My Personal Tips for Half Marathon Training

I recently ran the Staten Island Half Marathon – over a year after I ran the Nike Women’s Half in Washington, DC. I do have to say, I feel that it was my best race yet because I continued running after the first seven miles without feeling tired or stopping (with exception of speed walking through water breaks). Plus, I PR’d by shaving off my time by about 5 minutes. It may not be a lot, but I’ll take it!

According to New York Road Runners, about 10,000 runners participated in the event. The Staten Island Half was actually the last race for the Five Borough Series — if you complete all five borough races (Queens, Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island), you’re guaranteed to enter next year’s NYRR Half Marathon in March. I would’ve done that, but I felt I wasn’t ready for it until I lose the excess weight I gained from last year.

Training for this race has been a lot better and more consistent than I have done for previous races. If you signed up for your first half-marathon (or any other race, like a 5K or full marathon), here is what I did when I was training. In no way am I a professional athlete, but I wanted to share my experience while training for this race.

AGAIN, PLEASE NOTE: I’m not a certified personal trainer, running coach or any type of fitness or medical professional. These tips are based from my own personal experience, my research on the Web, what works for me and how it affects my body. Anybody is different when it comes to running and training. Please don’t take these tips as professional or medical advice.

Run in the morning. I must confess — I’m not a morning person, but ever since I started waking up an hour earlier to run or go to the company gym, I feel more focused and energized throughout the day. Plus, it gets it out of the way so I don’t have to go to the gym after work and eat dinner too late. Another bonus – I avoid the morning traffic heading to work!

Eat something before you start running. For me, I would try to eat clean at least 30-60 minutes before I start a training run. I would eat a little something that includes a protein and carbohydrate, like a handful of almonds and a banana, a hard-boiled egg and an apple, or an energy or protein bar. I try not to run on an empty stomach because I will pass out. I also don’t eat anything too oily or fatty before a race because it would give me a stomach ache. Depending on how your body feels, determine what foods are good for you before a run, so you’ll know what to prepare coming race day.

Don’t run every day. It’s not always good to run every day because it increases your chances of injury and overexertion. I try to do it every other day, at least three to four times a week.

Do long runs on the weekends. Weekends are the perfect time for me to do long runs because you get to build your mileage and endurance. Plus, long runs help test out how long or how far you can run. If you feel tired, do run/walk intervals, as described by Jeff Galloway.

Change up your route. I’ll be honest – I get bored easily if I run the same path or route every time. During the summer, I would drive about an hour to go to any of the New Jersey beaches and run through their boardwalks. Sure, I may waste some gas going there, but a change of scenery in your routine – a beach, a park, etc. – is not only a huge motivator, but also a good way to challenge yourself, especially if you’re experiencing different inclines.

Speaking of challenge, do intervals (speed and hill). I used to hate the treadmill, but when the weather got colder, I have adapted to embrace the machine (even though I still don’t like it) by doing speed and hill intervals. When doing speed intervals, try to sprint to the fastest pace that you’re most comfortable with in less than 30-60 seconds. If you’re doing hill intervals, change up the incline levels for a more challenging workout. The hill intervals did help a lot especially that I came across some hills at the Staten Island Half.

Add strength training to your routine. My favorite strength workouts are circuit training and kettlebell training because they are both total body workouts that don’t require a lot of time (20-30 minutes) and I do either workout at least two times a week (Plus, the kettlebells are a lot cooler than dumbbells). I also take advantage of “21-day challenges” because they keep me motivated and are a good break from running. I am a huge fan of PopSugar Fitness because they offer challenges like these to keep your heart rate up and tone your entire body in a short amount of time.

Sign up for smaller races before the big one. I also kept myself motivated by signing up for local, smaller races because I want to have a goal in mind. I usually schedule a small race at least once a month before the half marathon. Depending on your budget, you can find any races that are inexpensive through racing websites, such as Running in the U.S.A. and Race Forum. It’s also a good way to support your local community!

Plus, here are some photos from the Staten Island Half Marathon. Right now, I’m taking it easy for now before I start full training for the next race — the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon and 8K on April 17, 2016!

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