It’s Sunday afternoon and I've just completed my first half marathon; and I'm officially addicted. In the past, I planned to run a half marathon but had work commitments and a small injury that stopped me in my tracks. This time I was prepared to train, rest and recover as efficiently as possible. I learned a few lessons from my first training effort and was determined not to make the same mistakes. Here are my top tips for smashing your first long-distance run or half marathon.
The first thing you need to do is find an event you would like to enter. Take your running ability into account and give yourself enough time to train for the distance. If you are already completing long distance runs you may only need four-six weeks of training. I chose to prepare for the 21.1 km event over a 7 week period.
Tip: Make sure to check the track map of the event before registering. Some courses require you to complete many laps of the same field or ground. I choose a scenic route without laps so that I could enjoy the beautiful views.
Now that you have set your date, it’s time to make a training schedule and choose a goal pace you would like to complete the race in. If you aren't aware of your running pace, it is a good idea to track some of your training sessions using one of my recommended apps.
Note down your pace, then X it by the distance of your run. This should give you an idea of your total race time. Check out this pace calculator to find out your time!
There are hundreds of free training programs on the internet. Find one that works for you and schedule in your workouts. Keep track of your progress in your iPhone or in a journal.
I recommend keeping your training schedule flexible. Listen to your body and if you need extra rest, take it. In the past, I made the mistake of overtraining which resulted in an injury. Trust me, it is not worth it.
I often mix up the days of my long runs to suit my body’s needs and energy levels. If I had planned a long run for Sunday, but woke up not feeling energised, I looked at my program and swapped some sessions around.
Good training programs will have you completing a variety of different runs each week such as a speed or tempo session to increase your pace and a long run to get the distance in your legs.
Stretch Rest & Recover
One of the valuable lessons I learnt from training in the past is that you have to rest and recover. There is no use pushing your body through a work out it isn't ready for. Pushing your body will often lead to fatigue or injury. Make your recovery time as much as a priority as training!
Before: I like to do 5 minutes of active stretching and gluteus muscle warm ups before I run. My favourites are running on the spot ‘Butt kicks’, 'lunges' and ‘glute bridges’ using a resistance band. (I purchased mine from BIG W). Youtube has some excellent short running warm-up videos to inspire you.
After: After my run, I like to loosen my hips, calves and hamstrings with more active stretching. My favourite stretches are peddling out my calves in ‘downward facing dog’, lengthening my torso in a 'side bend' and loosening my hips in a ‘low lunge’.
If you want to take your running seriously and take care of your body, it’s important to put time aside to foam roll and stretch to prevent injury and muscle soreness. I wait to foam roll and static stretch a few hours after my run or on the next day. I do this to prevent over-stretching when my muscles are loose from a training session.
Premium petrol is key to smashing your PB’s. Do some research online or check out the podcast/ books, listed below, of some of my favourite athletes.
If I'm completing a short run first thing in the morning, I often won't need a snack or breakfast. Any training time over 40 minutes or 6-7km, I always make sure to eat a meal a few hours beforehand or have an easy to digest snack 45 mins to an hour prior.
If I'm having breakfast, I love some paleo or gluten-free toast with toppings such as nut butter, banana or cashew cheese.
Post run, I re-hydrate with a litre of water and a protein shake!
Before: I chose to eat two hours prior. It's a good idea to not try anything new on race day and stick to a tried and tested breakfast.
I made sure to hit all my macros:
2 slices of paleo super seed bread
1 tbs almond butter
1/2 scoop of protein powder mixed with water to make a toast spread
During: I packed 2 date and coconut rolls to have during the race if needed. I ended up only eating 1 roll at the halfway mark to refuel the glycogen in my muscles. I believe that natural foods can provide everything we need and that is why I chose not to consume ‘Energy gels’, ‘Gatorade’ or other un-natural carb/sugar sources.
After: I drank lots of water and had a piece of fresh watermelon at the finish line. For lunch, after my run, I went out for a delicious meal of many soft scrambled eggs with avocado and loads of vegetables.
The reason I love running is that it's incredibly accessible to anyone. You don't need anything apart from a good pair of runners. I can travel anywhere in the world and know I’ll always be able to keep fit. There are accessories apps and supplements that I enjoy using or taking. I have listed them below. None are necessary, but I enjoy my training accessories.
Tracking apps and devices:
Apple, Garmin, Fitbit or other sports watch, iPhone app Map my run or Strava.
My recommended running gear and accessories:
Wireless running headphones
Quality running trainers. Check out your local running store or athletes foot for great advice on what runner to buy for your individual needs.
Sports armband to carry your iPhone or iPod.
Tracking device - watch or iPhone
Anti-blister running socks for race day
Supplements I enjoy to support my training:
Protein powder- I eat mostly a plant-based diet, so I love to boost my protein intake after long runs!
Magnesium- Magnesium is a fabulous supplement to help with muscle relaxation, soreness and cramping. I take magnesium at night as it also helps relax and calm my body ready for sleep.
Iron- I don't eat meat, so an iron supplement is great to keep my energy high for training.
References I love:
Search engine to find an event near you!
Blogs and quality running information/ training plans;
Plant-based nutrition and endurance training: