Over the past few days I have been asked by a few readers to write an article providing tips based on my experiences in half marathons. So get your pencils out and be ready to take notes because the half marathon is the best race out there and here’s why:
- You don’t need the lengthy recovery time as you would in a full marathon.
- Your long training run is only 10 miles.
- It’s the most bang for your buck. The average half marathon is $55 and you get to run for 13.1 miles of fun.
- There is a medal waiting for you at the finish line.
- And most importantly, many half marathons serve beer at the end.
Yes, it’s my favorite distance. The finish medals are fun but placing in a half marathon is quite another story. I competed in 10 half marathons during 2011, placed twice and came close a few times. Too many runners over train and arrive at the starting line all banged up. Obviously this is not an ideal situation and you must trust yourself enough to know that completing a ten mile training run very slowly is enough to accomplish your goal in this race. Diet is everything leading up to the big day. Eat sensibly the night before just as if you were not racing at all. But load up on carbs and they will be sitting in your stomach the next morning. Carbohydrate intake IS important immediately before and during the race. I like to chew a couple Clif Shot Blocks with some G2 Gatorade thirty minutes before I start then resort to gels at miles 3, 6, 9 and 11. Try to drink diet sports drinks before a race because the regular versions are very thick and can make you nauseous when mixed with gels or Shot Blocks. I found this out the hard way and had to buy new shoes the next day.
When you hear that gun go off to begin the race, start out slightly slower than you think you should. Try to enjoy the first couple miles, listen to music and hopefully take in the scenery, knowing that in an hour you’re going to want to cram some spectator’s cowbell somewhere only a doctor can retrieve it. If this is your first half marathon you need to set your goal very low. FINISH the race. That’s all. Nothing more. This is new territory and a learning experience the first few times.
Hydration is VERY important. I can not stress this enough. Suppose you feel you don’t need any water at the first aid station. Drink it anyway. Once you start to get thirsty or dehydrated, it is most likely too late and you will suffer all the way to the finish, if you make it. Every station should be used to hydrate and walk for a short time. WALK? Yes, I said walk. As a wise man once said, “It’s better to get the water IN you than ON you.” If you must trot a little when you are drinking, fold the cup together at the top in order to create a sippy cup. This will allow a small opening to drink water without splashing it all over you. In an effort to recover lost time, I pick up my pace when I spot a water station. If I can maintain my 10k pace once my target is in view, it’s easier to offset the time I spend walking, drinking and recovering. It also doesn’t hurt to pour a cup of water over your head each time to keep yourself cool. Most races are well stocked and you will not be depriving others of precious H2O.
Mile ten is the toughest stretch for most half marathoner’s . The remaining 5k seems as though it should be a walk in the park but it is usually the longest 3 miles of my life. This is when your mental might can bring you to the finish by playing tricks in your head. Tell yourself that you deserve a walk break if you just make it to mile 11. There is usually an aid station there, but if there is no aid station, keep running and make the same deal when addressing mile 12. At that point I can assure you that you will not want to stop. “It’s only one more mile to the end” you tell yourself and before you know it, you spot that magnificent finish line filled with balloons, reporters and a ticker tape parade just for you. Well, maybe not, but it sure will feel like it. Congratulations.© Copyright 2012 The Hornet, All rights Reserved. Written For: Adventures In Running