How To Go From Couch To Half Marathon: Everything To Know About The Distance
Running a marathon is an accomplishment that is on the bucket list of many. It also could seem like a far-reaching goal for many others. There are things about the distance, such as actually running 26.2 miles, that seems like a huge feat for many. But then inspiration hits, and for whatever reason that gets us pumped, we decide we want to run a long distance race. And it’s a half marathon that is the perfect distance. But it does take hard work to go from the couch to a half marathon.
After running a few half marathons, we know what it is like to train and compete. There are many things first-timers need to know. From training musts to race day no’s, going from a couch potato to a half marathoner is absolutely a realistic goal for anyone.
Half Marathons: The Distance, The Event, The Training, And The Runner
The half marathon has been increasing in popularity over the past ten years. This is mainly because of the fact that is is a longer race in terms of distance, but not too grueling for runners who properly train. It doesn’t require the amount of training and long runs as a marathon does, making it ideal for those looking to fit in training with their work and family obligations.
A half marathon is half the distance of a full marathon, about 13.1 miles (21k). The men’s world record holder was set by Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea back in 2010 with an impressive 58:23.
Half marathons are frequently held throughout the U.S. and all over the world. Some are stand-alone races, but there are many that occur alongside marathons.
Depending on the race, there are generally aid stations throughout the course with water and sometimes even fuel options. Some races feature portable bathrooms. Almost all welcome spectators to cheer on runners, which serve as a huge morale boost. Most runners are awarded finisher medals and some events even have post-race parties with other treats from beer to complimentary food. All of these specifics vary depending on the race.
There are people who decide to run a half on the spur of the moment; however, these are exceptions. For most people, training is a necessity in order to prevent injury and to properly prepare for race day.
With that said, anyone can run a half marathon. This includes those who’ve never run before, as well as those who have run a few 5ks or 10ks and looking for the next challenge. Half marathons can complete the race with a run, walk method, be “fast” runners or “slow runners.” However, there are many that have a course time limit, typically 3 hours.
Start With A Plan: Find A Training Schedule
No matter what the reason is for running a half marathon, the number one most important advice is to train properly for the race. Setting this goal is great, but just don’t expect to run the event that is happening later in the month. The body needs time to build up mileage, which is best done gradually to avoid injuries related to overuse. This is why following a training plan that is at least 12 weeks long is recommended.
It’s said many times in the running world that if someone can run 3 miles, they can run a half marathon. This is because all half marathon training plans start with the participant running 3 miles and working themselves up to the 13.1.
The only concern is if the person can’t run or have never run 3 miles before. The runner should make sure they can eat least run/walk for 3 miles at the start of week 1 of their training. It’s a good idea to have the race date in mind. Plan in advance in order to leave enough time for training, but don’t register just yet. Many half marathons don’t have a refund policy or deferment in the case that the runner cannot run the race.
With that said, registering is a great way to set the goal and have a no going back mentality. If there is no doubt the runner can do the distance, sign up early. Many races have limits, so make sure to register in time.
The types of plans differ when it comes to the mileage. Most plans include two short to mid-distance runs per week, as well as one long run. Some half marathon training plans have the runner going up to 12 miles and ending with the 13.1 on race day. Others only have the runner going to 10 miles before cutting back before race day.
Popular half marathon training plans can be searched online. These include programs from Hal Higdon that include options for all skill levels from beginners to those who are a novice and intermediate runners. There are even plans for more specific goals like the options from Runner’s World for breaking a 2:00 half marathon.
There are apps to download to provide details training programs. Search for “half marathon trainer” or “couch to half marathon.” Running apps like Nike + Run Club offer half marathon training as well.
Runners also have the option to consult a private running coach to tailor them a half marathon training program to cater to their needs.
Couch To Half Marathon: Training Plans And Tips
Those who have never run before might want to first start with the couch to 5k program. This program starts participants off with three runs per week that include sections of running and sections of walking until being able to run the 3.1 miles nonstop.
More ambitious people can start a couch to half marathon program, just make sure to follow closely as to not increase mileage too fast.
Couch to half marathon programs is great for those who have completed a few 5ks and 10ks. The runner knows they can complete short to mid-distance and just needs the program to tell them the distance to run and way to be able to reach their goals.
These programs consist of three days of running: two short runs and one long one. The runner should cross train on other days. Weight lift, do yoga or other fitness classes that work other muscles and further contribute to overall fitness. There should also be rest days. The body needs time to recover, so make sure to take at least one rest day.
Half Marathon Training Week Example
Monday: 3.5-mile run
Tuesday: Strength training
Wednesday: 3-mile run
Friday: Cross train (Spin class, kickboxing)
Saturday: 5-mile run
The good thing about this distance is that weekday workouts can easily be fitted even into the busiest schedules. Dedicate one of the days of the weekend for the long run.
The biggest tip from experience is to trust in the training and believe in yourself when reaching week 10. Week 10 can be a big week for many depending on the plan they follow. This often consists of the longest run for many, the 10 miles. Other plans include distances like a 7 mile 5 mile, then 12 miles run for the week. This is to train the body (and mind) to run on tired legs. It is often a tough week, especially when getting to that 12 miles. This often means running 11 miles the week before, but many runners seem to hit a rut and have a hard time with this distance. Just keep going and know that the end of training is near. It is the last long run before two taper weeks.
It can be done and the runner is more than capable of going this distance by this point of training. Once this hard one is done, the runner can be confident that running 13.1 is in the bag.
Race Day: What To Expect
All of the hard work pays off when it comes to crossing that finish line. All that’s in the way of completing this major goal is the 13.1 miles on race day. It’s important to get into the proper headspace before the race. Get lots of rest the night before and eat clean the day and night before and in the weeks leading to the race. Set out all gear and have phones, headphones, and running watches charged and ready to go. Make race morning as smooth sailing as possible.
Get to the race early. This is to ensure parking and be able to go to the bathroom. Lines get really long. Most races require packet pick-up the day before, and others have same day pick-up. This means more lines, so set a time schedule in advance to make sure there is enough time to get stretched and ready at the starting line.
On race day there will be nerves and excitement. Know that you got this and just have fun and enjoy the race. There are generally lots of spectators cheering and running alongside many others who trained so hard like the runner is motivating. Many racecourses are scenic, so take in all the sights. Stay positive, smile for the race photos and just relax. The runner earned this moment, so be present and allow yourself to be proud of this major accomplishment.
After the race, there are generally post-race parties with refreshments including bagels, bananas, water and sometimes even beer. Have your family and friends meet you at the finish line, get your medal and celebrate together. Mingle with other runners before heading home to eat and rest up.
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