Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to Train for a Half Marathon

This post is about how I've almost made it through my half marathon training successfully and what I have learned from it. It is more about the psychological aspects of running than the physical. For starters, I have no wisdom about the science behind the training. I simply got online and googled "half marathon training" and looked at a few different programs and picked the one I liked best. I got it from and liked it becaues it was the most straight forward. Run 4 days a week. Short runs during the week, long run on Saturday. I can do that. Here is the schedule.

You can see that to start out, you need to be able to run 3 miles. The half marathon I am running is on May 2, which means that my training started the week of Feb. 19. I decided as a new year's resolution that I would run a half marathon. So beginning in January, I ran 3 times a week to work myself up to being able to run 3 miles.

A few issues that I ran into - the biggest being that it is cold in January. Much too cold to run outside, so I had to be begin on a treadmill, knowing that I would be switching to outside. In my experience, running on the treadmill is so much easier than running outside. Probably because the treadmill is flat and outside is not. I combatted this problem by setting my treadmill to the hill workout. I started runing at 5 mph, which is a 12 minute pace - nice and slow.  Once I was able to run 30 minutes at this pace and at a hill level of 1, I slowly started increasing my speed and hill simultaneously, keeping the time at 30 minutes. As it got closer to when my training started I would run 3 miles instead of just 30 minutes, which only added a couple minutes to the run, no big deal. So by the time February 19 rolled around, I was able to do 3 miles, on a decent hill setting on the treadmill. The hill setting on the treadmill was key - it made the transition to running outside pretty painless.

I tell you all this to tell you that I started this training not able to run 3 miles. I was pretty out of shape. So if I can do it - you can too. The biggest key is having the motivation. For me, the motivation was the race. I could barely run 2 miles, no hill at a 12 minute mile pace in january. And I was supposed to be able to run 13.1 in May on a very hilly course. I knew that the only way that was going to happen was if I had a plan and stuck to it. If you want to run, I highly suggest signing up for a race that is too far for you to run. That will be all the motivation you need to get out and run.

Also, you need a plan. My plan is shown above. I trust the plan. Every week when I would go on my long run, starting with the 5 mile run (I didn't do the 4 mile run because I was sick that weekend) I was dead at the end of the run.  I had no idea how I would possiby be able to run a mile further the next week. But I ran every short run during the week, and the next Saturday, I would survive the long run. I didn't run them fast, and it ws definitely tough and sometimes took a lot of will power to finish, but I was able to make it. The plan works. Stick to the plan. I have no idea how I was able to run 12 miles this weekend, but I did it. So I trust the plan.

Truthfully, I didn't always feel like running every day that I was supposed to. But I feared that if I skipped one of my short runs I wouldn't be able to do the long run on Saturday and if I didn't do that, there would be no way I would be ready for the half marathon. So no matter how much I didn't want to do it, I made myself do every run on the schedule. Not all of the runs were great. Especially at the beginning. I would do a 6 mile run on Saturday and think that a 3 mile run on Monday should be no problem. Then my legs would feel like cement the entire run and I would feel worse at the end of the 3 mile run than I did the 6 mile run. I think that's just part of it. I don't have specific time goals for my runs, my goal has always been just to do them. So even if I have a really slow short run, that's ok, I got it in, and that has worked for me so far.

I think one of the hardest things about this has been making the time to run. Every week I have Bible Study on Thursday nights, we have Young Life one night a week, and there were always LCA basketball and baseball games to go to. There is rarely a weeknight where I go home and have nothing to do for the night. However, when I wake up, I have to eat. Running before breakfast is not an option for me. But I need to give myself at least 45 minutes after eating before running. So if I were to run in the morning I would have to wake up ridiculously early to eat, wait 45 minutes, run, shower and be at work by 7:30. So basically, the first thing I do after work is run. I have also adjusted my work schedule so I go in at 7 and get off at 5 on the days I have to run. Sometimes the evenings are crazy, and sometimes there are nights when I can't run. So every week I look at what is going on that week and plan my 3 days that I will run. And no matter what I do. The key is just to make sure you don't run more than two in a row.

