As many of you may know, I just completed the Great West Run Half Marathon in Exeter last weekend. I was really happy with my time (1:54:08), as my goal was to complete it, and if possible, run around the 2 hour mark. Since finishing the run I have had a few people ask me how I trained for it, especially as I haven’t been running for that long, so I thought I would share my hints and tips for anyone wanting to run their first half marathon. It was a great sense of achievement and I hope to run another one day (despite the pain afterwards).
Background: I have been playing tennis since I was 6/7 years old and at school I did a bit of everything (tennis, netball, rounders, hockey), but I have never really been a ‘runner’. Yes there is a fair bit of running in tennis, and I was a wing in both netball and hockey, but before March I had not contemplated running over 5k.
My boyfriend Alex does Triathlon quite competitively, and recommended when I was starting out to get the app ‘Strava‘. I cannot thank him enough for this recommendation. It is a great way to document your runs and watch yourself improve – you can also take inspiration from other people you follow and run their routes! It has a facility to plan you route, which is great for me, especially when I was starting out because my sense of direction, and being able to judge distance is not the best..
Looking back at my first run in March … I rather pathetically ran 2.6km at a pace of 5:19/km. I think that proves that I was definitely no runner 6 months ago. I slowly built the runs up to 5km and them I ran my first Parkrun (also one of Alex’s suggestions). I’m sure you have heard of parkrun before, but it is basically an initiative to get people running with free, timed 5km runs starting at 9am every Saturday. The first one started in Bushy Park, and they are now all over the country. I did the one in Exeter before I finished for the summer, and then over the holidays I tried out all the parkruns around me. I live in Surrey, 30mins from London, and therefore I am very lucky to have so many routes around me, with a nice mixture of the Surrey Hills and flat city routes! Alex and I even did a parkrun in Guernsey at the beginning of summer, where I managed to get 10th female (not because of my fast time but because there were so few people running)!
So as well as the parkruns, I started to build up the runs to 7km, and then I decided to enter the British 10k in London, which was a great event and really got me used to the kind of atmosphere to expect in a big race. I would really recommend if you are planning to run a half marathon, to run a 10k 2-3 months beforehand, so you can see how much more training you have to do or if you need to make any adjustments to your routine. It was also good for me to test out what to eat before and after, how much water to take on the run, the equipment I like etc… It was a really, really hot day in July when I ran my 10k, so being able to complete the run in the top 10% of females, was really encouraging for my half marathon effort.
I decided the perfect combination for me running is my ipod shuffle and my running watch. Halfway through the summer I got a Polar M400 that I saw on a great deal, and I absolutely love it because I can see how far/fast I am running without having to take my phone out, unlock it etc all whilst being a sweaty mess! I don’t particularly like running with an armband, and I like to have as little as possible on me, but this I worked out over the months beforehand. The week before the half, I went on a long-ish run to test out if I liked the energy gel I had, and to get a final bit of training in. The week of the half, I didn’t do any running, just tennis, and the usually commuting by bike that I do. This way I wasn’t a complete vegetable, but my legs were as fresh as possible – tapering is apparently what they call it!
The half was great fun and I’ve got a nice medal to remember the event! If you have any questions about starting running, or attempting to do your first half marathon, I’d love to answer them! Happy training, and good luck to anyone with any races coming up, whether its your first parkrun or a full marathon.