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How to Train for Your First Half-Marathon

According to Running USA, last year 1,610,000 people finished the half- marathon. This is a new record for the number of people that got off their couches and started running in the streets. Have you been looking for a way to feel accomplished, and to lose weight? Did that last goal fall by the waist side again? Training for your first half-marathon will bring you a new feeling of self, and a new feeling of community.

My parents, marathon runners, always told me that running is ninety percent mental and ten percent training. So really after just thinking about signing up for the half-marathon, you are already halfway done. Half-marathons in Illinois are happening year round. Schedules of half-marathons in Illinois are found here. So if you find yourself unable to train during the spring, look for a later one in September or October. I would recommend the Chi Town half-marathon in the beginning of April. This half-marathon goes through Lincoln Park and along the lakeshore path, making it a scenic route for 13.1 miles.

Step 1: Design a Game Plan

When first starting to train, be sure to focus on both conditioning and strength. “Depending on the initial fitness level, background, and goals of the client.  Usually I evenly balance the aerobic and strength days when first starting.  The combination of the 2 will produce the greatest results,” says Kent Roome.

Step 2: Find the Right Gear

Now that you have your game plan all set up, you’ll need the right gear before you actually start running. The right tennis shoe is key to your success. Runner’s World has a shoe advisor for you to find the perfect pick. The reason the shoe is so key to your success, is that most of the time people are using older shoes that either give them way too much support or not enough support which can lead to shin splints and ultimately ruin a person’s training schedule. If you are running in cold weather, sweat-proof long clothing is preferred. The one area that runners tend to forget to cover when in cold weather is their ears, so be sure to cover those up with a nice chunky headband. If you are running in warm weather, then again finding sweat-proof clothes is key.

Step 3: Be Sure to Cross Train

What exactly is cross training? Well, cross training, or cross circuit, is refers to an athlete training in sports other than the one that athlete competes in with a goal of improving overall performance. Remember that running is not the only thing you can do in order to get in shape for this half-marathon. Biking, swimming, and sports are all ways in order to train. Kent Roome, a personal trainer at Equinox, said, “You need to utilize periodization in your programming.  Thus meaning you cycle various aspects of the training program in order to achieve peak potential during the event.”

Step 4: Eat Right

All this running and cross training must have you starving for more food, and that’s okay! Burning more calories means your body will be craving more food. However, the key is to eat the right foods. For example, if you have cramping of the muscles at any time, try and incorporate bananas into your daily diet. Another key component to a runners diet is water and carbs. It sounds simple and boring; however you can always mix is up with flavored waters, Gatorade, or even PowerAde. As far as carbs go, the more the merrier, but do not forget about the protein. Meats, eggs, peanut butter, or even supplement pills if you are a vegetarian, is key to success. With these three components of eating you should find yourself losing weight while still being able to run many miles a day.

Step 5: Hydrate

If you are just weeks before your race, you should be chugging water! The most important thing to keep in mind during the day of your race is, am I hydrated enough? Too many a time runners find themselves being pushed to their limits and ignore the signs of their body. The worst scenario would be that after all your training to not be able to finish the race due to lack of hydration. Bring a water bottle on runs, or even on the day of the race. Most races provide water stations during the race; however, these can slow you down or even distract you from your main goal: to finish.

Step 6: Run!

Now that you have trained and seem fit enough to run your first half. All you have left to do is run. Remember that the race is going to be ninety percent mental and ten percent training. If you find yourself dwindling during the race, look for inspiration either through music, other runners, or the crowd cheering you on.

This experience is one that you will never forget, and will change your life forever. Who knows, maybe even after your first half-marathon, you’ll train for your first full marathon!

Photo: From Associated Press

  • written by cdye1 on April 24th, 2012
  • posted in Featured
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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.