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How to Run your Half Marathon

Half Marathon season is upon us. Maybe it’s your first, maybe its your 50th. This article is all about how to run your half marathon – what you can do in your last few days or few weeks preparation.  So read on.

(I know a lot of my readers will be taking part in the Colchester Half, so read my blog on pacing the Colchester Half here).

1)Decide how you’re going to use the race

Your reason for doing the half marathon might be different from someone else’s. The way you race it, has to fit with your plan and your reason for doing it.  For some, it will be the first time they have ever run this distance, ever. Whereas others will have done plenty of half marathons and be able to do one competitively each month.  Others will be doing the half marathon as part of preparation for a marathon, and then they will be making the decision as to whether to treat the race as a training run for that marathon, or to race it flat out as a true test of their fitness. So, step 1 is decide which of these categories you fall into.

2) Pre-race and during race nutrition.

Take a look at my running nutrition guide to help you come up with a nutrition plan for the race. But please make sure you have practised that race nutrition at some point before the race, though.  The 30 Day Challenge in I Run Success Insiders is a great starting point to support you in figuring out your race nutrition.

3) Injury/ niggles

If you have picked up any aches and pains during training, it’s a good idea to get a sports massage before your race to help iron out any tight spots.  For anything that you don’t trust not to bother you during the race, you may want to put some Rock Tape on it, either to reduce pain, or to cue correct movement once your form starts to go when you’re tired.  The video tuturials on their website are a great way to learn how to apply it, or you can book in a taping with me if you’re unsure what to do.

4) Pacing

This is all going to depend on your plan for the race, however, one rule will apply to everybody, and that is to start conservatively.

a) If this is your first half marathon, and particularly if it’s your first time covering the distance, start conservatively, and remain conservative. You can always do another half marathon to improve on your time. Use this first one to get a feel for what it is you’re doing.

b) If you’re using it as a marathon training run, try to use the atmosphere of the race to push you on a little, as it will be difficult to stay slow.  Depending on when your marathon is, I would use the half marathon as an opportunity to test out your marathon pace over a prolonged period, in a crowd.  And I would even do a longer warm up to make it a longer run – so perhaps 2 miles easy before the start, into 3 miles easy at the start and then finish off with the last 10 miles at marathon pace.  

If you’re even closer to the marathon, like 4 weeks before, you may wish to do the entire half marathon at marathon pace.

If you’ve got more time before the marathon, so for example, I’ll be doing the Colchester Half Marathon mid- March and the London marathon isn’t until the end of April, so I’ll be using Colchester Half as a test of my fitness at half marathon pace.  If that’s the case, follow pacing guidance in c.

c) Experienced runner doing the half marathon as a true race.  You’ll want to be warmed up, so you can easily hit your target pace on mile 1 .  Rough pacing guidance as follows.  Miles 1-5 settle into your target pace – it should feel comfortably hard, but should not cause any heavy breathing – you still have 8 miles to go after this.

Miles 6-8 – continue at target pace, and over these few miles assess whether you have more to give.

Miles 9-10 This is a good time to test for a few hundred metres at a time, whether you can push the pace – if your breathing gets too heavy, or your muscles sore, then you can ease back into your earlier pace.

Mile 11 onwards – only a parkrun to go!  Keep pushing – this is where the effort can start to feel a lot harder just to maintain your previous pace, or you might be able to eke out a few extra seconds per mile.  This is also where things can start to hurt, so you may want to use some mind games to take your mind off the pain.

One I use, stolen from Paula Radcliffe, is to count backwards in my head from 300.  Typically, to get to zero will take about a mile, so I will use this toward the end of the race to count down the time without looking at my watch every other stride!
If you have any questions about your half marathon prep, post them in the comments below.  And if you’d like further help and support when getting ready for your half marathon, why not join I Run Success Insiders, the online members’ club for runners here.

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Angela Isherwood

Angela Isherwood is the founder of I Run Success
She is a REPs Level 3 Personal Trainer, a Run England Running coach, and a multiple marathon runner. She is a London Marathon Good for Age runner, a Boston Marathon Qualifier, a parkrun Run Director and Trainer for Goodgym Colchester.

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