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Training for My First Half Marathon

If you would have told me at the beginning of college that I would finish a half marathon one day, I never would have believed you. In high school, I never enjoyed running and could barely finish a mile without taking a break. It wasn’t until the end of my freshman year of college that I started to ~kind of~ enjoy running. I began running the Bear Trail, a 2.5 mile loop around Baylor’s campus. I remember setting a goal for myself to run the whole thing without stopping by the end of the school year. With little bit of discipline and determination, I was able to accomplish that! It wasn’t as difficult as I thought, and that’s what sparked my love for running.

Once I realized how much of a mental game running really is, I began to enjoy setting new goals for myself and working towards accomplishing them. My junior year is when I really started long-distance running. Each week I would set a goal for myself to run one more mile than I did the week before. I kept building up, and it was honestly so much fun! I loved the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment.

 Running is also such a stress relief for me. It’s the only form of exercise that allows me to completely zone out, think, and pray. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I love to just go run as far or as fast as I feel like and let my thoughts run too. Endorphins are so real, but just being able to think and “run off” any stress feels so good. I also use it as a time to pray. I thank God for my body and for what it’s capable of, and I talk to Him about whatever is on my mind that day. The ability to do that and the endorphins that result from exercise make me feel amazing and ready to accomplish the day!

 Since I developed such a love for running, I decided to run the Bearathon (aka the toughest half marathon in Texas). I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I’ve learned that I love to have a goal to chase after. I had never run for that long before in my life, so I knew it would require some training. I’m no guru or expert in any way, and I wasn’t aiming to finish in a certain time. So take my advice with a grain of salt haha! But here are 5 ways that I trained for my first half marathon: 

1. One long run a week

I committed to going on one long run a week, usually on Fridays or Saturdays. When I started “training,” I was already able to run 6 miles, so that’s what I started with. Each week, I would try to match or beat my distance from the week prior (I would usually run one more mile than the prior week, but there a couple weeks I would just run the same distance). This was fun to me because I liked having a new goal each week! Like, “last week I ran 8, can I make it to 9 today?!” I’ll have to admit, though, routing long runs like that gets difficult! After about 6 miles, I just start running laps and repeating the course I set for myself (lol!). It can get boring; I’m not going to lie. But when I get in the “zone,” it feels soooo amazing!

I worked up to 10.5 the week before my race. That’s the longest I ran before finishing the half (13.1). And I felt well prepared! Once your body is capable of a certain level of endurance, it really feels like you could just run forever. Running is also SUCH a mental game. You literally just have to tell yourself, “I am running xx miles today, and I’m not going to stop until I cross that finish line.” It’s honestly so amazing what your body is capable of. 

2. One recovery run a week

One day a week (usually Mondays) I went on a “recovery run.” For me, this was a quick 3 miles at an easy, comfortable pace. It was just another way to keep up with my running without wearing myself out too much. These runs always felt so good! And it was great to know that I’d be finished with my run in less than 30 minutes (bc those long runs take up sooo much time — my gosh!).

3. One interval run a week

Interval running is one of my favorite types of workouts. I use my Garmin to create a workout similar to this: 

  • One minute warm-up jog
  • 2 minute run at push pace
  • 1 minute jog
  • 3 minute run at push pace
  • 2 minute jog
  • 2 minutue push pace
  • 1 minute jog

You get the idea. Sometimes it’s time intervals, and  sometimes it’s based on distance (like run a mile as fast as I can, walk for two minutes, repeat). It’s a great way to work on your pace, and it’s always challenging! I also go to Orangetheory once a week, so most of the time that counted for my interval run of the week (if you aren’t familiar with Orangetheory workouts, check it out here!! By far my favorite workout class).

4. Strength training 2x a week

Okay, I tend to slack in this area, but it’s so important. Although I really enjoy lifting weights and feeling strong, I will almost always choose a cardio-based workout over strength. I just love those endorphins, ya know?! Anyways, I knew that with all the running I was doing to prep for the Bearathon, incorporating strength training into my regimine would be crucial for injury prevention. For my “strength training,” I committed to going to strength-focused F45 class twice a week. I love F45 — they are quick, 45 minute workouts focused on functional training. They have both cardio and resistance days, and I would normally attend the cardio days and opt out of the strength ones, but I changed up my routine while training for Bearathon training. I’ve also noticed more muscle definition, which doesn’t occur at the same level when all you do is cardio (lol!). 

5. Lots of stretching!!!

Ahh, stretching… another thing I usually like to skimp out on. But another crucial element to building muscle and preventing injury. I forced myself to stretch (like, actually stretch) after each run and workout. I think stretching is one of those things that you don’t really notice a difference if you do it, but you definitely will notice if you don’t. I never pulled a muscle or hurt myself in anyway during my training, so I’m gonna say that stretching paid off. 🙂

So there are five things I did to train for my first half-marathon! I can actually say that i really did enjoy all of it, and the feeling of accomplishment made it so, so worth it. I already want to do it again! Maybe a full is next?? (yikes idk about that just yet! 13.1 miles didn’t feel like half of anything!). 

Have you ever run a half/full marathon before? What was your experience? Leave comments, thoughts, and questions below!! 🙂

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