Longer evenings, longer runs and time to think about a half-marathon
If you can run 8km to 10km comfortably, now is a good time to aim for a half-marathon medal
Try running sections of the route if you can before race day. Watch videos of the race. Get so familiar with your event that you almost feel you have run it before.Photograph: EPA/Martin Schutt
Have you ever considered running a half-marathon? What has held you back? Maybe it is the time commitment, a fear of failure, the prospect of injury, or a lack of motivation or confidence in your running ability. If you are serious about moving towards long distance, could this summer be your chance to make it happen?
Realistically, you should consider doing a half-marathon only if you have been running 8km to 10km comfortably for at least six months, are injury free and willing to prioritise running for the next 12 weeks.
It’s important to state that long distance is not for everyone. Don’t decide to run a half-marathon just because someone else you know is attempting it. You have to really want to do it for yourself. Think about why you want to run a half-marathon. Picture yourself crossing the finish line and receiving your medal. How do you feel? Is this something you really want to experience? Are you getting emotional? If so, you might just have the right attitude and motivation for what lies ahead.
What’s involved Training for a half-marathon involves more than just running. My half-marathon training plan (http://iti.ms/1EWgJVJ) consists of four runs a week; three short midweek runs and one long weekend run.
In addition to these runs, taking the time to work on posture, strength, flexibility and, most importantly, running technique will hugely contribute to your running becoming more enjoyable, pain free and comfortable. Eating well and getting enough sleep also play a huge part in recovery.
You will need to work on your mental training as well as your legs. The more time we spend on our feet, the more time we have to think negative thoughts. Long-distance running is all about tricking your body into always focusing on the positive and staying present with your run. Letting doubts creep in can impact your posture, confidence, motivation and commitment to the training.
Is now the right time? Take a few moments to think about your summer plans, children, holidays, weddings, exams and other time commitments. Can you make time for yourself most weekends over the summer?
Get focused The most important thing to consider is the reason you want to take on a half-marathon. Your reason should be strong enough to keep you motivated for the summer of training. Please do not set a time goal. The aim of your first half-marathon should be to complete it and enjoy it. If you can manage that, set a time goal for your next race when you know what is realistic for your body.
Make a plan and get organised There are hundreds of training plans online, and they vary significantly. Pick one you trust and stick with it. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do everything. I have created a simple 12-week half-marathon plan which you can adapt to suit your lifestyle and summer commitments. The plan is crucial. Take each week as it comes and focus on what you need to do now. Don’t panic about what might happen in a month’s time.
Make it easier Be sensible and practical without letting running take over your life. Avoid becoming a running bore. Most other people are not as interested as you might think in how far you are running this weekend. Getting support from a fellow runner or a group can be hugely beneficial, especially if your family are not as enthusiastic as you are about your upcoming challenge.
Time flies when you share a run with someone else. If you don’t have a real-life running buddy, there are lots of online support groups to share your progress. If you prefer to run on your own, keep track of your progress. I’m a huge fan of training diaries, which can be incredibly motivating when you are having a tough day or when nerves are kicking in closer to the race day.
Know your race Print out the route map, analyse the hills, the water stations and the general logistics for your race. Think about the weather, the parking, what you will wear, your running breakfast and all other logistical tasks.
Try running sections of the route if you can before race day. Watch videos of the race. Get so familiar with your event that you almost feel you have run it before. Avoiding uncertainty is one of the best ways to reduce pre-race anxiety and help to keep calm.
Start now Put in the effort from the start and when race day arrives you can enjoy the half-marathon knowing you have prepared as well as you possibly can. The next 12 weeks will fly by: you could be looking at a nice shiny half-marathon race medal in 12 weeks. Wouldn’t that be some achievement for this summer? For a list of upcoming half marathon races, see forgetthegym.ie/calendar/ races-and-events/
Mary Jennings is the founder of and a running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie, training beginners, marathoners and everyone in between to enjoy running and stay injury free. She also developed the Get Running programmes at irishtimes.com/getrunning