Training to Run a Half Marathon

16th February 2020

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A New Year pretty much always brings some sort of fitness goal, right? Well this year my challenge is to run more than ever before.

It’s been difficult to motivate myself through a very cold January – especially since my year got off to a slow start. My goal last month was to run at least once a week when I started back to work. And I’ve surprisingly managed it. Throughout February I’ve been trying to run twice a week, but needless to say two storms have made that a little difficult.

Last year I ran my first every half marathon. Not a challenge I was ever that passionate about until I watched the Great North Run for the first time in 2018. From that moment I was hooked. The atmosphere pulled me in. I wanted to experience that sense of achievement. I wanted to hear people call my name in an effort to keep me going. That sense of community was something I wanted to be part of.

So with all that passion, I put my name in the ballot. I didn’t get it. The sense of disappointment was horrible. I uhmed and ahed over what to do. And then I realised, running for charity was the best possible option. I could push myself throughout the year, whilst raising money for a cause close to my family’s hearts.

This year, I’ve set myself a new challenge. To beat my time of last year, and get that glorified sub-two hour time stamp. With that, a lot of training is going to be involved, and since I think I’ve learnt from my mistakes of last year, I thought I’d share my tips and tricks for getting to that finish line. So here’s to #GNR2020.

Start Running Now.

Honestly, I cannot emphasise enough how much you should just start running now. Whether it’s hitting your gym to run the treadmill, or burning up the tarmac – just get outside. If you’re a newbie, start with the couch to 5k, and if you really don’t know where to start, then the Great Run Company has some brilliant training plans.

I kept waiting and waiting for nicer weather to begin running. And whilst I’m still proud of my overall run, I know I could have done more. So get on those layers and get jogging.

Buy the Right Gear.

Another one to get on top of, is making sure you have the right gear. But more importantly, make sure you give yourself time to test it out. I was determined to wear shorts but I left it a bit late to find the perfect pair, and in the end ran in 3/4 length leggings (bad mistake when it was 20-odd degrees outside and zero shade the entire route).

Get new running trainers (if you need them) and break them in. Try everything on and run in it at least a couple of times before race day. It’s good to know what might chafe or dig in so you can avoid it. 13 miles is a long way – you want to be as comfortable as possible.

Test the Route.

Some people hate the idea of this, but I found it really helpful to run the route beforehand. I knew where I was going and I knew where the difficult parts were going to be. In hindsight I wish I’d done this more than once because my test run went really well, but on the day I hadn’t done the end part & thought I was closer to the finish than I actually was.

Knowing the full route makes a huge difference to how you can pace yourself. It’s also nice because you can take in the atmosphere a bit more to distract yourself from how far you actually have to go.

Get a Running Buddy.

I tried to run with David a lot, which was helpful, but he’s a lot faster than me. It meant I had to alter my training plan and often resulted in me running alone. So find someone who’s on a similar wavelength to you. Or even better, join a running club. There will be people of all levels there, with a lot of people training for different runs. It can really push you to improve, but more importantly keep you motivated.

I think this year I’ll join a running group so I can try new methods – and of course meet some new people! But another great thing to get started on, are Park Runs. They’re pretty much all over the UK, with most being a lot closer than you think, and are a great way to get you out and feel part of something. They’re always 5k, but you can go at your own pace easily, and they tend to have a range of people taking part. It’s a great sense of community which can give you a taster of what running a race/fun-run is really like.

Just Enjoy It.

My biggest takeaway is just to enjoy it. It can be tough not matter what you’re running strengths are, but in all honestly it’s a great experience. So make sure you’re enjoying it. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if you run the full thing and get that timestamp goal. You should make the most of the experience and embrace what an incredible thing you’re doing.

I hope some of these tips helped you out. I’m definitely looking forward to giving the half-marathon another go this year. Let me know if you’ve got any races coming up!

Read my post Mental Health and Wellbeing with Seaham Hall

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