A Half Marathon Never Felt So Good
The number of half marathoners grows by leaps and bounds every year, and with good reason. For beginners, 13.1 miles can be a challenging but attainable goal, while more seasoned runners can play with distance and speed without over-committing. The ChiRunning Half Marathon Training Program offers you the best chance for success, whether you just want to finish, or want to run a new PR.
Muscling your way to any finish line will leave your body feeling like it’s been put through the ringer, not to mention your mind and spirit flattened. ChiRunning® engages your mind, body and spirit through intelligent training. But, first and foremost, ChiRunning trains you to run economically and with more ease than you thought possible.
Getting started. It’s tempting to jump right into training, so take the time to mentally prepare first.
• Create clear goals. This is important and a great way to personalize the event for yourself. The most successful people almost always have a specific goal they are trying to accomplish. You might want to lose weight, get into a regular running routine, use the event to build your distance base, or run for a cause. Running your best-ever half marathon can have a lot of different meanings. Does “best” mean fastest? Does it mean you feel your best ever when you are done? Do you want to have the most fun you’ve ever had? Having a clear mission up front will keep you motivated throughout your training weeks.
• Have a support system. Let your friends and family know about your goals so they can be encouraging. They might even join you!
• Train your best. The end result of your training, no matter how much you train, will only be as good as your running technique allows. For this reason it is always best to begin by working on improving any weak or inefficient areas of your technique.
• Create a timeline. Sign up for a race that will allow for 10-16 weeks of training time, depending on your fitness level. Leave yourself plenty of time to get to that start line in great shape.
• Focus on technique. Good training isn’t just about increasing your mileage. If your technique is good, you’ll avoid injury and run more efficiently. It will make your training runs much easier and more enjoyable. And, the more your technique improves, the shorter your recovery times become. Practice these technique tips:
o Run with good posture. Stand tall, keep your shoulders relaxed, and engage your core.
o Use gravity. Lean forward very slightly from the ankles, and keep yourself balanced in this “forward fall” by engaging your core.
o Don’t heel strike. Land midfoot with your knees bent and with your feet under your hips. This greatly reduces your risk of hip, knee and lower leg injuries.
o Keep your stride short. A quick, short stride minimizes impact and prevents your leg muscles from overworking.
o Relax. Keep your lower legs relaxed. Use them only for support when you land – not to push or pull you forward.
The e-Chi Training Beginner & Intermediate Half Marathon programs includes video lessons and Form Focuses for every run throughout your training period.
• Advanced Training and Speed work: As Arthur Lydiard (one of the great coaches of all time) always suggested, if you’re going for speed, you should do a lot of Long Slow Distance miles. I explain why in the ChiMarathon book, which is as much about the half marathon as the full marathon distance. You’ll find a lot of advanced lessons on speed and technique in Chapter 9.
• Practice race-specific training. Whether you’re a beginner or a more seasoned runner, you should think of your training as a rehearsal for your event. Recreate race-day conditions on your long runs by doing mock-ups of your actual course. For instance, if your race starts with rolling hills and then flattens out, run a similar course on your long runs if you can. Also, practice fueling and hydrating so that you’re well-practiced in what you’ll need on race day. Most runners need water, electrolytes and fuel after about an hour of running, but everyone is different. Your long runs are the perfect opportunity to practice.
Practice all of the phases of your event; from your starting pace to your finishing kick by putting yourself physically, mentally and emotionally into the event when you train. Have fun imagining yourself crossing the finish line. Pretend you’re a Kenyan with beautiful graceful form; strong in the center, relaxed as can be. Imagine what your race could feel like, but don’t do so at the expense of your body. Always keep in touch with the in-the-moment reality of what your body needs and wants.
Race day and beyond.
• Be prepared. Don’t eat, drink, or wear anything new on race day. Do everything as you have practiced during training. If you’ve used a certain type of energy gel or fuel on your long runs, carry them with you during the race. Make sure you get to the start line with time to spare.
• Don’t start out too fast. Take in the positive energy around you, but don’t get caught up in the crowd. Keep a slower, relaxed pace at the beginning of the race. Passing people closer to the end of the event is a huge confidence builder.
• Have fun. Smile and breathe deeply. You’ve put in the work – now you get to reach your ultimate goal. Check in with your technique often, especially if you get fatigued. If you’re continually hitting the “reset” button on your technique, you’ll never fall apart later in the run.
• Celebrate! Be thankful for a body that can run 13.1 miles, and celebrate your accomplishment.
• Reflect and recover. Think about your experience. Did you train enough? How did you feel physically and mentally during the race? Would you do anything differently next time? An end-of-run review will help you create useful goals for the future. Do light, recovery workouts the week after your race to keep yourself moving and motivated for your next race.
The most important thing to remember is to always listen to your body. Eat well, stay relaxed, and rest when you need to. The half marathon has become one of my favorite events as well. It’s never too daunting, yet long enough to be an engaging challenge. Make the most of your training by learning something new about your running, and quite possibly something remarkable about yourself.