is no easy feat, even for experienced runners. If you’re running your first half marathon or looking to improve your performance then the hard work starts now. So to help, we’ve put together some training tips to help you cross the finish line.

1. Start training early

The ideal training time for beginners can be between 12 to 16 weeks, so the earlier you start, the better. This will give you enough time to build up your distance gradually and avoid injuries.

In preparation, you should make sure you have everything at your disposal. Some people like to make use of the gym, others prefer to do their run outdoors for a more authentic experience. Wherever you decide to train, make sure it’s somewhere you feel comfortable and can access easily if plans change.

2. Set a training schedule

You could say the foundation of your success relies on your training plan. It’s never just as simple as filling out a calendar. You have to really commit to your training schedule and stick to it.

Set time aside each week for your running, especially different types of runs like long runs, tempo runs, and speed work. But also don’t forget about your life and some of the things that might get in the way, so that if they do, you can adjust accordingly.

As a beginner, you might want to start with shorter distances, like 4 or 5 miles – which could be the furthest you can run. Then, each week or two, add an extra one mile to allow you to build that much needed endurance. This can also help prevent injury by allowing the body to adapt to the increase in distance. Your training plan should be aligned with your individual needs and fitness level.

3. Set realistic goals

If you expect to run the marathon in a certain time from the get-go, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Instead, you want to look at what it is you want to achieve and set a target that you could realistically accomplish, even if you have to put in the extra graft. Try incorporating the SMART method to set your goals.

If you’ve previously run a half marathon, you could aim to beat your previous time. You also have the added benefit of knowing which areas you need to focus on.

But if this is your first half marathon, try not to focus too much on the time, as this only puts unnecessary pressure on yourself. Instead, work hard to improve on distance, regardless of how long it takes you.

4. Expect setbacks

No matter how hard you work, no matter how well you plan, it’s only natural for there to be setbacks along the way. Whether it’s an injury, illness, or a session that doesn’t go as planned, be prepared for these setbacks and have a plan in place to deal with them. There’s no need to get discouraged or give up, instead get yourself back on the horse and keep going!

5. Invest in proper running gear

Having the right gear can make all the difference. That’s not to say that buying an expensive pair of running shoes will suddenly turn you into an Olympic athlete. But this isn’t a short jog, you have to be prepared all over, from your shirt to your shoes or even what’s on your head if it’s hot.

Ideally, you should also have comfortable clothing and footwear. This will help prevent any discomfort or blisters during the marathon. Check out the shoe brands recommended by our podiatrists.

One golden rule, almost every marathon runner can attest to: don’t wear anything new on race day. Even if you’ve spent good money on a brand new Nike shirt or some slick Adidas trainers, it’s best to stick with what you’ve been training in to avoid chaffing which can be a major hindrance on race day.

For shirts, cotton isn’t the best of choices, as it retains moisture and can cause chafing. For the best results, look for moisture-wicking materials that will keep you dry and comfortable throughout the race.

6. Find a running buddy or join a running group

For some people, a marathon is a personal challenge that they want to take on alone. But for others, having a friend or group to train with can make a big difference. It can make the long runs seem less daunting, and having a group of friendly faces to train with can provide valuable advice and encouragement.

Plus, it makes training more fun and social, which can help you stay motivated and committed to your training schedule. Have a look on social media for local running groups in your area, or reach out to a friend.

7. Stay hydrated and fuel your body properly

Think of your body as similar to a car – it needs fuel to keep going, otherwise it simply won’t run. Make sure to stay hydrated throughout your training, especially on long runs. Carry a water bottle with you or plan out routes where you can stop for a drink.

Dehydration has a major effect on your body, causing muscle cramps, fatigue, and even heat stroke. That’s why it’s so important to drink water before, during, and after your runs.

But it’s not just about hydration, it’s also about what you eat. What good will it really do you if you’re eating junk food before a long run? Just like we need to fuel our bodies with water, we also need to fuel our bodies with the right food. There are plenty of online diets and meal plans specifically tailored for marathon runners, so do some research and find what works best for you.

8. Practice makes perfect

At 13.1 miles, a half marathon isn’t just something you can do overnight – unless of course you’re a professional athlete! A trial run takes away the pressure and allows you to really get a feel for what it’s like to run that distance. Use these trial runs as an opportunity to experience not just the physical aspect, but the mental one.

Even if it takes you much longer than you expected, knowing that you are able to run the distance is a great way to reinforce your confidence and mental strength. Don’t worry if your trial run doesn’t go as planned, use it as a learning experience to make adjustments and improvements for the actual day.

9. Pace yourself

It’s a marathon, not sprint! An overused phrase as it may be, but truer words could not be spoken. Some people think that speed is everything when it comes to running, but a marathon (even half) is a different kettle of fish.

Say you can run a mile in 8 minutes, it doesn’t mean to say you can run 8 miles in 64 minutes. Marathons are all about endurance. Sure, some people can also master the speed, but if it’s your first run, you don’t want to be sprinting from the off, you’re much more likely to burn out and probably feel embarrassed.

Be patient and start off at a comfortable pace, gradually increasing your speed as you go along. But remember to leave something in the tank for the final stretch. One thing beginners can be guilty of is weaving in and out of runners trying to keep up with them. Don’t worry about other people’s pace, focus on your own and run at a speed that feels right for you.

10. Don’t forget about recovery

From your first training session to the finish line, recovery is just as important as the training itself. Make sure to incorporate rest days into your training schedule to allow your body time to recover and repair. Get plenty of sleep, eat nutritious foods, and don’t forget to stretch!

Our sports massage treatment can also help alleviate muscle soreness and improve recovery time.

After the marathon, give yourself time to rest and recover. Your body will be tired and sore, so make sure to listen to your body and give it the time it needs to recover fully.

Remember, completing a half marathon is a huge accomplishment, so be proud of yourself and remember it’s normal for there to be bumps in the road and not to give up. Make sure all those weeks of training count, but it never hurts to feel good about yourself. Good luck!