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How to run a half marathon (even when you haven’t trained enough!)

You can do it! So you signed up for a half months ago, with all the best intentions to train and knock it out of the park. Then, life happens. You’re two weeks away from D-day, and you have not run more than 10ish km. Ok, so that was pretty much me, exactly 2 weeks […]

You can do it!

So you signed up for a half months ago, with all the best intentions to train and knock it out of the park. Then, life happens. You’re two weeks away from D-day, and you have not run more than 10ish km. Ok, so that was pretty much me, exactly 2 weeks ago. I was looking at that runners guide in my inbox, shaking my head like “how am I going to do this??? I’m running 10-12 km, but never run any more… how am I going to get to 21??” Well, I found a way – with some research, some planning and very deliberate technique – I finished and I finished strong! In case you find yourself in a similar position (pretty sure I’m not alone), I wanted to pass on some tips to help you along the way.

Pre-Race planning

I say this a little bit cheekily since clearly I wasn’t planning ENOUGH 🙂 but still I managed to do the very least and it helped so much! Here are my tips for the days leading up to the race.

  • Hydrate well – your pee should be clear.  Do this days before and especially the day before the race.  Super important!  
  • Eat well – at least 3 days pre race, eat only things you’re used to eating (don’t want to risk a bad reaction) and load up on whole unrefined carbs to keep your glycogen stores nice and high. I love brown rice and sweet potatoes! Served with broccolli and tofu and some almond butter/ tamari sauce. Simple and tasty and perfect fuel for your body.
  • Get lots of sleep!  7-9 hours a night. Ok, also this is a challenge for me too, I’m hearing you! But I really made an effort prior to D-day. Here’s what helps me: 1) put away any tech at least 60 min before bedtime. 2) don’t sleep with tech next to bed. 3) reduce temperature in room to 18 celcius. 4) go to bed and wake up at same time everyday. I’ve learned most of what I know about sleep from Mathew Walker, Why we sleep – it’s an amazing book, check it out if interested!
  • Get your gear sorted – make sure you have proper running shoes you’re used to running in, clothes that can wick away moisture, thin running socks, anti-chafing cream, 3-4 gels, hat, sunscreen. Check the weather before – it was meant to be quite windy during my run so I layered up appropriately. Some people wore garbage bags — I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but actually it seems like a very good idea in retrospect!
  • Prep all your stuff the night before – your clothes, your gels, hats, etc lay them all out so no stress day of.
  • Make your Play list – I made two, linked them for you   1) Running tracks with songs I like 2) Tracks to play in case of emergency 🙂 YOU CAN DO IT kind of tracks.  Think Survivor (destiny child), Stronger (kanye). Key bit of prep!
  • Every day the week prior (and ideally earlier) — visualise finishing the race strong, feel the feelings as you finish, what you will say and do.  Also take some time to imagine possible hiccups and plan for them.  Then let them go. 
  • Stretch – especially the day before. I love to do yoga, but pick whatever floats your boat. Just keep your limbs limber.

The day of – it’s GO TIME

Enjoy the scenery! Only in Switzerland 🙂 the cows join us on our run !

Ok TODAY IS THE DAY! As Fabulous says, “Go hard today, don’t worry about the past, that was yesterday, I’m a put it on the line cuz it’s MY TIME.” Today is the day to leave NOTHING on the table. Give it everything you’ve got — even if you need to limp across the finish line, YOU WILL MAKE IT! * with some careful technique and strategy. Here are my tips to finish strong 🙂

