Race Day: Hydration, Health, and How to Train for a Half Marathon

Keeping yourself safe and healthy while training for a half marathon isn’t as difficult as you might think.

Conditioning

If you’ve never participated in the 13.1, you will need to allow at least 15 weeks to get your body prepped for this type of endurance task. Before you even begin training, however, you need a solid base to start. You should already be running three to four times per week for 30 to 45 minutes each trip. Your longest runs should be at least three miles. Every other week, increase your greatest distance by one and a half miles until you hit the 13 mile mark. This will help you get acquainted with how your body reacts to intense strain.

Hydration

Running is one of the quickest ways to sweat. Because of this, proper hydration is paramount to keeping yourself safe, especially in warm weather. While you’re training, keep a water bottle handy or utilize a canteen specially made for runners; these often strap around the waist or are carried like a backpack. Water is essential to muscle use and recovery and dehydration negatively affects muscle performance, so keep a steady supply of water in your system.

Where to train

Where you train will greatly depend upon the location of the race you enter. If you’re going on a flat, desert run, for instance, seek out a similar terrain. Likewise, if your race is planned on a more rugged, hilly terrain, seek a location with plenty of inclines. There is a huge difference between running on a flat surface and climbing up and down elevations. If you live in the city, you can practice running in the suburbs or at your local park. It should be noted that running on a treadmill, though a wonderful physical activity, is not a substitute for getting out in the real world and training in the elements.

Another important consideration in determining where to train is the safety of the area. As your training runs get longer and longer, and bring you to areas you may be less familiar with,  assess whether the area is pedestrian-friendly using Redfin’s Walk Score. If the Walk Score in a particular spot is low, plan your run accordingly. For example, instead of an out-and-back route that would have you running in unsafe terrain, plan a route where you run loops in a pedestrian-safe area.

Injuries

Blisters are one of the first minor injuries runners experience. These can be largely avoided by wearing shoes that fit well along with moisture-wicking socks. If you do get a painful blister, it can be drained by utilizing a sterile needle and making a small puncture wound toward the edge of the blister. Once drained, apply an antibiotic ointment and nonstick bandage. More serious injuries include strains and sprains, usually of the ankle or knee. These may require the care of doctor and should not be ignored. Stress fractures, runner’s knee, and shin splints are also common. Find out more about common running injuries, prevention, and treatment here.

Gear up

You won’t need any special equipment on race day, however, you’ll need to be dressed appropriately. This includes wearing supportive clothing. Women should wear a well-fitting sports bra to avoid unwanted injuries and soreness of the breasts. Depending on time of year, running sleeves or a lightweight zippered jacket will give you an added layer of protection against the cold weather. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen and a hat to prevent sunburns.

On race day

The night before the race, make sure to get plenty of sleep. Most adults require between seven and eight hours. This will help you stay focused and reduce physical and mental fatigue. Try not to stress and remember that you’re participating in positive community event, so it doesn’t matter how strong you finish. Watch what you eat and don’t put anything into your body that will bog you down. Fruit and yogurt is always a good choice for maintaining a balance of carbs and protein for sustained energy. Arrive early so that you’ll have time to register and take care of any bathroom business before pounding the pavement. Start slow to allow your body time to warm up before stepping up your pace. Bring along your own support network. Even if your friends and family can’t run with you, they will provide encouragement and motivation for the long road ahead.

Last, but certainly not least, have fun! The training that goes into running a half marathon is the hardest part. On race day, it’s time to put your best foot forward (over and over again!) and have a great time.

Author: Jason Lewis (StrongWell.org)

Image provided by Pixabay