If you've been one of the many people getting out and completing their first event over the summer period, now is an excellent time to consider what to do next! Here are some simple tips to help complete a first ½ Marathon, enjoy the experience, and get the t-shirt.
Set Appropriate Goals
Many people, having experienced the thrill of completing a mini triathlon or a fun run, are looking for something new to challenge them and the Half Marathon is often a great accessible goal event.
I think the half marathon is a good goal if it's going to take some work - but it will mean you need to be consistent for 8-12 weeks. If this is your first time, then FINISHING is a great goal. You don't need to add to that.
However HOW you go about it and how much you enjoy the day should also be goals. It's amazing how often you see people getting across the finish line of these types of challenges saying man that was too hard and I won't be back, yet at the same time others finish absolutely ecstatic, having enjoyed the day and learned plenty personally about what they can achieve. Join the latter group. Don't get sucked into setting goals that are totally unachievable.
Just quickly on that last note - be careful about setting a time goal. Realistically until you have run a ½ Marathon is very hard to predict how you will go in terms of time.
Recognize your personal milestones along the way. If it has been 20 years since you've run 10km or if it's the first time you've done that, that's cool in itself. Make sure you pat yourself on the back along the way - you've gone further than before and are fitter and closer to your final goal. Little steps can take you a long way if you let them.
Enjoy the process
I can remember reading Tracey Richardson's log on her way to Ironman New Zealand in 2004 - one week she wrote that she had run 30km, which was the longest run to date and what a buzz that was for her because she never thought that would be possible 6 months earlier.
Think about WHY you got into doing a bit of fitness work in the first place - I'm sure in the mix somewhere a reason was to be able to enjoy life through being fitter and probably looking to achieve something personally. Don't forget that as you move forward towards the goal. You might also be able to make this a bit of a social thing, for others it's a time to escape and clear the mind. Set it up so it's enjoyable for you and seek to find some personal satisfaction along the way.
Understand the Key Requirement
Unlike training for something shorter (10km, fun mini tri or going to the gym) there is a need to ensure one run approaches race distance. Because this is your first attempt you do not NEED to cover 21km before the day - that is what the day is about! You do have to set it up so your last long run is within striking distance of 21km - generally that's in the 17-19km range. If you cover this distance during the first weeks of training the chances are that you will be injured and not end up ready come race day.
Obviously then you need to work back from the event until you come to the level you can presently undertake COMFORTABLY. That really determines the number of weeks that you will need to prepare. But as a general guide if you can run 8km now then you'll need around 12 weeks to be ready.
Your long run progression will look something like this (km): 8-10-12-14-16-18-Race.
All other training is simply going to link one long run to the next and make the day shorter or easier. For a first timer, remember that the progressing long run is what counts and everything else is supplementary. This is not rocket science.
Include Easier Weeks
Easier periods will help keep you stay sane and ensure you don't get over trained. You can't simply ramp and ramp and ramp without taking an easier period - your body and your mind will rebel. Not only will your mind and body rebel, but the fun factor will surely go out the window - once this has gone then you also lose a fair chunk of the personal value of the experience. Make sure they are in the plan and that you exert some self control and back off! This is harder to do than most people will admit. Oh and set up your week so that you can enjoy the moment when you are training. Make sure you have easier days/days off after harder days.
Do some shorter events on the way
Now I'm a big fan of competing in events. It's part of the enjoyment being able to front up to a 10km and know that you've done stacks of running and do actually do it with ease! There is enjoyment in mastering the shorter distance and events are one way of doing that.
Don't skimp on the Equipment
Make sure you have good appropriate shoes - get them from a specialty running shoe store. Once you are happy with them (5-10 runs) buy a second pair of the same model and alternate. They will last longer than two pairs used consecutively and you will have far less risk of injury. Some good quality run socks, running shorts and a running hat will increase the comfort factor.
Limit the Pavement
Get off the road and on to soft surfaces for at least half your running. That means grass or trails or the treadmill. This is particularly a good idea for the longer runs in your plan.
It's so easy to feel that you need to do a bit more in the taper week (last week before the race). This week should be about confidence - if you have run 17-19km then the best thing you can do is REST and be ready for the final push. If you've done the work then the taper is logical. Just watch that you do rest and don't simply add in other activities - just "needing" to weed the garden, or "needing" to do the spring cleaning are not good ways to rest the day before the event!
If this is your first event, don't make the mistake of thinking you need to do a good time. You don't. Often the people who put time pressures on first timers are either armchair critics who will never get it, or they are long time exercise junkies trying to justify to you what they do - neither is about you, it's about them so don't get sucking in playing that game. Treat it like your last long run, you just happen to be doing it with a large group of others!
About the author of this blog post
Since taking up Endurance Training back in 1984, Coach Brendon, head coach of Endurancecoach.com, has been a leader in the development of the art and science of triathlon and endurance sports training, competition and coaching. He has held many top coaching positions including: Olympic Triathlon Coach 2004; New Zealand Elite Team Coach 2005; Consultant Coach to the Chinese Olympic Triathlon Team 2006; Member TriNZ High Performance Commission 2002-2005; Triathlon New Zealand High Performance Coach; Consultant Coach to Polar International. Many athletes trained by Coach Brendon have achieved podium success on the international sporting stage.
His personal sporting achievements include: 1990 New Zealand Commonwealth Games Triathlon Team; 1991 New Zealand Triathlon Champion; 1993 6th Ironman New Zealand and 8:59 at Ironman Canada; 1994 New Zealand Elite Team Member; 1998 2nd New Zealand Sprint Champs. Coach Brendon has a New Zealand Prime Ministers Coaching Scholarship; Level Two Triathlon Australia Coaching Accreditation; Level One Triathlon New Zealand Coaching Accreditation; Bachelor of Science degree and a Post Graduate Diploma in Physiology
Endurancecoach.com believes that every athlete is different and therefore needs a training program geared specifically to their personal ability, taking into account any weaknesses, time available and circumstances. Endurancecoach.com offers a variety of services ranging from one-on-one coaching to training plans for specific events and races. Visit Endurancecoach.com for more information or if you are looking for world leading coaches to assist you, e-mail Endurancecoach.com at email@example.com.