Getting ready for your first 13.1
As we enter the month of March, Pittsburgh running enthusiasts are buckling down and starting their prep for the Dicks Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and Half Marathon. For many, including a few of our members at Union Fitness, this will be their first! Here are a few tips for beginners looking to make the most of the next two months of Pittsburgh running:
- Get yourself a plan.
If you want your body to be ready to run 13.1 miles on May 7, you need to start getting acclimated to that kind of mileage now. There are tons of solid half marathon training plans that can be found online. The most important aspect of each of those plans is the weekend long run. If you do nothing else, always get in your long run!
- Your long runs will be slow.
You shouldn’t be pushing yourself to run fast when you’re doing that long run. Stick to a pace that would let you maintain a conversation with a running partner. Even better, get yourself a running partner (or join a group like the Steel City Road Runners Club ) and put your pace to the test! Not every training run can or should be fast, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be extra slow in the race. You’re building your aerobic base and preparing your joints for a few hours of pounding the pavement in May.
- Use one of your shorter runs to get a feel for running at your “race pace.”
Are you looking to finish the half in less than 3 hours? Less than 2? You can use this calculator to figure out your race pace. Once a week on one of your shorter runs, do a mile (or two or three) at that pace. Practicing that speed will help you keep the right pace through your whole race, especially in the first few miles. Runners that go out too hard at the start tend to slow up a lot by the end. “Slow and steady wins the race” after all. Learn your pace and you’ll find it easier to stick with on race day!
- Practice eating and drinking during your runs.
When you’re running for upwards of 90 minutes, your body will reach a state of carbohydrate depletion. To put it simply, you run out of energy and “hit the wall.” To combat that, you need to take in some calories, preferably some sugary calories, during your race. This can be really hard on the digestive system if you’re not used to it, so start practicing during your training runs. Once you’re running 7, 8, and 9 miles at a time, you can start introducing food and drinks. Gatorade is a classic and will be provided during the race. I prefer getting a little bit of solid food in, like these “sport beans” that are really just jelly beans for runners with some added caffeine!
- Honor your rest days.
When you’re nailing your training, it can be tempting to take on a “more is better” mindset. You may want to add in some extra miles, recovery runs, or extra cross-training. Don’t do it! Your body, and especially your joints and ligaments, need those rest days. What you can do is keep up with daily stretching, and even throw in some yoga classes. Stretching and yoga will keep your muscles and joints happy and let you run even harder on your training days. For a yoga primer, check out our Yoga Foundations classes on Monday and Wednesday mornings.
We’ve got less than 10 weeks to go until race day. We’ll see you at the GNC Live Well Pittsburgh Health and Fitness Expo during race weekend. In the meantime, our coaches are here to help you out during training season. Take these tips, train hard, and have a great first race!