Essential steps to prepare for your first half marathon

BHM Bournemouth mass runners

For many people embarking on a fitness journey, running a half marathon is the natural step after a 10k.

There's a lot of preparation that goes into race training, from finding the right running shoes to getting proper nutrition and enough sleep before the event. The event is sometimes tough, but you're ready for the challenge because you're doing the research. As you get ready to start running, here are key steps for maximising your training and achieving your goal. 

1. Consult Your GP - Before training for a road-race, or any strenuous physical activity, it's a good idea to let your doctor know what you're up to and ask for guidance. Not only will medical professionals let you know of any health limitations you may have, but they will also give support and suggestions for achieving your goals.

2. Set Realistic Goals - When starting out, you shouldn't be concerned with winning the race, even if you're fast, motivated and competitive. Doing too much too soon can lead to injuries. Instead, make it your goal to finish the race. You'll feel accomplished and you'll have room to grow as a runner, making it your goal for the next race to place a little higher than before. Additionally, don't assume you'll have a great race even though you're well-prepared. Planning is key to success. Many things can happen on race day that are out of your control. If you need to adjust your goals mid-race because of a sudden leg cramp or a torrential downpour, that's okay! You're still awesome. 

3. Start Slow - Setting your goals too high right out of the gate can increase your chance of burnout and mental stress. Planning to wake up and run a five-minute mile the first day of your training will not only lead to failure, but it may end your entire desire to run the race when you cannot achieve your very first milestone. The best practice is to pace yourself and stick to a conservative training strategy, gradually moving with rhythm until you find your happy place as a runner. 

4. Learn How to Breathe - Your respiration may be an involuntary bodily function, but when distance running, breathing is an art form. Through effective breathwork, you can learn to slow the frequency of your breaths, calming your mind and managing your heart rate for the entirety of your race. Not only will this prevent painful cramping, but you'll also experience a more mindful and relaxed run.

5. Hydrate - As a runner, dehydration is your worst enemy, but over-hydrating could be equally dangerous. Hyponatremia can lead to dangerous inflammation in the brain that causes headaches, impaired cognition or fatal injury. The best practice is to hydrate before and after the event, trusting your body to tell you when you've had enough. By monitoring your fluid intake and output, you should be well-equipped to finish a half marathon without needing to rehydrate during the race. 

6. Relax and Think Positive Thoughts - Race day nerves are common, but they shouldn't prevent you from completing your goal. Having a positive outlook can help you to remain calm and relaxed throughout your run. During your training, practice mindful visualisations and be kind to yourself, even when you're unhappy with your progress. Uplifting thoughts and an optimistic attitude can boost your adrenaline and give you the push to perform your best. 

For many people, mustering the courage to run an event is a daunting thought. However, when you're focused on training and self-improvement, you can accomplish many running goals you’ve set for yourself. By implementing these steps, you will be ready to cross the finish line with a huge sense of pride and accomplishment.

Article credit: Dawn Castell

Further related advice and tips

Ten week schedule to get round a half marathon

Could I run a half marathon?

Keep on running

Long Slow Distance (LSD)

runbritain Training Wizard