Conquer your first half marathon with these four training tips
I'm a former dancer who now writes about fitness at EvannClingan.com, but I had never tried to run more than four consecutive miles. It took watching runners complete the 2013 New York City Marathon in purple Team in Training singlets for me to commit to the Nike Women's Half Marathon in D.C.
Team in Training supports the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by raising money for blood cancer research. It's a cause that's close to my heart because my family has been touched by the disease. I thought that if there was any way I'd make it through a 13.1 mile race, it would be to celebrate the cancer survivors in my life. Here are the my four top tips for training for your first half.
Focus on distance, not pace
I think one reason people find running so intimidating is because they think they have to be fast. When I started training, I felt like I needed to push my speed, which caused me to quickly burn out. It's important to remember that races are ultimately about distance, not time. Whether you finish a half marathon in 1:30 or 3:00, it's still a huge accomplishment. Don't be frustrated if people are passing you. Run your own race.
Choose the 16-week plan
As a first-timer, it's important to give yourself ample time to train for your race. Four months is plenty of time to build a base, increase your endurance and reach longer mileage. If you try to do too much too fast, you risk the chance of injury. However, if you do get injured, you'll potentially have time to recover and continue training. My training was disrupted by extreme winter weather, but I still had plenty of warmer days to run after the snow melted.
Don't forget to cross train
If you're already active outside of running, this will benefit you. Most half marathon training plans include four runs and two cross training workouts per week. Being that I was active in boutique fitness before training for my half, I sometimes subbed one of those four runs for a spin class, which is a low impact alternative. However, it's crucial that your two cross training workouts include strength training, as it will improve running form and endurance. Nike offers free cross training classes at its Manhattan stores.
Surround yourself with support
I surrounded myself with running experts during my training. Some of these experts were my Team in Training coaches, which were provided to thank me for my fundraising efforts. They frequently sent encouraging emails to the team and held group runs. I also have friends who are experienced runners. They answered all of my ridiculous questions and often texted me to ask about my most recent long run. If you enjoy running with a group, meet up with Nike's run club throughout the week.
Remember, before you do any of these things, it's best to get fitted for the proper running shoe and potentially a cross training shoe. You might also consider running your first half marathon for charity or at a destination race. Traveling to get to a race or fundraising to benefit a cause makes even the hardest training runs seem worth it. When you're training, you'll have weeks when you feel like progress has slowed or stopped, but don't worry. When you look back on where you were at the start of training, you’ll feel strong enough to tackle 13.1 miles.