Admittedly, I am a novice runner. I’ve been running just a little over a year. So what could I possibly have to say about training for a half marathon? A couple of things.
For starters, my lack of experience is precisely what qualifies me to speak on the topic. When I got started, most of the advice I received was from veteran runners. They knew a lot about running—as a veteran runner. But apparently they had forgotten what it was like to be a beginner. I still remember.
Second, I am not your typically annoying, just-made-a-new-year’s-resolution-and-want-to-enroll-all-my-friends-in-my-new-hobby kind of runner. I have had a year for the novelty to wear off. I’m still annoying, but, hopefully, it’s been tempered by some experience.
So if you’re considering running in a half marathon, here’s what I recommend:
- Make a decision. This is where any journey begins. You have to decide to do something different. No one can make this decision for you. Until you make the decision to lose weight, get in shape, or start exercising, nothing else will happen.
- Sign-up for a race. This will give you a concrete goal. It makes the training relevant. It also puts a stake in the ground and says, “I’m going to do this.” It might be a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon, or a full marathon. The important thing is to sign up. Once that happens, you are committed.
- Go public with it. Once you tell your family, friends, and business associates, it’s difficult to go back. The alternative is go forward and do what you said you were going to do. I did this last year on my blog, and it almost guaranteed that I would be successful. There was no way I was going to go back on my word.
- Tie the decision to your identity. Some people say to themselves, “I’m just not a runner” (or a jogger, or a walker). And because they chose to define themselves this way, their behavior follows. Something shifted in my own psyche when I started defining myself as a runner. I remember writing on my About page that “I enjoy running.” As a result, I actually started enjoying running. One of the great things about being human is that we get to define who we are what we will become. We don’t have to let our own internal files—or other’s—define us.
- Buy some new running shoes. Numerous people have written to say that they have decided to take up running. Almost always, the very next sentence is that they have just bought a new pair of running shoes. I think investing in yourself like this also makes it more difficult to turn back. You have something at stake. And, if you’re like me, you like to try the new shoes out and see if they make a difference.
- Adopt a strategy. I think it is virtually impossible to succeed without a plan. If you just get up in the morning without a plan, chances are, you’ll do nothing. Instead, I try to plan out my running in order to get ready for the next race. The are wonderful resources on the Internet. MarathonRookie.com is a fantastic resource. You might also want to read my previous articles on running, exercise, and goal setting.
- Plan the night before. I learned this tip from Bill Phillips, author of Body for Life. It has been the key to my running success this past year. If you wait until the alarm clock goes off in the morning, you’re hosed. Nine times out of ten, you’ll roll over with a vague commitment to “run tomorrow.” However, if you know exactly how far you are going to run and how far, you have a much better chance of actually doing it.
- Get started. The best way to start running is to … start running. There’s no substitute for putting on your shoes and hitting the trail. I remember when I started running last year, the first few weeks were the most difficult. I was out of shape and sore. Sometimes, I couldn’t wait to be through with my run. But after about six weeks, something happened. I actually started looking forward to running. I especially love how I feel immediately after running. In fact, my energy stays up for most of the day. But it all comes down to getting started.
- Listen to your body. When I first started running, I actually walked most of the time. I only ran a little. Then, as I gained strength, I would run a little more. Eventually, I could run the whole time. (This is a method I learned from Jeff Galloway.) But even now there are days when I have to walk part of the way. I just accept this as part of the journey. I listen to my body and work with it instead of against it.
I contend that almost anyone can walk or run a half marathon with three to four months to prepare. (Amazingly, that’s exactly how much time you have between now and the Big-D Texas Marathon & Half Marathon in Dallas on April 6 and the Country Music Marathon & Half Marathon in Nashville on April 26.) Forgot about setting records. Your first goal is just to finish—and enjoy the experience. With these recommendations, you can do so.