Friday, October 16, 2009

Best Tips for Half Marathon Race

My Top 13.1 Tips for Your First Half Marathon

1. Decide your goal. Are you just finishing? Finishing for time?

2. If you are just finishing, read my post on feeling successful at the finish line here: If you have a projected finishing time, plan out your mile splits. I used my Timex heartrate monitor watch to time my splits during the race (but I did NOT bring or use the heartrate monitor.)

3. Follow a training schedule. I used the Hal Higdon Half Marathon training schedule available here: Having a training schedule let me relax and trust that I would be ready on race day.

4. Try a 15K before your half marathon. Running the Boilermaker and the Clove Run 15K races earlier in the year let me experience a slightly shortened version of a half marathon experience. I was able to practice running a race for over an hour and make any adjustments I needed long before the half marathon.

5. Mentally KNOW you can finish the race by making your last long run (10 or 11 miles) into a race-type run. I ran my long run as a loop, so I had a Gatorade stop at the same intervals as the water stops on the race course. I used the same type of sports beverage, Gatorade, as the race paperwork indicated would be used on course. I ate the same food and wore the same outfit I would on race day. At the 11 mile mark, I asked myself if I could go two more miles. The answer was yes, and I knew I could succeed in my half marathon.

6. Learn to run at the same time of day as your race. Evening runners, you're going to have to run your long runs at eight in the morning on Saturday or Sunday. By running at the same time every morning, I have taught my body how to prepare for endurance exercise at that time of day. I am able to either digest liquids or survive on stored energy from a late snack the night before. I am able to go to the bathroom shortly after waking up and be able to run for an hour without a bathroom break.

7. KNOW what your race pace feels like.

8. Rely on your routine. I woke up terrified on my half marathon race day. I had no appetite at all. I soothed myself by following my normal pre-race routine, eating a bowl of oatmeal, showering and putting on my racing clothes. I knew it would work because it had so many times before.

9. Wear clothing that you can lose. I trained in an old cheap pair of mittens and wore them on race day so I could toss them to the side of the race course when it became too warm for gloves.

10. Wear pockets. I wore a LIVESTRONG top with pockets in the back and a pair of 3/4 length running pants with a pocket as well. I carried my car keys, ID, a fruit strip for emergency energy and a bandaid. Luckily, I didn't use either my food or first aid, but I was confident to have both.

11. Follow the rules. Don't get disqualified for an Ipod.

12. If the race is chip timed, use that to your advantage. My half marathon was chip timed, but runners clustered at the starting line anyway. As expected, we took off and were slowed to a jog several times in the first quarter mile by the sheer number of runners in the pack. Let the jackrabbits go first, and cross the starting line when you are comfortable that you will have enough room to run a first good mile. There is no such thaing as starting off too slow in a half marathon, but let your feet set the pace, not the other runners.

13. Enjoy your race. There was this wonderful piece of my race, between mile 9 and mile 11, that I got into a really nice running groove and ran along, enjoying the scenery. Think of a half marathon as your wedding day. You have spent a lot of time and money getting here. Enjoy your special day and make a memory you can cherish.

13.1 Smile for the camera at the finish line. That picture will be your badge of honor!

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