Before you write this off based on the title, I want to say that running a half marathon in 6 months starting from zero training is actually possible. How do I know? I did it! Even if you don’t think you could possibly be a runner, or you “hate running”, I promise that it’s possible to learn to love it just as I did. The benefits of running are so good and long lasting, that I would recommend it to anyone who is physically able to, to try it. Check out my top tips below to get your running journey started.
- Train with an experienced runner in the beginning. One of the greatest factors to my running success was the guidance I got from an experienced runner right when I started out. She had ran for most of her life and completed several half marathons, and knew how to teach someone how to run. This part really shocked me, because I didn’t know you had to learn how to run; I thought you just, ran. But she taught me breathing techniques, how to heal a cramp, setting pace, and stretching, among other things. Learning from an experienced runner will take away a lot of the stress of trying to figure it out on your own.
- The first mile is always the hardest. I don’t feel like this really gets much easier the better of a runner you become, unfortunately. But once you get past mile one, it really does become easier as you keep going.
- Learn your pace. One of the mistakes I made when I tried to run on my own in the past was that I assumed you had to be sprinting the whole time. Rather, running is all about finding your comfortable pace, and then pushing beyond that when you’re able to. I think I failed at the beginning of my running journey because I didn’t know to start out slow (maybe an 11:14 mile pace) and accelerate throughout the run.
4. Stretch! You have to stretch before and after a run. Even though it seems time consuming and a waste of time, I promise you’ll regret everything after your run when you’re extremely sore the next day. I’d recommend looking up stretches for runners online to get started. It’s also important to note that you have to stretch your whole body, not just your legs.
5. Focus on getting your whole numbers completed. What I mean by “whole numbers” is completing either a .5 of a mile or the whole mile. Your satisfaction after a run will be monumentally better if you hit that solid 3.5 miles or 3 miles, rather than saying you ran “3.32 miles”, for example. It also makes it a lot easier to keep track of your stats and progress over time. That said, when trying to hit a target number of miles, you don’t always need to be focused on finishing it by a certain amount of time. Running is for you, not anyone else, so don’t worry about the time it takes you to complete the run.
6. Get proper running gear. If you are serious about taking up running, it’s so important to use the right gear. This was another thing I was surprised to learn, that you couldn’t just put on your pair of Air Max’s and hit the streets. In order to prevent injury, prolong your running career, and enjoy your run, solid gear is crucial. First things first, head to a running store to get properly fitted for running shoes, and maybe shoe inserts if you are recommended to have them for your fit. There are also designated running socks, running belt (to hold keys, phone, etc.), sunglasses, water bottle, and headphones. Regarding headphones, I run with both Apple Airpod Pro and AfterShokz Titanium, both of which I would recommend. The benefit of the AfterShokz is that it’s made specifically for runners, so it doesn’t go in your ear, allowing you to hear cars and other noises around you, for safety. For sunglasses, I love the brand Goodr. They’re super affordable, cute, and comfortable. Finally, a watch is important to keep your time, pace, and records of your runs. I love my Apple Watch series 3.
7. Strength training! It wouldn’t seem like it, but running requires a decent amount of strength training. I’m talking weights, resistance, the whole thing. You don’t have to go crazy, but it’s really important for preventing injuries and making sure your muscles are strong, especially for distance runs. Final thoughts: don’t skimp on strength training.
8. It’s all a mental game. Originally, I thought that the physicality of running would be the most difficult part. Turns out, it’s much more mentally tough than anything else. However, you feel so accomplished throughout your run the more distance you cover when you conquer the mental game. Telling yourself you’re not hurting, pushing aside the pain, and continuing on your run breeds a form a mental toughness that you can’t find anywhere else.
9. Switch up your routes. This is a good point so that you don’t get bored and dread the same run over and over again. It also keeps it interesting; find what environment you like to run in best- a park, sidewalks, track, etc. Again, all about the mental game.
10. Figure out the parts of running that work for you. This includes determining what time of day you run best at, or making a running playlist that motivates you. Motivation is huge. I also know a lot of people that enjoy listening to podcasts on their runs because it passes the time and keeps their mind occupied.
11. Get motivated! One of the best things to do to get motivated is to focus on what you’re gaining. It could be fitness goals, or just a goal to accomplish this task that seemed impossible to you not long ago. This also might seem weird, but one tactic I use to get motivation is to go on Tik Tok and watch people’s running videos. Seeing them complete 11-mile runs and getting stronger and proud of their accomplishments makes me want to hit the road and do it too.
12. Join Strava. This is a great app for runners and bikers to keep track of your runs, follow friends and see their progress, and congratulate each other on successes.
13. Work on building up your distance gradually, and use the fall-back technique. This means to keep upping your mileage, but continue to pull back as you increase. So, if you can do up to 8 miles, make sure to include some 2 or 3 mile runs afterwards so you recover and don’t burn out.
14. You don’t have to run an actual race. Maybe this point is controversial to serious runners, but I don’t think you need to register for an actual half marathon to say you’ve done it. I wanted to run a half marathon just for myself, to prove I could do it. I did not sign up for an official race, but did the training and chose to run 13.1 miles on a day that I felt really good and like I could conquer the half.
Important note: Running safety tips…
- Run with a friend
- Run in public areas with good lighting
- Run in areas you know
- Always be alert