  • Wake up nice and early – eat something carb heavy and easy to digest ideally 90 min- 2 hours pre race. I took a BonJu Hot Shot (with lemon, ginger and cayenne – nothing like that to wake you up!) and a bowl of porridge 90 min before start, worked perfectly for me. Go the toilette and ideally a number 2 🙂 Yes, I’m going there! You want to be as light as possible on the course. So get up, get moving…!
  • Show up at the start line min 30 min before race start. You have no idea how long that toilet line is going to be. Seriously. I almost missed the race start.
  • Stretch and warm up before start – I did some lunges, arm swings, quadricep pulls, hamstring stretches, and generally jumped up and down trying to look like I was a pro. #epicfail 🙂 I did all this while waiting in line to go pee. #multitasking
  • Fuel up & hydrate – at every rest stop . Take your gel, and wash it down with the water they give you. (Crush the cup a bit to make drinking/ moving easier.) I ended up taking gels every 5 km and it worked great for me. I drank 1-2 cups of water – I forced myself to do this – even if I didn’t feel like I needed it. I substituted with electrolytes after 10k. Great advice from my friend Fatma at Flexi – she’s a great coach. Follow her if you don’t already.
  • Pain – Ok, so let’s be clear, more than likely, IT’S GOING TO HURT. Especially if less than perfectly trained, ah-hem. But pain is a mental game too – here’s how I managed thru it. Every time I took a gel/ water, I imagined the liquid going straight t to the source of the pain, covering and replenishing it.  Then between stops, I consciously breathed into the pain, imagined it dissipating.  This helped a lot. Make yourself the observer of the pain – don’t let it consume you. If you watch/ observe pain (or frankly anything that annoys you, like a persistent thought) you will notice that it comes and goes. It has a start/ finish. Like things that are transient, they are not you.  You are the one that stays there and feels things.  So remember the pain is not who you are, don’t let it become you.  Just watch it – observe it – it will change.  And that is so comforting. I picked up this wisdom from my hero Eckhart Tolle, in his book Stillness Speaks, one of my faves.
  • Pacing.  I picked my time and i stuck to it. I wanted to finish at 2.15 and I pretty much did exactly that.  I made sure I stayed slow at the beginning when every inch of my body wanted to go fast and pass people 🙂 This is KEY and it’s what allowed me to FLY through the last 2km.  
  • Breathing.   Also key.  I was breathing at a pace of 4 in and 5 out.  That might be a bit long for most people but try 3 in and 4 out.  If you’re going faster than 2:2 you’re going too fast.  I tried to breathe in thru the nose and out thru the mouth the entire time. It worked until km 16.  Then it was breathing thru the mouth all the time but at the same pace.  At km 20 I just went for it and ran like a mother%$#r, I have no idea how I breathed.  Because then it doesn’t matter 🙂 (Don’t leave anything on the table!)
  • Music. So I was well prepared with my playlist but I decided to use it ONLY when i needed it.  So ran first 10k without any music. When I started to feel some fatigue I started my list and it was a huge boost for me!  So use it strategically.  The first 10 k there was so much else going on – people, music, cheering, excitement, and just enjoying the beautiful course.  I didn’t use the music until I needed to dig a little deeper. 
  • Change your gait to reduce pressure on your legs.  Someone taught me to lift my knees up with shorter strides to change it up when I got tired and I did this – totally worked.  Gave my legs a break.  It’s better to train like this before so you know what you’re doing.  But in my case it still worked well enough 🙂 
  • Every race has its demons.  You cannot know what they will be – so don’t try.  You have to deal in the moment.  I thought it would be strong wind and hip pain for me.  Well, the wind didn’t bother me, and the hip didn’t either.  However I got a pain in my foot and my left knee/ IT band that had me pretty much on my knees (in my head.)  It hurt so much!  So goes to show… our fears don’t actually help us, they have no real way of knowing what will actually happen. Anticipate and plan for whatever you can (ie windbreaker in case of wind, etc) and let the rest go. Be open to whatever challenge will be your teacher that day.
  • Lift up your fellow runners. Nothing gives me more of a boost then patting the back of a runner that might be struggling and giving them a thumbs up/ you can do it smile!  I’ve had people carry me thru races before like that and it’s such a pleasure to give back some energy when i can.  
  • Mental math last 5 km – it starts to hurt.  Remember IT’S ONLY 5KM! you’ve made it 3/4 of the way! You could freaking walk to the finish and you’d still finish in time.  No sweat. You’re SO CLOSE! Keep going.
  • Be present, enjoy the little gems the race offers you.  People.  Activities. Music. Cheering.  Sun.  Wind. Views. Gorgeous new places.  Fellow runners.  Even rain! All of it is a gift. You’ve prepared, now let go, and be in the moment, enjoy.  
  • STRETCH LIKE A CRAZY PERSON WHEN YOU”RE DONE.  I didn’t do this enough and boy am i paying the price the day after!
The crazy person totally elated she’s still standing at KM 17 🙂

Final thought – don’t forget to ENJOY THE RIDE!

Running a half marathon and making it thru as AS MUCH about the pain as it is the elation.  You are learning, you are growing and stretching – stay focused in the moment, take each challenge as it comes, look at it, accept it, thank it, let it go.  Enjoy the little gifts along the way, have fun with your peers – it’s SO COOL that you’re all in it together isn’t it? You’re all dealing with your struggles and you’re ALL trying to get to the end!  It’s such an incredible feeling of connectedness 🙂 Enjoy it!  it makes me tear up just thinking about it.  So many hopes and dreams and fears and challenges, all happening all at once all around you – what a moment to connect with humanity.  

So go forth, untrained or trained one, make some magic happen out there, and enjoy every moment! Write me and let me know if any of my tips helped.

Ooooh the feeling of finishing!! NOTHING LIKE IT! Go get it!

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