By: Angela Joy
The half marathon race is a running race made up of 13.1 miles, or one half of the full marathon distance of 26.2.
The half marathon distance is an appealing race. The event is long enough to serve as a challenge while not as intimidating as the full marathon.
In 2014 the half marathon race was recognized as the “fastest growing standard” race distance in the United States with a “12.5 percent annual finisher growth rate” from 2006 to 2012, according to RunningUSA, a not-for-profit organization that conducts annual studies on race registration, involvement and results.
In 2014 a total of 2,046,600 participants completed a half marathon race, an increase from 724,000 in 2006, according to a 2014 RunningUSA report.
What makes the half marathon so attractive? Red Bank resident and runner Donna Rubin feels that the half marathon is “very challenging, but attainable.”
She explains that once runners have completed the 5k or 10k they are ready for the “next step.”
“Half marathons are popular because they appeal to a wide range of runners,” Rubin, who completed the Philadelphia Love Run Half Marathon in March, stated. “The races often have fun themes, offer great ‘swag,’ and market themselves as destination races.”
She went on to explain that the half marathon races “seem like a fun event for friends to do together, while offering a nice reward for the investment in training.”
The state of New Jersey hosts an average of 30 to 40 half marathon races each year, according to the ‘Running in the USA’ race calendar.
The events are held particularly in the spring and fall, with the exception of a few races offered in the winter and summer months.
For those preparing for a summer or fall half marathon race, check out these 10 tips to prepare for your first half marathon this 2017.
- Decide why you are running the half marathon
Be clear with yourself about why you have chosen this race distance. Why it is important to you? Whether the race is symbolic, a challenge you would like to achieve, or is a stepping stone to another goal, decide this early on.
Remembering your purpose will motivation you on days when you want to skip training, sleep in, or better yet – quit.
- Establish your base
Local running coach and race director Bob Both confirms, “The half marathon distance is a popular one.” Both is the race director for the Asbury Park RunAPalooza race in April. He is also the RunCollege training group coach.
“(The half marathon) is a doable distance for any runner who already feels comfortable with running a 5k (3.1 miles) or five-mile race,” Both said.
New runners should not choose a half marathon as their first race. New runners should take time to build up to a race of 13.1 miles through proper training.
“For most who plan to do their first half it is endurance which is most critical,” Both said. “It is important to gradually build up your mileage.”
In an effort to avoid injury, Both suggests building up to a half marathon gradually. “Your body needs time to adapt and doing too much too fast can set you back.”
How much of a base should you build before taking on your first half? Both suggests running about 15 miles per week with a long run of about 5 miles.
Over a span of between 12 to 16 weeks the runner should gradually build up their long run from 5 miles to 10 or 12 miles.
Both offers training plans to his RunCollege training participants preparing for a half marathon. Training plans can be found on his website, https://sites.google.com/site/runcollege/.
- Choose your race
When selecting your race keep in mind the weather you will face when training, the possible weather on race day, the amount of time you have leading up to the race, and any prior commitments you have that may impact your training.
Check out www.runningintheusa.com to view New Jersey half marathons this year.
- Follow a Plan
Similar to the training plan that running coach Both offers through RunCollege, there are a number of half marathon training plans available online. Not all plans available online are credible, however it is important to follow a plan week-to-week in order to build up to running 13.1 miles comfortably and safely.
Other ways to find a reliable training plan include hiring a running coach or purchasing a training plan.
There are a number of experienced running coaches in the state of New Jersey.
Additionally there are a number of training plans available for purchase. Some website that offer paid training plans include the running magazine website, www.RunnersWorld.com, the Olympic runner and running coach Jeff Galloway website, www.jeffgalloway.com, or the online training application featuring coaches from all over the world,www.trainingpeaks.com.
- Get the gear
New runners may not be familiar with running shirts, shorts or proper shoes. These run-specific items are not just for show, they are created to avoid chafing and injury while offering comfort during the run.
Locally running gear can be purchased in any athletic store. Additionally, there are a number of running shoe stores in Monmouth and Ocean counties which will offer a full gait analysis. The employees will assist customers in selecting a proper shoe, socks, and additional gear, as needed.
- Join friends and local running groups
Registering for your goal race with a friend or family member can be very motivating.
However, if this is not possible consider joining a local running group or get in touch with friends who also run.
The Jersey Shore Running Club is one group that welcomes new members to participate in several group runs during the week and on the weekend. Joining a training group like RunCollege is another outlet.
There a number of formal and informal groups in the area. Spread the word that you are preparing for your first half marathon race and ask friends to link you with local groups. Research local groups online. Find out how to join or where to meet, and get started!
Joining a group is very motivational. The group members are indispensible during times where you are “too busy” to complete your long run or you want to “give up.”
- Learn your course and train accordingly
When selecting your race, view the race course. Look for the elevation of the race, the amount of curves or turns, if the race loops and where you can meet up with friends and family.
If you find that your race has a number of hills, complete a number of training runs on a hill surface. You don’t want to be surprised on race day when you find yourself running up a steep hill that you did not train for.
If your race offers it, you may be able to complete a training run on the race course. This will familiarize you with the course and prepare you for any potential hiccups that may occur along the way.
- Fuel the run
When preparing for a half marathon race it is highly likely that participants will be running the longest distance they may ever have completed.
When the body is participating in exercise for long periods of time it is important to properly refuel with carbohydrates in order to avoid feeling ill and tired.
Any bout of exercise longer than 90 minutes should include carbohydrate intake, either in the form of liquid, gel or food.
Registered Sports Dietitian and author Nancy Clark recommends taking in carbohydrates 30 to 60 minutes into a run. When choosing a food or drink, choose a food or drink that has between 25 to 60 grams of carbohydrates and ingest this item in small doses every hour.
It is also important to eat food before running a half marathon and after a half marathon.
Food beforehand offers energy during the run. Food after the run restores lost glycogen in the muscles, creating energy in the body for the next run.
For more information on proper fueling strategies, look to Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., www.nancyclarkrd.com.
- Don’t overdo it
A taper is when the training plan hits a mileage highpoint and then begins to decrease leading up to the race.
The taper period allows the body to fully rest in preparation for the race.
Both suggests running a long run of between 10 to 12 miles about 2 to 3 weeks prior to the race. Every training plan will be different, but not by much.
Once the runner has reached their longest run of the training period the taper period will begin.
The shortest amount of runs and lowest weekly mileage is found during the final week leading up to the race.
“In the final week you need to taper and cut back your mileage so your body, joints, muscles and mind are well rested,” Both stated.
- Have fun
The night before and the morning of the race can be stressful. Participants have worked so hard for this moment and now it has finally arrived. There are a million things that can go wrong; there are also a million things that can go right.
The night before, eat a normal amount of dinner and relax. Stretch, drink water, rest your legs and visualize yourself running in the race. Many sports psychologists recommend visualizing the start of the race, how you will feel during the race, how you will react when you feel tired, and how you will finish the race.
Use these strategies to calm you down and try to get a good night of rest.
Race morning, focus on enjoying yourself. Take in the loud cheers, lining up in your corral, the beautiful sights, and your fellow runners.
The race is meant to be fun, so have a good time! You’ve earned it.