Half-marathoners tend to get the short end of the stick. Google “how to run a marathon,” and you’ll get 1.4 million hits. Google “how to run a half-marathon,” and you get [squints] … 751?
The point is, there’s a lot of glory in 26.2 miles, not so much in 13.1. We think that’s wrong and anyone about to attempt his or her first half (including this humble scribe) deserves to have their questions answered. So we reached out to Sandra Gallagher-Mohler, run coach and CEO of iRunTons, to solve our most pressing concerns.
If there’s one theme, it’s this: Don’t do anything on race day you haven’t done already. For more specific advice, keep reading.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
“The temps and other weather conditions play the biggest role here. You want to find the gear that keeps you dry first and foremost, down to the socks. Moisture-wicking and breathable fabrics are key. Under Armour Reactive gear is ideal as it warms up when you need to get going, and cools down as your core temperature rises to help strike the perfect balance throughout.
“FYI: Many large races of the 13.1 or full-marathon distance will collect any gear that is discarded at the start line and give it to worthy donation facilities, but be sure to check your race guide book to be sure before shedding those excess layers without a personal sherpa.”
WHAT SHOULD I EAT BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER MY RACE?
This one is highly personal. How you trained is how you should race, assuming you practiced race day nutrition. It’s important not to go off of someone else’s nutrition plan if you haven’t used the same brands, volume and even flavors. It can wreak havoc on your gastrointestinal system and ruin the race you worked so hard to prepare for in training.
“In general though, look for easy-to-digest carbohydrates as your main fuel source prior to your race. (Unless you are already following a ketogenic diet, in which case the recommendations are a bit different.) Then smaller amounts of lean protein and quality fats for sustainability.
During the race, use what works for you, but remember your main goal is to prevent low glucose levels, not to wait until they’re completely depleted before replenishing.
“Refueling post-race is key to recovery and feeling as good as you can. Look for quick re-feed items such as simple potato chips and a banana at the finish line, and then sweet potatoes, rice and celery once you can get more substantial food.”
SHOULD I USE CAFFEINE GELS?
Caffeine gels should be used with caution. Caffeine as a substance can have performance-enhancing effects, but it’s also important to avoid trying to use stimulants to override your fatigue. Your heart, kidney, brain and liver need to be able to tell you how they’re feeling.
WHAT’S THE BEST HYDRATION TIP?
“Hydration is vital. But again finding the right amount takes practice, and it means using more than just water.”
Editor’s note: Many courses provide electrolyte-rich drinks along with water. As with food and clothing, though, note that you don’t want to use anything you haven’t tried before.
HOW DO I KEEP MY TOENAILS INTACT?
“Haha! Toenails are a thing. Many runners wear shoes that are a half-size to a full-size too small. Get the right size shoe and most toenail issues should resolve themselves.”