Beginner's Guide To Half Marathons - Everything You Need To Know

by James Eacott

Beginner's Guide To Half Marathons - Everything You Need To Know

Our half marathons are some of the most popular events we organise. It's no surprise: it's a fantastic distance to challenge but not terrify and is achievable by most with a solid foundation of training. With the Westonbirt House Easter Half Marathon about 12 weeks away, now's a great time to enter and begin getting ready. Running a half marathon can seem like a daunting task, especially if you're new to long-distance running. However, with the right training, preparation and mindset, crossing that 13.1-mile finish line is an incredibly rewarding experience. Here's some tips to help you complete your first half.

Training Tips

1. Start slow and build gradually

For beginners, it's crucial to start with a manageable base mileage and gradually increase it each week. Begin with shorter runs, aiming for 3-4 times a week and increase your mileage by no more than 10% per week to prevent overexertion and injuries.

2. Incorporate variety

Include different types of runs in your training schedule: long runs, speed work, tempo runs and recovery runs. Long runs build endurance, speed work enhances your pace, tempo runs improve your threshold, and recovery runs aid in recovery and injury prevention.

3. Prioritise rest and recovery

Rest days are just as important as training days. Your body needs time to recover and adapt to the stress of running. Listen to your body, and don't hesitate to take extra rest if you feel fatigued or notice any discomfort.

4. Invest in proper gear

There's nothing worse than trying to run in grim conditions in inadequate clothing. Invest in a good rain jacket - this is the UK, after all - and warm base layers. Quality running shoes suitable for your foot type and comfortable clothing can significantly impact your performance and reduce the risk of injury. We'd encourage having a pair or road shoes and some trail shoes so you can train on both terrains.

Strength Training

We're huge fans of strength training - here's why (and how) to do strength training - so make sure you include this in your weekly schedule. The basics of strength training for a half marathon are:

  1. Core strengthening - a strong core improves running efficiency and helps maintain proper form. Exercises like planks, Russian twists and bicycle crunches are beneficial. Click here for more core strengthening exercises.
  2. Leg strengthening - focus on exercises that target your legs, such as squats, lunges, calf raises and deadlifts. Strengthening these muscles can enhance your running performance and prevent injuries.
  3. Cross training: Incorporate activities like cycling, swimming, or yoga into your routine. Cross-training helps prevent burnout, strengthens different muscle groups, and improves overall fitness. Click here for an article all about cross training.

Nutrition Advice

As a beginner half marathon runner, your training is more important than nutrition, but there's a lot to be gained for getting your food right too. The three best pieces of advice for beginners are:

  1. Hydrate - proper hydration is essential for optimal performance. Being just 3% dehydrated drastically impairs physical performance. Keep a bottle with you at your desk, drink consistently throughout the day and especially before, during and after your training sessions. If you're training in a hot climate (not the UK, then!) or indoors, make sure you consume some electrolytes too to replenish those lost during sweating.
  2. Balanced diet - don't sweat your diet too much. Unless you're an elite performance looking for marginal gains, the biggest improvements you'll reap will be from adopting a balanced diet. Sounds boring, but it's true. Get a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats and micronutrients and you can't go far wrong. Enjoy a piece or cake now and again - just try to keep it clean and healthy ~80% of the time.
  3. Pre and post-run nutrition - the only time you should give more consideration to your diet is before and after a run. You want to ensure you've enough fuel in the tank to execute a quality session, and then the right food after to recover and adapt. Eat a light, easily digestible meal or snack 1-2 hours before a run, focusing on carbohydrates and some protein. Afterwards, focus more on protein and some carbs too to replace energy stores and assist muscle recovery

Final Thoughts

Embarking on the journey of running a half marathon as a beginner requires dedication, consistency and patience. BUT, it's a hugely rewarding journey you'll be delighted you took. Remember, progress takes time and setbacks are a part of the process. Listen to your body, be kind to yourself and celebrate every milestone achieved in your training.

As race day approaches, trust in your training and believe in yourself. The sense of accomplishment and the adrenaline rush as you cross the finish line will make all the hard work worth it. With proper preparation, determination and a positive mindset, you're well on your way to conquering your first half marathon. Good luck and enjoy the journey!

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