I’m three weeks out from my first half-marathon and if it feels like I’ve been training for this half-marathon for seven months, that’s because yes, I have.
And before you condescend to me, rude running store people, I’ve been ready to run it since at least July, probably June, and maybe May. (Omg I bought new shoes in D.C. this week and the guy who helped me was the biggest dick but it’s okay because the next day I saw him running shirtless, with his short hair in a bun on top of his head, with one single hand weight—I CAN’T).
I have of course not run said half-marathon yet, but having invested countless hours into this race which I’m putting no pressure on at all, I promise (lies), I’ve learned a lot about running and about myself.
So, I’m here to throw my advice into the vast pool of advice out there for new runners (and runners who just have done short distances for a long time—you’re still a runner!), normal girl fitness tips style.
Don’t feel like you need to go 0 to Half-Marathon.
A lot of people decide they want to start running consistently so they immediately sign up for and start training for a half-marathon. This is fine and all, but completely unnecessary. And if you care about being fast someday (fast being a completely relative term, obviously), probably not the best thing to do.
If you think people won’t take you seriously as a runner if you’re not doing big races, think again. Anyone who doesn’t is a tool who literally runs on the Washington Mall with a single hand weight. Do you really care about that guy’s opinion?
Building up your distance and speed slowly and deliberately will help you in the long run. Instead of diving right in, get really good at 5Ks, and then 10Ks, and then 15Ks and then when it’s time to run your half, you won’t be scared at all, you’ll be used to racing, and you’ll be able to push yourself to your best run without injuring yourself.
Halfs are famous for making either running-addicts or former-runners and if you approach it slowly but surely, you’ll luckily get to be an addict.
Step 1: lock down three miles jogging with no stopping.
I used to love running fast and then walking every 5-8 min for just 20 seconds. I mean, who cares if you walk? (PRAISE. Anyone who judges you for walking is a monster.)
But run-walking all the time is going to make long distances pretty hard. When you’re building the distance, it’s better to be steady than to be fast and if that means you jog really slowly, jog really slowly.
Once you lock down three miles without walking, you’ll be able to do anything else—literally any other distance— without walking. It can feel disheartening to see your slow-ass times every day as you’re working towards that steady three miles, but it will help you build up the stamina, strength, and breath control to keep running for two hours. That’s a long time!
Don’t cheat yourself.
No one cares if you make all of your training runs except for yourself and no one cares if you get faster. But you care, so don’t make excuses and don’t cheat.
Cheating is stopping your running clock to catch your breath and then acting like whatever time you end with is your real time (it isn’t) (I do this sometimes, oops). Cheating is lying to yourself or anyone else about how fast you are or how much you ran.
Races don’t lie, unfortunately, so don’t lie to yourself while training. It will just set you up for disappointment.
If you want to run fast, you have to train fast.
Ugh, the worst of all the advice, but so true. You just won’t magically get faster with time, though it seems like that should be the case. Instead, you have to push yourself, not just during your speed training or your tempo runs, but almost all the time.
(Not all the time, you’ll go nuts. Give yourself at least one easy run a week. But most of the time.)
It’s never too soon to do speed-training (400 meters, 800 meters, mile “sprints,” or hill training). I’m on my third intermediate training schedule and I’ve never run a half! Don’t think you can’t worry about getting fast before you even finish; you can. The faster you run, the less time you run (thank god), so start speed work early.
Don’t get stuck on one goal: goals change.
You should of course set goals for yourself, track your progress, and hold yourself accountable. Be intentional about looking for changing goals.
I started out just wanting to run a half with no pressure on my time at all, but that would be an unfair goal for myself now. Pay attention so you don’t get stuck; you’re going to get better faster than you expected and that’s a good thing.
Get proper gear, but don’t go nuts.
You should always make sure you have the gear you need to be successful, but you don’t need to go crazy right away. You don’t really need a running belt for three miles and you don’t need to stare constantly at your Garmin when you’re not concerned about speed at all.
I love my gear now, but it’s easier, simpler, and less pressure to just run at first. Running isn’t that complicated. Take all the pressure off and let yourself fall in love with it first, and then you’ll have plenty of time to make it more complicated.
Hey, you never start running because you want to be comfortable or do something easy. Have you run? It’s NEITHER comfortable or easy.
So, yes—challenge yourself, push yourself, and brag as much as you like, but always remember that if you want to run for a long time, you have to like it at least a little bit.
Don’t let yourself lose sight of how much fun you have while doing it. I promise- some day, if you run enough times in a row, it really will be fun.