Most people feel one of two ways about going for a run– 1) running changed my life or 2) yeah, don’t sign me up for cardio. If you associate yourself with the latter, I encourage you to continue reading.
I haven’t always been a runner. In fact, in high school and college, running was about the last thing you’d ever catch me doing, unless I was running away from someone. After college graduation, I returned to my hometown with 4-years worth of memories and an extra 25 pounds. That’s when I started taking running more seriously, and by seriously I mean a few 10-minute runs on the treadmill and 5k races here and there. But hey, you have to start somewhere.
After a handful of 3-milers, I ran my first 10-mile race (OK, I walked most of it), and then I began on what seemed like a half-marathon binge. Within an 18-month span, I went from never running more than 6 consecutive miles in my life, to finishing 7 half-marathons. I am living proof that if you can run 6 miles, you can run 13. Believe it or not, your mind will give up on you before your legs will.
I run because it clears my head (and it’s a lot cheaper than therapy). Running is constantly challenging me to set new goals and overcome new obstacles. Running makes me feel strong and healthy. But most importantly, running reminds me that I am alive and that I am free.
So here we are. As an avid runner who often under-trains for races and self-diagnoses myself with every running-related injury under the sun, I am here to share a few tips and tricks on training for your first half-marathon (or what worked for me, anyway).
As you read over my 8-week training program, keep in mind that a bad run is better than no run at all. Even if your legs feel like lead and your brain is telling you to quit, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch (and no one ever regretted going for a run).
I like the idea of mixing in a couple days of cross-training each week to strengthen your muscles and give your body a break. I suggest something low-impact such as swimming or cycling on the cross-train days.
Most importantly, stretch (before and after a run)! I underestimated the power of a good stretch which resulted in killer shin splints and an unbearable runner’s knee.
Note: I typically begin my training 8 weeks out, but for a beginner you may want to find a 12-week plan.
As miserable as that training schedule looks (and believe me, on paper, it looks like a lot of work), there is magic in misery. Running never actually gets easier, but you get stronger, and that’s something worth training for.
Just remember, the real purpose of running isn’t to win a race, it’s to test the limits of the human heart. Sometimes you have to lose your breath to find your heartbeat– this applies not only to running, but to life.