Whether you are training for your first half marathon or your 100th, each half teaches you something. There are plenty of lessons I’ve personally learned the hard way.
A half marathon is a great distance to train for because it’s a manageable distance and you can recover much quicker than longer distances. Plus, you can do more than one or two a year.
But as runners and humans, we’ve all made mistakes. We’ve trained when we shouldn’t have. We have found an excuse to get out of a rest day, or we’ve been out late only to race or run long the next morning. Like anything in life, we’ve all made mistakes. It’s important to take time and learn from those mistakes.
Here’s ten things NOT to do when you’re training for a half, so you can learn from my mistakes:
1) Forget to set a goal
One of the most important aspects of training is having a goal. Whether your goal is to finish your first half marathon, PR or beat your neighbor, you should always have a goal. Goals allow you to stay focused for your race and keep you mentally tough during training.
2) Keep your goals secret
Having goals and letting people know you are training keeps training more interesting and fun. When you are accountable, you are more likely to train for your goal race. Goals are nothing to hide, and it’s always more fun when you are sharing your training with other runners.
3) Forget to prepare yourself mentally
Over half of running is mental and if you don’t believe that you are going to succeed, then no one else will believe you either. Never forget to believe in yourself. Mentally prepare yourself by visualizing yourself running and staying confident in your own abilities.
4) Forget to fuel
You can’t make it through half marathon training and the race without fueling. During training experiment with different food ideas. Also, experiment with different gels, Gatorade and fueling options for the race. You never know what the best fuel is for you, unless you try different options.
5) Forget to take rest days
Rest days are as important as the workout days and long runs. We often think that more running is better, but if we forget about rest days, our body breaks down. The rest is what allows your body to build muscle and get stronger.
6) Ignore pain
Believe me, it’s hard to take a few extra rest days. Ignoring a small pain can cause a serious injury that could set you back months. I learned that lesson the hard way when I ignored the pain in my shin. Ignoring the pain for a week led to my first serious running injury, a tibial stress fracture. Don’t let a small ache or pain becomes a serious injury.
7) Start the race out too fast
My college coach told me, “Make the first mile your slowest.” The last thing you want in a half marathon is to take the first mile out too fast and realize: “I still have 12.1 miles to go” because believe me, the race becomes a lonely and painful 12.1 miles.
8) Forget to plan your post-race victory meal
Let’s face it, sometimes the best part of finishing a half marathon is having a treat meal. For me, it’s the biggest piece of New Jersey diner cake I can find.
9) Forget to have fun
Remember you PAID to train for this race: running is a life-long and enjoyable hobby. Having fun should always be the priority! Even if something doesn’t go according to plan, having fun is always the top priority!
10) Forget to sign up for another half
After you finish this half marathon, figure out what’s next. The best way to get better for a half marathon is run another right? You can’t PR in the distance without running another one!