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A Beginners' Guide to the Half Marathon

March 11, 2019

A Beginners' Guide to the Half Marathon

In a slightly unnatural progression, we're moving from last month's Triathlon for Noobs to our beginner's series sport for March - the Half Marathon! We tapped into co-founder Steph's super runner-coach brain for tips for conquering the 13.1 distance for the first time.

Whether you've run a few 5Ks or are a treadmill warrior looking for something to motivate your miles, the half marathon is a hugely popular choice, for good reason. It's long enough to demand commitment to training, approachable enough for anyone to lust after, and incredibly rewarding from step one to the finish line. But still, there are some things that can cause a curious runner to false start on signing up. Do you need any special gear? How do you drink while running - are you supposed to eat? What happens if you have to, you know, during the race? What does it feel like to run a distance typically tackled with vehicular aid?

These unknowns can cause unnecessary stress or even prevent people from trying altogether! Our For Noobs series hopes to take down some of the intimidating hurdles of trying a new sport or activity, and encourage people to get comfortable with the uncomfortable parts of being a beginner!

So now that you're warmed up to the idea, here's 10k national champ, sub 2:30 marathoner, pro coach, and Picky co-founder Steph Bruce with her Half Marathon Guide for Beginners - including tips and a downloadable 8-week training plan!

Half Marathon Training Plan for Beginners Steph Bruce water bottle aid station

You're probably thinking - Who runs 13.1 miles for fun?! Well I'm guessing you've been racing 5ks and 10ks and after each, part of you is wondering... What's this whole half marathon/marathon train that everyone seems to be jumping on. While I can't tell you why, I can tell you why not. What have you got to lose? (Hopefully no toenails...) 13.1 miles may seem intimidating at first but once you commit to a few of the tips I have for you and follow the training plan, you'll not only be ready but you'll be excited to line up. So let's get going!


from pro runner and coach, Steph Bruce


1.) Increase your mileage and workout volume just a tad. The most important thing when you're moving up in race distance is to slowly increase your long run days and your workout days. So if you're running 2-3 days a week with your long runs maybe between 6-8 miles, let's shoot for 10 mile long runs. You can keep the other easy days the same, but try upping your workout distance. Let's take 4 x 800m repeats and shoot for 6-8 x 800m repeats. These slight increases will make you feel a little more prepared for the half distance.

2.) Find the right shoes and train in them. The biggest mistake you can make is days before your race, heading to the local running shop and buying a brand new pair of shoes you've never worn. When you start a new training cycle, 8-10 weeks out from your goal race find a pair of shoes that work then give yourself time to break them in. Fresh out of the box shoes won't give you fresh legs - they'll give you fresh blisters.

3.) Prepare for the Half Marathon mentally. It's longer than you've gone before but you know it's something you want to try. Remember to run the mile that you're in, and try not to focus on how much you have left or how much you have run already. Focusing on the current mile helps you handle the discomfort you might experience and allows you to pace yourself evenly throughout the race.

BONUS TIP: Really feeling a funk, got some extra energy to burn, or being torrentially downpoured on? If needed, sub a day of cross-training for a rest day if that's what your body's craving. 30-40 minutes of swimming, biking, ellipticalling, rollerblading - whatever's going to keep your spirits high and mind focused on your goal! Listening to your body is key.



Half Marathon Training Plan

* This training plan was created for runners who have built up to 10-15 miles per week in base mileage. If you're starting from scratch, spend a month or two running 3-4 days a week, slowly building mileage until you can run five miles comfortably. Remember Tip #1!