How I planned and trained to run my first half marathon
My top tips for beginners considering a half marathon
If you’re new to running and considering signing up for a distance race, here are some ways to make it as enjoyable, rewarding and painless as possible.
Take care of your feet
Get professionally fitted for some decent running shoes, and invest in good running socks. You don’t have to spend a lot, but you do need to make sure they provide good support and fit well.
I was shocked to discover I had to go up a few sizes in my running shoes, and shudder to think of the blisters and pain I would have suffered trying to complete the race in too-small shoes.
Keep your toenails trimmed and use Vaseline if you experience chafing.
Most beginner runners greatly underestimate the importance of slow runs. Most of my weekly volume was at a pace easy enough to maintain a conversation while running.
Building your stamina with slow runs is so important for your recovery and allows you to hit your faster runs with enough energy. Never compare your pace with other runners, and focus on keeping a steady heart rate.
Celebrate every single run
Sticking to my training schedule was easier on some days than others. Having a visual representation of my plan reminded me of how far I’d already come and drove me forward.
After each run, I took a moment to be grateful for my strong, resilient body and mind. Don’t wait to achieve the big goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every tiny step you take towards it.
Recovery is everything
Trust in your training plan and put the rest of your energy towards recovering.
If you’re training hard, you need to rest and recover even harder. Make time to warm up and cool down for every single run, and include a mobility or stretching plan in your routine.
Tight hips, sore knees and creaky ankles are not fun and can impede your progress. Don’t wait until you’re in serious pain before you start taking care of your body.
I ignored some swollen and stiff knuckles from hours spent in the rain for a few weeks, and am still suffering the consequences. Prepare for everything, and don’t delay medical treatment for anything that comes up.
Focus on your body’s accomplishments, not its appearance
My body went through a series of changes after swapping my weightlifting sessions for runs. I lost some strength but actually gained weight and body fat.
I had to learn to ignore the scale and focus on feeling energised, fueled and strong. It was really important for my mental health not to dwell on my weight or start trying to compensate in any way.
Fitness is so often misunderstood as purely aesthetic. If we see someone with a flat stomach or visible abdominals, we assume they must be fit. In reality, a low body fat percentage doesn’t say anything about what someone is capable of.
If I had tried to stay too lean throughout my training, I honestly don’t think I could have made it over the finish line feeling good. Don’t use running as a way to lose weight, or to punish your body for what you eat. Eat to fuel yourself, and run to feel amazing and celebrate your strength.
Will I run another half marathon?
Since my race, a lot of people have asked if I will do another. I never say never, but to be honest, I have no interest right now.
Endurance running took a toll on my life, my schedule, my hands and feet, and my nervous system. I feel so proud of what I accomplished, but I also know that how far you can run is not the only worthy physical achievement.
I’m enjoying my strength training and the sweetness of low-impact workouts like walking and yoga. There is no one way to ‘do’ fitness. My journey is deeply personal to me, and the best thing you can do is focus on finding movement that feels joyous and right for your own body.