How to Train for a Half Marathon (for Beginners)

Thirteen miles is a long way to push the body, never mind the 26 miles required should you ever try the full undertaking. Half-marathons are accomplishments in themselves. I’m prepared to admit that I am no professional runner. I am just an ordinary guy with a story for how to accomplish your fitness goals, should that goal include running a half-marathon.

There is a friendly competition brewing in my office over finishing a marathon this November. That deadline will probably be mercifully pushed back as we near its arrival, and I’m starting to suggest that it may be in our best interests to start with the half-marathon instead.

See, I’ve never been able to push my body any further than eight miles, and for that reason, I may not be the best source you can listen to on the topic of what it takes to become a half-marathon champion. I have, however, seen vast improvements in my conditioning as this ordeal has progressed.

I am confident in my ability to reach 13 miles before the November deadline because I’ve seen my abilities improve from three-to-eight miles in the last six months alone. The further your body can go, the easier it becomes to go a little further. I owe a lot of my improvements to better breathing techniques, focusing more on leg strength during weight workouts, and the run-walk strategy.

The run-walk strategy is something that I adopted six months ago when I couldn’t seem to get over the 3-mile hump. I run at a park’s walking trail that is 1.55 miles around. One lap was usually tough. Adding a second turned my running experience into an ordeal. Therefore, I decided to stop beating myself up on the condition that if, after successfully running the first mile-and-a-half, I would brisk walk the next. And so I did, and I mean it was a brisk walk – arms pumping at my sides, legs burning into numbness.

I devised a strategy that worked for me. I set my goals, and I did not waiver. Before too long, I found that the pain in my legs had numbed-up enough that I could run a third lap, adding my total up to 4.65 miles in 38 minutes…respectable, I thought, for a non-competitive athlete barreling towards thirty years of age. And over three miles of that distance was good, swift running. Not a sprint, mind you, but a strong stride.

Eventually, I added a fourth lap walking. Inevitably, the numbness would fade, and the burning would return about halfway through my third lap. I made a deal with myself then that I could walk my fourth lap only if I finished running the third. So that’s what I did. My totals were up to 6.2 miles, and my leg strength grew to where I could handle a fifth lap (third running). I have to date completed this fifth lap, plus a little overage to take my total up to eight miles. I have six months to go, and feel right on target for my deadline.

Remember that the key to accomplishing any fitness goal isn’t an outside substance or a no-carb diet. Supplements and eating plans are good, but without the will to keep going when you’re not sure your body can, you won’t even make it off the starting blocks, much less across the finish line.


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