Essential half marathon training guide from the Tifosi Sports Team
Training for a half marathon is definitely exciting – especially if it is your first “big” event.
If you have a half marathon coming up, it is important to prepare well. This applies whether it is a new personal goal or if you want to beat your previous best time.
Tifosi Sports CEO Nick Zografos recently ran the 2023 Mizuno Half Marathon in Amsterdam and is planning to complete The Athens Marathon on 12 November 2023 – both races in his Cloudmonster Lumos. Given the training he has put in this year for these two running events, Nick has chosen to share some advice with beginners wishing to complete a 21.1km running event.
In short he says, “You have got to give yourself enough time to get fit. You need to strengthen your body and mind. Avoiding injuries and staying healthy is imperative. Most importantly, you must remember to have fun during training and in the event itself.”
When it comes to advice, the first point he makes is that “you need to buy a good road running shoe, ideally two pairs if possible. Picking the right shoe for your body is important. You have got to try On's road running shoes designed for different body types, structures, and running speeds.”
Tifosi Sport’s recommendation is to test and/or select from On’s technical road running shoes. For beginners, the Cloudrunner or Cloudgo would be good options to test. Other options are the Cloudstratus, Cloudmonster or the new Cloudflow 4.
Some runners choose to go with a smaller budget or place less emphasis on clothing items worn whilst running.
However, there are benefits to purchasing good quality running clothes made from light materials, but they can be expensive. This is true for On's range of running gear, which is imported to South Africa and has a high retail price. “I suggest buying good socks, shorts, and a shirt for race day. You want to avoid getting chafed or risking not finishing because of the wrong gear” says Zografos.
The next areas of importance are your training plan and making sure you have enough time to train. People who follow a good half marathon training plan often surprise themselves with their race pace and finish times. They also have less soreness in the days after the event.
The best training plan should be 12-14 weeks long and the key is to gradually increase your running distance. Make sure to increase the length of your strength training every 10 days and add a bit more distance and hills to your running routes each week.
“This is imperative if you are to prevent injury or “overloading” your body with your exercise regime. If you're not sure how to train, you have two options. You can either hire a running coach or find a partner who has more experience in long-distance running.”
Your chosen training plan must include rest days, cross training days (where you mix lower back and core strength exercises with stretching sessions and some time running a short distance on the road), a weekly long run (preferably over the weekend), days where your do an easy run (often referred to as a “recovery run”), speed training encompassing short bursts of speed (“interval run”), hill training and lastly sessions where you run at race pace. “This variety in your training plan will get your body ready for race day.”
Of importance is also your sleep schedule. Your body will need adequate time to rest, recover and to give your muscles time to recuperate.
You may experience some days within your training plan where your body is too exhausted to exercise or to run. This means your body can't handle the current level of exercise and needs more rest. "Listen to your body."
If you still feel the need to go exercise, consider a short walk instead of a run. This is a training method as well because you might have to walk part of the half marathon during the race.
Eating well before and after each training session is crucial for your success in preparing for race day. It is also essential for achieving your best time. Make sure to consume enough calories daily, with low fibre, high lean protein and whole grain carbs.
On training days, supplement your daily diet with good quality sports drinks. "Stick to the sports drink and gels that work for you on race day."
In the last 10 days before the race, reduce your training and rest well. That includes keeping your stress levels at work as low as possible. The goal is to get to the half marathon start line as strong and refreshed as possible.
Finally on race day, try to keep your nerves in check and start at a slow pace.
Take in the atmosphere and the vibe of the race. Gradually settle into your race pace.
If there is a pacing group running at your planned pace, stick with them for the first 5 - 10km. Track your speed and heart rate with your smart watch to avoid getting tired too quickly in the race.
From the 18km mark onwards you can assess how you are feeling and whether you need to adjust your speed. The goal is to cross the finish line as fast and as strong as you are able to.
“The better you finish your half marathon race the more you will be ready to sign up for your next event” concludes Zografos.