On Saturdays I run in the mornings. I wake up, eat a packet of instant oatmeal and yogurt, give myself about an hour and then go running. I have found out 2 things from this: 1 is that oatmeal and yogurt are good to eat before running because they fill you up, but aren't really solid food so you don't feel them sitting in your stomach while you run. (When I was doing shorter runs I would only eat oatmeal, but for my longer runs I added yogurt for addtional energy.) 2. The hour I have between eating and running helps me wake up. I use this time to stretch and just hang out, and have found that my body doesn't feel nearly so tired as if I just tried to run as soon as I woke up.  I drink orange juice with my breakfast and then have a glass of water during the time in between. I try to drink alot the night before so I am well hydrated and don't have to drink a ton of water right before my run and feel it sloshing around in my stomach.

Training for a half marathon has totally been the kick in the butt I needed to make working out a priority. It used to be good for me if I ran 2 miles twice a week in my neighborhood. If I got 3 runs in that was huge. And I was always exhausted after my 2 mile run. Last night, I went for a "quick" 5 mile run after work and felt great the whole time. I don't run super fast, but I love that I can run these distances and it feels good. Don't get me wrong - the long runs are painful and the short runs have been painful too. This is not an easy thing - you have to be willing to keep going even when it doesn't feel good. But now that I have reached thep peak of the training and am tapering off, I feel like I have accomplished so much and am in such great shape. I still don't run fast - in fact I will be thrilled if I finish the half marathon in 2.5 hours. But I love that I can run and it feels good.

I know this was a long post, but I hope it was helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions and I would be happy to answer them. I highly encourage you to give this a shot. It is a lot of running, but like I said - if I can do it, anyone can.


Julie said...

Good post. I HATE HATE HATE to run. I mean, so much. Yesterday I ran around the block twice. I have a REALLY small block. I was KO'd in about 10 minutes. I'd rather bike 30 miles than run 2. But runners are in SUPER good shape, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Thanks for your advice about how you started out. I will start slower and be more consistent.

I'm so proud of your discipline for running so much and so consistently! It's like you're in HS and on the CC team again. :)

Adventures of a CrAzY LaDy! said...

ANNNNIEEEEE! I am so impressed with you! I need to get my butt outside and stop running on that dumb treadmill - that's to come soon! I have a question for you - you said up there that the key was not to run more than 2 days in a row. Why is that? I ran on Wed and then I ran again today, is it bad if I run again tomorrow? Or is that only if I were planning on running a long run on Saturday (which I'm not)? You've inspired me...maybe I can do it? I dunno, running (even the slow pace and short runs) that I've been doing has been a huge kick in the pants for me. I stopped playing soccer in high school because I hate to run - how pathetic!

Anne said...

The not running more than 2 days in a row thing is more for the half marathon training. It helps you avoid injury and gives your legs a rest. One thing I didn't mention is the aches and pains in my legs that have come along as my mileage has increased. If you look at the training schedule you go from running 13 miles a week to 26 in 6 weeks and its easy to injure yourself - so making sure you get enough rest is key. If you aren't upping your mileage like that though you can definitely run 3 days in a row.

Anne said...

Also - it was a huge kick in the pants for me to - that's why I think the most important thing is having some sort of motivation to make you stick with it. Because it does not always feel good.

Kristin said...

Good for you girl! I can't run (shin problems), but DO need to get movin' again after a sedentary winter. I do love to dance, so hopefully that will be in the cards for my near future. Shorts/swim suit season is just around the corner, right? You must have such a wonderful sense of accomplishment for sticking to it this long...

Anonymous said...

hi anne! thanks for sharing all of your wisdom! shannon (henson) is training for a 1/2 marathon too! you girls are totally amazing. right now i'm just trying to do a 5k! seriously. but i've never ran so running for 90 seconds was big for me, and now i'm up to 5 minutes so that's huge too! maybe one day i can be as awesome as you and do a half marathon! kari - if you have an iphone/touch i really like the couch to 5k app, there's a couch to 10k one too! it's nice because it tells you when to run and when to walk so you build up your endurance slowly. it's like having a trainer in your ear. :)