How to Run a Half Marathon

Many moons ago I decided to run a half marathon. I can’t really remember why – perhaps it was the excitement of the incumbent Olympics, an inspiring episode of MTV’s Made… or maybe I was a little drunk.

Suffice to say I had not thought things through until last month when it hit me that in five weeks I – a small Haribo-like creature – would soon be running 13.1 miles with zilch training. Now were I at Hogwarts I have no doubt the Sorting Hat would relegate me to Hufflepuff with a pitying sigh. But natural talent or ability has never stopped anyone from succeeding so I went for a last minute, go for broke training regime. Here is my beginner’s guide to running a half marathon (by halves):

Get a view

Even for the fittest among us, pounding the treadmill is unappealing because, frankly, it’s about as interesting as watching paint dry (and when I say ‘paint dry’, I mean Everybody Loves Raymond flickering on a tiny screen in the dank cellar of a Fitness First).

Benefits to running in London – we live in a beautiful city: epic architecture, lush parks and well-hatted civilians mean that there is constant eye candy for the easily bored runner. If you want new scenery and have time, don’t plan your route so it loops back to your house – just bring your Oyster for the trip back and run as far as you can from your starting point. You’ll be surprised at how much of London you’ll see when you eschew public transport in favour of the pavement.

Get a playlist

I am not the greatest arbiter of what constitutes good music. I am the proud owner of several S Club Junior’s album tracks and the closest my iPod has come to the Rolling Stones is a Britney cover of Satisfaction. I do, however, know that upbeat tunes provide a great distraction, help you run to a rhythm and are thoroughly good motivators. Opt for songs with lyrics about rocking your body and moving and girls running this world (in my opinion, a shameless marketing ploy on the part of Beyoncé to target the gym-going female market). The one rule for a motivational running soundtrack? No Adele.

Get a cause

‘Tis a wonderful thing to raise money to help the less fortunate. But I have an ulterior motive for recommending you run for a charity. When your friends, family and Facebook acquaintances kindly donate to your cause and leave sweetly supportive messages it will put the fear of God in to the slacker within. With a few hundred in the kitty, ‘pulling a hammy’ the night before the event is just not going to cut it. When running, it is also a great motivation to keep you going – tired and want to give up after a couple of miles? Just think of the children/donkey sanctuary/celebrity rehab clinic!

Get a buddy

Now when I say ‘buddy’, what I really mean to say is unwitting competitor. Comparison is what makes us great – how else would we know we’re all too fat if we didn’t have Mila Kunis to set the bar? If like me you have left training so last minute that procrastination is not a viable option then having a few friends training at the same time, even if you’re not training together, is great for keeping you focused on the task at hand.

Get committed

I know variety is the spice of life and I love a bag of Revels as much as the next girl, but in the month leading up to your run – I would give your other sporting activities a rest. All-round fitness is fantastic but you are not climbing, cycling or zumba-ing your way to the finish line so save your energy for pounding the pavement. There’s plenty of time post-run to spin your way to the perfect derriere.

Don’t worry if you don’t run the full 13.1 miles before the event. If you can, it’s no doubt a fantastic confidence boost but the most I did was a couple of seven miles runs and one 10-miler before the day and I actually found the last three miles the most enjoyable.

On the day: wear sunscreen, don’t push yourself to keep up with friends – find your own pace, have a sugary gel sachet every four miles or so for energy and – in the spirit of try-hards, teachers and annoyingly peppy people everywhere – have fun! It’s a fantastic atmosphere and from your fellow runners to roadside supporters you will be surrounded by people who want you to do well. You can worry about aching muscles tomorrow. I completed my half-marathon in 1 hour 50 minutes and 26 seconds and I enjoyed it so much I’m thinking a marathon could be next on the cards, Barcelona maybe? I don’t have to worry about it now of course, plenty of time to train … I’ll just enjoy the summer. Wait.. this sounds eerily familiar…

Image by froutes courtesy of Flickr

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