Last year, I ran my first half-marathon, which for someone who once came 73rd out of 75 people in a cross-country race at school was quite an achievement. Like a lot of people, I started running during lockdown but I always remained a short-ish distance runner; the most I ran was about 3-5km. However, for some reason or another, my friend managed to convince me to run the Edinburgh half-marathon with her in May 2022.

I trained for a total of 10 weeks for my first half-marathon, with a mix of about 3-4 runs a week and weight-training/low impact exercise. With this training, I managed to go from running 3-5km to the full 21km. I ended up completing my first half-marathon in 2 hours and 1 minute and I'm sooo glad I did it, but there's definitely some things I would do differently if I was to run another one or better yet, a marathon (maybe... we'll see). I still found the half-marathon pretty challenging even after putting in a lot of training but if I'd followed the 12 tips below, I think it would've made it a lot easier!

Follow these tips and I am sure that they help you massively with your own half-marathon race!

Tip #1: Invest in decent footwear

I cannot stress this point enough. Your footwear will either make your race or break it. If only I could go back and tell myself that those £40 nike "running shoes" that I always wore to the gym wouldn't have cut it for my own half-marathon!! Having the wrong footwear can actually cause you some serious harm. Luckily, I managed to avoid injury but the arch of my foot was painful on just about every long-distance run. Don't be like me, invest in some proper good footwear. Yes, they will be quite expensive but trust me when I say it's worth it. Also, do NOT buy your new shoes a week before your half-marathon. Buy them months in advance so you have time to break them in and get your feet used to them.

If anyone lives around the Glasgow area, then Achilles Heel on Great Western Road is meant to be fantastic for buying high-quality running shoes and the shoes will be completely tailored to you and your feet! If you live elsewhere, then try and find a running specialist shop.

Tip #2: Mid-run snacks

I would highly recommend taking a mid-run snack during your half-marathon. I found that during my own half-marathon race, I was coping fine until about 13km but then, my energy levels crashed for the remaining 8km and I really struggled. I could've definitely done with an energy boost to keep me going.

Which snack you prefer usually comes down to personal preference, so I'd definitely try different snacks on the lead up to your half-marathon to see which one works for you. There's loads to choose from including energy gels, jelly babies or flapjacks.

Tip #3: Take it easy right before your half-marathon

So, you've only got ~1-2 days before your half-marathon. Well let me tell you now is not the time to go running a 20+km run. Now is the time to rest up, take it easy and if you are still determined to do a bit of running, then don't overdo it.

If you go on a strenuous run right before the half-marathon, then you won't give your muscles or body enough time to recover for the race. You need to recuperate and let your energy levels recover.

Tip #4: Warm-up and cool-down

It is sooo important to do a warm-up and cool-down before and after every run. This will help stretch out your muscles, joints and get your body prepared for running. If you avoid this, then you're more prone to injury. I'm not saying you need to be doing a 20-minute warm-up and cool-down but 5-10 minutes will usually do the trick and there is some great ones on YouTube specifically aimed at runners.

I didn't do warm-ups or cool downs for the first couple of weeks of training and found that I had to take more recovery days as I kept hurting my ankle/knee. When I eventually started incorporating warm-ups and cool-downs, then my body coped with running much better.

Tip #5: Do weight-training and low impact cardio

To support your running, I'd highly suggest that you start doing weight-training 2-3 times a week and low impact cardio such as swimming, yoga etc. The weight-training will help build your muscles, which will increase your endurance. Whilst, the low impact cardio will help increase your stamina without causing too much stress on the body. I found a huge difference in my running ability when I supplemented my runs with swimming and whole-body weight-training at the gym.

Tip #6: Don't leave your training to the last minute

I would suggest that you start sooner rather than later with training for your own half-marathon. I'd recommend training for a minimum of 12 weeks. This will allow you time to gradually increase your running distance, work on increasing your speed and also, give you some extra time to account for injuries or other things that get in the way of your training.

For my own half-marathon training, I kept putting off my training and when I eventually got started, I only had 10 weeks until race day. I felt like this wasn't enough time because there was days where I needed to rest up my knee/ankle and it really ate into the time I had for training.

Tip #7: Get in a practice half-marathon run before your race day

I would highly recommend about 1-2 weeks before race day, try and get in a practice half-marathon run. I would try to do at least 18km-21km. It will help you get a better understanding of your pace in each kilometer, it'll also better prepare you for what to expect on race day and you can also see if you'll have enough energy to complete the full 21km or whether you will need to use a mid-race snack for a boost of energy. Once you complete your practice run, it will also give you a boost of confidence to know that you'll be able to handle the run on the day!

Tip #8: Recruit a training buddy

If you can, recruit someone as a training buddy, who will also double up as an accountability partner. This could be anyone really, whether it's a family member, friend, work colleague or a stranger. Having a training buddy will help keep you motivated and you can support each other through the ups/downs of training. It can be quite nice when you are running, especially long distance to have some company and also, it helps with safety in numbers especially if you are running early morning or late at night. My friend and I signed up for the half-marathon together and I found it really beneficial having someone to train with. It was also a nice achievement that we'll always share together!

Tip #9: Keep a consistent pace

One of the worst things you can do during the half-marathon is to exhaust yourself by running too fast in the first couple of kilometres. You need to maintain your energy and keep a consistent pace throughout the whole 21km. Something that really helped me to ensure I was keeping a consistent running pace was being able to hold a conversation with my friend. If I could do that, then I knew I had a good pace going. Slow down at first and you can work to improve your pace as your training goes on.

Tip #10: If you get injured, take it easy!

If you have an injury, you need to take it easy and rest up. You'll only make it worse if you keep running. If you feel that you need or want to continue exercising, then you could do low-impact exercise like stretching, swimming or yoga (but get confirmation that this is ok from a health professional first). My friend actually had runners knee and had to alter her training for a couple of weeks so it wasn't as high impact. The rest was so important for her to allow her knee to get better and she did manage to complete the half-marathon in the end.

Tip #11: Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition

Nutrition is so important to supporting your half-marathon training. By having a good balance of nutrients, various food groups, healthy food and suitable hydration, it can enhance and improve your althetic performance. Do research into what is a suitable meal/nutrition plan for you to follow.

I found that I got so hungry after running and to satisfy my hunger, I'd reach for the first thing I could find, mostly sweets and chocolate. I ordered so many takeaways because I convinced myself that since I was doing long-distance runs I could eat whatever I wanted. However, it was a huge hinderence to my progress. Oh, how I wish I'd amended my own nutrition for my half-marathon, it would've really helped!

Tip #12: Prepare for race day

Lastly, make sure you've organised everything in advance including all the admin stuff, your race-day outfit, sorted your transport to/from the half-marathon and know where the start/end point is. Have a decent carb-heavy meal and get a good nights sleep. Best of luck for your own half-marathon!

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Kirsty x