6 Things Nobody Tells You About Training for a Half-Marathon

Lara Rosenbaum
by Lara Rosenbaum
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6 Things Nobody Tells You About Training for a Half-Marathon

It may or may not be uncommon to go straight from running 5Ks to pushing for a half-marathon (and skipping the 10K distance) — but it’s what I did in training for my first 13.1-mile race. If you’re considering boosting your mileage (or simply eyeing a fun half- or even full-marathon), here are six things that happen when you start spending more time on the pavement:

1

YOUR MUSCLES WILL BE SORE

It seems like a no-brainer, but this was my first surprise. The first time I pushed my mileage beyond my usual 3-mile fitness run, my legs were sore! I didn’t expect it, because technically I’d been using the same muscles in the same way for months. But there it is — and it makes sense, too, because you’re working harder.

Lactic acid is the usual culprit, as it’s a metabolism byproduct, so if you work out harder or longer, you’re going to produce more lactic acid. Your muscles can also get sore from microscopic tears — which, no cause for alarm — is how muscles grow. When you lift weights, for example, you’re causing tiny tears in the tissues, which, when they re-knit, cause the muscle to strengthen.

2

YOU’LL NEED TO STRENGTH TRAIN

Speaking of soreness: My bum ankle and hips started to ache, especially on the days following my long runs. Your hips especially take a lot of impact. (My knees, surprisingly, have started to hurt less, but I still end up limping around after longer runs.) Back to those joints: I realized I needed to up my strength-training game to be able to better support my joints (and ensure I can keep running).

I’ll be honest, when I retired from competitive skiing, I preferred to simply run outside, hike or do yoga (with some core work woven in). But now I’m back in the gym twice per week, adding hip thrusts, deadlifts and balance lunges to strength days — and I’ve been performing air squats daily. So far, it’s helping.

3

YOU’LL WANT TO MIND YOUR FORM

I signed up for a running form class purely for interest, but what I learned actually helped bump up my pace. Again, this seems like a no-brainer, but it might be something you don’t ordinarily consider: You’ll want to propel yourself forward from the balls of your feet.

After learning the basics (proper posture, easy arm swing and leaning forward from the ankles), we watched videos of ourselves in action. While my form wasn’t bad (I’m not a heel striker and don’t twist my body), I could see I pushed up vertically, rather than forward. So while I look springy when I run, it’s not the most efficient way to do it.

Improving your running form can also help prevent injuries, so it’s a win all the way around.

4

YOU MIGHT WANT TO RUN WITH WATER

I’m not the fastest runner, so when I started edging past six miles, and especially eight, I was outside for a little while. Staying hydrated (especially as it gets warmer) can help you push harder and run farther, and really, make training a lot easier. I purchased a running belt that holds two small bottles, and I’m considering getting a small hydration pack to wear instead. When you’re running a race, there will be aid stations with water, but if you’re out for an hour or two, or if you venture onto the trails, you’ll want to bring something with you.

The same goes for gels. I haven’t gotten there, yet, but I’m close. Thirteen miles isn’t far in the scheme of things but if you walk some, or the mercury rises, you’ll want to make sure you can support your energy.

5

YOU MIGHT WANT TO WALK

I never wanted to stop; my runs were runs. But after writing about the benefits of adding short walks to longer runs, I tried it for myself. I’m almost certain it’s been helping to keep my joint pain in check as I increase my mileage, because it allows my body to rest just enough by working in a slightly different way.


READ MORE > 5 TIPS TO WALK YOUR WAY TO BETTER RUNS


I hope to eventually shorten any walks to 10-second sessions, but for now, I do it when I feel I need to. Sometimes I’ll walk after a few miles when I’m training or sometimes every other song. Sometimes I actually follow a plan and walk for 60 seconds every 3 minutes. I mostly listen to my body instead of my ego, which I’ll admit, sometimes feels disappointing. But hey, I’m working on it.

6

YOU MIGHT NEED NEW SHOES

You know the 6-month or 400-mile rule, but for a variety of reasons (including upping your weekly mileage), your shoes might lose their shape faster than you think. I noticed my low-back started to hurt about the same time my shoes looked ready to retire. Your running app can provide a mileage reminder and let you know when it’s time for a replacement pair, or, as with me, your body might raise a white flag. Either way, be sure to check your soles, and replace your shoes when you can.

About the Author

Lara Rosenbaum
Lara Rosenbaum
Lara is a writer, athlete and wellness expert living in Nashville, Tennessee. She has held editorial positions at several magazines, including Women’s Health, where she was the founding fitness editor. Lara is a former elite athlete, traveling the world as a member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, as well as a certified personal trainer and yoga teacher. In her free time she enjoys playing with her dogs, spotting art and strumming her guitar.

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