Running a half marathon is a common goal and one that requires what all good goals should; it’s specific, it’s measurable, it’s (hopefully) achievable and it’s time-bound. We get some expert tips for prepping for your half marathon – including the must-have shoe.
Sweat beads are rolling down your cheeks and your legs are moving on their own by now, refusing to stop or slow down. You’re so close to taking that one final stride, and the past few hours of persistence and perspiration become a blur. You’ve done it… all those months of training are worth it, you can finally say you’ve ran a half-marathon. Whether you are one of those people for whom running comes naturally and you’re constantly talking about the endorphin high you get, or whether you are one of those people to whom running only happens when caught in the rain and seeking cover – running a marathon (or half) is a satisfying accomplishment to tick off your list. It isn’t, however, easy and it requires the right mental and physical preparation… and the right shoes.
We spoke to Alex Child, member of the Smiths Sports Shoes Tauranga Run Crew who is getting ready to run the Under Armour Mount Run event in January, to get tips for physically and mentally preparing for your run and what sort of shoes are going to help you across the finish line.
Work yourself up to it:
Ensure you are doing the right kind of training; it’s not just about doing long runs all the time. Child says you need to ensure you do speed training to work on your pace times and also cross-training to take the strain off your body.
Don’t start anything massive like a half; you want to increase your runs slowly, especially if you are a beginner. And on your longer runs, you want to keep them at that 10-15 kilometre mark.
Do some sprint training. Child does a process of two sets of 400-metre sprints with a couple of minutes between each one. Then drop it down to four sets of 200-metre sprints with a minute between each and then drop to 100-metre sprints with 30 seconds between. This can help your time decrease on those longer runs.
Sit on the bike or the rower or go for a swim so you are not jarring your joints like when you run. Use movements that aren’t hurting your knees and your ankles; it is about giving them a break but still being active and keeping a routine.
Pick the best shoe:
Child says you want a shoe that is like an extension of the leg, something lightweight that offers a smooth ride. The Under Armour Bandit 3 has a sock upper, which allows it to feel comfortable and offer a smooth ride. Child says it is almost like you are not wearing anything, as they are lightweight, which is important in long runs, and it is also responsive, meaning it responds to the ground and gives energy back, instead of feeling heavy under your foot.
Allow bad runs:
Child reminds us that you do have bad days. “I’ve allowed myself mentally, to have bad training runs; you’ve got to be able to not be so hard on yourself and not be such a perfectionist that you can [accept] those runs and think ‘okay tomorrow is a new day’.” Also, Child says it is imperative to read your body; don’t push yourself to the point where you feel you are going to get injured.
Train with a crew:
Child says running in a crew pushes you: “I put a target on the back of someone in front of me and I want to pass them or catch up to them. It keeps your goal fresh every week [as] you have that person in front of you and you push to keep your pace going and you push to keep going. The motivation from a group is encouraging.”
Hydration and food are so important, and it also helps the mental side of training as well. Before a run, Child says it is important to make sure you are eating energy-fuelled foods, such as good fats (nuts, avocados) and good carbs that will burn well, and lots of water. It is key to stay hydrated and eat well because if you don’t, it can make or break a training run. It is also important to practice how you are going to take fuel throughout the race and have a few practice runs doing this.
Stretch it out:
It is an often-overlooked aspect, but stretching is massively important, and Child says she noticed a significant change in her time once she started stretching properly, especially afterwards. Before your run, Child recommends doing dynamic, moving stretches to make sure you are stretching and preparing the muscles – such as your quads, hip flexors, glutes, calf muscles and hamstrings – for a run. Afterwards, do about 20 minutes of static stretching and hold everything for a long time to get the lactic acid out. Also, learn what areas get tighter than others, whether that’s your hips locking up or tight quads, and pay extra attention to those areas pre and post run.