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6 Tips for Preparing for a Half Marathon

On Sunday 18th October, Exeter hosted the Great West Run, a 13.1-mile race taking the scenic route through Devon. Find out how you can prepare for and run a half marathon with some tips from HCX’s Health and Fitness writer Nicole Noordhoek, who took part in the half marathon herself.

So you have decided to run a half marathon. You have signed up and bought a pair of running shoes. That is the easy part done. 

While choosing a snazzy pair of sneakers only took an hour, you are going to need a little more time when it comes to preparing for a half marathon. Follow these 6 tips to prepare for and run a half marathon.

1. Start hitting the pavement 

Whether your fitness regime consists of walking to class (those hills definitely count as a workout!), or of regular 7-mile runs, you will want to start upping the distance. For novice runners, aim to start building up your mileage 3 months prior to the start of the race. For more experienced runners, 1.5 months should be enough time to get you to the finish line. Ideally, you should be able to run 9-11 miles comfortably about 2 weeks prior to the start.

2. Carb-up! 

When increasing your fitness level, make sure you are properly fueling your body – especially for those long runs! LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) workouts, such as running, can be taxing on your muscles. In order for your body to fully recover and repair your muscles, you need to provide it with enough food and water. The week leading up to your race, aim to consume more complex carbohydrates (wholewheat pasta, sweet potatoes, etc.) – you will be thankful when you hit ‘the wall’ at mile 10.

3. Stay motivated 

Working towards any goal will no doubt have it’s ups and downs; the key to achieving your goal is being aware of that. Undoubtedly, your new-PB-runs will counter balance your I-feel-terrible-runs. Knowing that there are days where you will not run your best or the longest is key to staying motivated. Remind yourself of how far you have come (literally!) and that you CAN do this!

It’s race day. You did not sleep well – thank you pre-race jitters – and your stomach is in knots. But you made it to the starting line.

4. Don’t start too fast 

13.1 miles is a looong way to go (trust me – I’ve been there!). It is important to pace yourself in the beginning. It is very easy to get caught up in the race and start too fast. Even if people are overtaking you on every side, run at your own pace; who knows, you may be overtaking them at mile 9! 

5. Hydrate 

Any extended physical activity will have you sweating a river, especially if that activity is running. It goes without saying that you should hydrate prior to the race, but don’t forget to have some water during the race too. Drinking will probably be the last thing on your mind (is it possible for legs to be on fire??), but try to have a couple of sips of water at each water station. And, don’t forget to re-hydrate slowly post-race. 

6. Enjoy yourself! 

You’re doing it! You’re actually running a half marathon! While it may be a mental and physical challenge to get through those 13.1 miles and you may feel like quitting about 50 times, remember to look around you, appreciate all the support from the cheering crowd, and enjoy your run! Soon enough, it will be over…

Have you been convinced to sign up to your own half marathon? The Great West Run takes place every year, and sign-ups are already open for 2016!

Nicole is a final year International Relations student at the University of Exeter. When she isn't debating the world's latest humanitarian crisis, Nicole loves being active and travelling the world. She is an avid runner with multiple half marathons under her belt and enjoys skiing in the mountains of her home country, Switzerland. With over 30 countries ticked off, she hopes to continue discovering and exploring many more places around the world. Her favourite so far: Nepal! Furthermore, Nicole enjoys spending time in the kitchen, cooking and baking healthy meals and snacks. She even has her own Instagram handle (@theepicuriouskitchen) with a few thousand followers! Nicole can't wait to share all her health and fitness tips with you all.
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