With my second half marathon approaching in six short weeks, I started thinking about two years ago when I decided to run my first half marathon and what motivated me to sign up. After I graduated from high school in 2012, my fitness level consisted of the occasional cardio workout, a Zumba class here or there and maybe a walk or jog outside. My fitness level was average at best.
If this sounds like you, I can assure you with time and dedication, you can accomplish any fitness goal you set your mind to, including a half marathon. Before diving in though, here are eights things to consider.
1. Are you physically active? Do you work out 3-5 times a week or are you just coming off of the couch?
If you can’t walk, jog or run a mile currently without stopping, it’s best to begin running for at least five to six months (sometimes longer) before agreeing to 13.1 miles. It will become easier but, sometimes, you have to run up to 15 or 20 miles a week while training. If you haven’t been this active already, it will certainly be difficult jumping into training. Like any exercise routine, you need to start running shorter distances for a few months in order to build up to 15-20 miles weekly.
2. Are you fit and healthy? Do you eat a balanced diet to ensure you are getting all of the proper nutrients your body needs to function properly? Do you drink enough water each day?
These are questions we ALL should ask ourselves everyday to increase productivity and to really be the best we can be.
3. Do you have the time to dedicate to a 10-20 week training program?
You can easily find dozens of training programs online to find the right one for you but, they usually require four or five days of exercise with two days of rest.
4. Decide on a goal.
Are you trying to run a full marathon one day or maybe a triathlon? Are you going to run for a cause or charity? Or do you just want to get in better shape?
5. How tough are you?
Are you someone who needs five alarms to wake up in the morning? Or are you someone who jumps up at exactly 6:00 AM? Your will power is key to accomplishing a goal like a half marathon. There may be rainy five mile runs alone in the cold or someone tempting you with pizza the night before the race. It’s up to you to make the best decisions that will influence your performance on race day.
6. Are you willing to spend money on the necessary equipment (running shoes, water belt, food, race fees) to get the best results?
Depending on when and which event you sign up for, the cost varies race by race. I paid $62.40 for the Marine Corps Half Marathon this year, around $115 for proper running shoes, and $30 for a training belt. Besides that, I have to pay for the cost of travel to get to Fredericksburg, VA.
7. Do you like other forms of exercise besides running?
With my second time around, I have incorporated cross-training and strength training into my weekly plans. This increases my endurance, speed, and overall fitness. You do not have to follow this plan but, it it encouraged to utilize many forms of exercise, besides mainly running.
8. Do you have a support system?
Although this journey is mainly a mental challenge, it’s always nice to have friends or family you can call when the going gets tough. For my first race, my friend’s mom also signed up so we texted each other almost daily asking how each other’s day had been, if we ran, what we ate, etc. This time, one of my friends is running too and we hope to spend some time running together these final weeks.
So, if you checked “yes” to most of these questions, I’d say you are ready to begin training and should look for a race you’d be interested in. There are hundreds of races happening Spring-Fall with themes, causes, or just for fun.
I finished my first half marathon in 2:27:48 in May 2013 which isn’t that bad for someone who mainly wanted to just finish and got poured on the whole time. My goal for this race is 2:00 meaning, I’ll need to run around 9:00-9:30 minute miles, cutting off almost a half hour of my previous time. Look for future posts on my journey and I hope to hear from those of you who are thinking about running in the future!