10 Things You Need To Train for a Half Marathon

Over the past couple of years, I have received a number of questions about training for half marathons.

I could still write a post or two on specific tips sharing what I do differently during training periods, but today I wanted to focus on the basics of what you need to equip yourself with. This post has been a long time coming!

things you need to train for a half marathon

• a quality pair (or two) of running shoes fit for YOU

If you aren’t sure exactly what style or kind of running shoe works best for your foot and stride, don’t be afraid to ask! Pop into your local running store and ask them for their suggestions. Some will even give you a complimentary gait analysis right there in the store.

When I know I’ll be running longer distances (6+ miles), I turn to Mizuno sneakers. I was fitted in a running store for the Mizuno Wave Enigma and often rotate them with my Mizuno Wave Rider 18 sneakers.

Mizuno waverider18 stretch

Rotating between two or more shoes can extend the life of your shoes. I’ve heard of some people buying two pairs of the exact same shoe in order to rotate them. Do what works best for you!

Also, be careful about sizing. I wear a size 7 street shoe, so I go up to at least an 8 when I order running shoes for training. The extra space helps prevent rubbing and blistering.

• running shoe insoles

I noticed a huge difference on my first run with shoe inserts. The insoles that come in your running shoes lack durability and are likely to retain wetness (sweat) and odor. Simply replacing your insoles can extend your running shoe shelf life a few months, depending on how much you use them.

running shoe insoles

See the difference?

I use SPENCO POLYSORB Crosstrainer Replacement Soles and love them.

Some people insert their insoles on top of the ones that already come in the shoe. If you get a quality pair fit for training, there’s no need to double up. I replace my running insoles every time I train for a new long distance race, or when I replace my most used pair of training shoes.

• proper attire for your climate

I can’t stress layering enough for those of you running in colder climates. Here are my suggestions on running gear for winter running. If you are afraid you might want to strip layers mid-run, consider running a loop by your house to drop them off and de-layer. I do that all the time.

Starting the race Clarkston Back Roads Half

In the same regard, it’s important to dress in shorts and a tank top if it’s really hot out. For both hot and cold climates, I always prefer wearing moisture wicking (dri-fit) materials. If it’s sunny out, I also wear a hat and would love to invest in a good pair of polarized running sunglasses like these or these.

• water and sports drinks

It’s so important for you to stay hydrated on your training runs. My stomach has always done better by drinking mostly water, but some prefer to mix it up with water and gatorade or other sports drinks high in electrolytes.

If my run is under an hour, I always stick to plain water. If I know it’s going to be over an hour, however, I’ll try to mix in a little bit of Gatorade to my bottle. Anywhere past the one hour mark is said to be when your body needs those extra electrolytes.

There have definitely been times where I take water with me and hide it somewhere I know I can grab it again, just to make sure it’s out there.

taking water on long runs

Here are some interesting articles relating to how much you should be drinking (without overdoing it) on your runs:

» Q&A: How Much Water Should I REALLY Drink on a Long Run via Women’s Health Magazine

» Drink This via Runners World

» Running 101: Hydration During Running via Competitor

Some people hold their bottles and others prefer to wear them with hydration vests and running belts. There are also versions you can strap around your hand like this one.

• a rockin’ set of tunes

Music gives me a lot of motivation to get moving and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that! The first thing I want to do after I put a new workout or running playlist together is take it out for a test run.

When I have a good playlist or set of songs that I can sing along and dance to, running becomes a lot more fun to do. Especially the long ones!

winter 2015 workout and running music

Check out my latest Running Playlist for ideas of what keeps me moving during the cold winter months. You can listen and subscribe to my playlists online for free too!

• a plan you can stick to

If you are planning on running a half (or full) marathon any time soon, you need a plan of how to train for it. I had no idea how to start training for my first half in 2012 and literally googled “half marathon training plan” to find one.

I followed this 10 week training plan from MarathonRookie.com to the tee for my first go around and it worked really well for me. The second time I was training to run a half (two years later), I could already run six miles at a time, so I tweaked a few intermediate level plans I found online and made my own 6 week training plan.

6 week half marathon training plan

Please keep in mind, however, that this is designed for someone who can easily run a 10K or six miles at a time. If you are looking to train for your very first race, there are plenty of beginner training plans out there to guide you along the way. I would recommend starting small with a 5K (3.1 miles) and even go for a 10K to get you in the groove before going for a half distance, but the choice is completely up to you.

Here are a few beginner half training plans that look great:

» Half Marathon Training for Beginners via Runner’s World

» Step-By-Step Half-Marathon Training Schedule via Shape.com

» 4 Month Beginner Half Marathon Training Schedule via FitSugar

• fuel on your run

Anything over six miles is usually the point where I take fuel with me in the form of GU chomps or GU gels.

Gu chomps performance energy chews

There are tons of different brands and forms of fuel available. I have just always preferred chomps and gels. The Peanut Butter flavored Gu gel is delicious and one of the only flavors I really like.

Peanut Butter Gu Energy Gel

Since you can be out there running for hours at a time, it’s extremely important to replace the carbs your body is burning along the way.

I have a sensitive stomach, so I only consume about half of the recommended amount on the package. Unfortunately, the best way to find out how many you can or can’t have at a time is usually by trial and error. When I had the full amount, I had serious stomach issues.

If I knew I was going for a run over ten miles, I would have a chomp before my run, and one to two more during my run.

Here are a few articles with tips for fueling for runs:

» How to Fuel on a Run via Active

» Energy Gels for Runners via Runners Connect (great tips on how often to take them with sensitivities)

» How to Fuel For Your First Marathon via Runners World

• running socks

Quality running socks are a great way to save your feet during training!

new balance running socks

Here is a collection of great running socks tested and recommended by Runners World. I usually buy whatever I can find on sale at running or sporting good stores that have moisture wicking materials and compression.

• foam roller

I was introduced to foam rolling deep into my first time training for a half. Boy, do I wish I found out about it sooner!

foam rollers for runners

I bought the orange one at DICK’s over two years ago. I believe the current version they sell of it is purple, but there are tons of similar foam rollers to choose from. It was the best $30 investment ever!

I also have a Thera-roll 3.5″ firm roller to work out kinks in my feet. You can use it on your neck too! If you still have yet to try foam rolling, I strongly urge you to give it a try to save your muscles during those long training months. I continue to use mine every day!

• commitment

Training for long distance races can feel like a part-time job at times, especially when you get into marathons. It is imperative that you stick to your training plan as much as you can. Of course, life, travels, and unexpected events pop up along the way. It’s okay to skip a run here and there, but save those days for when you absolutely can’t help it.

i regret going for a run said no one ever

Avoid letting yourself skip one just because “you don’t feel like it”. You’ll be so happy you got out there and became one step closer to your goal when you finish!

You can always reference my post-training eats, training triumphs, and struggles by scrolling down to the half marathon training section on the Fitness page.

Other Suggestions

» massage stick roller (great to have at home and use with foam rolling)

» a pair of earbuds that won’t fall out (I use Koss Fit Series!)

» FlipBelt to hold any personal belongings

» activity tracker/fitness watch to track activity, distance and calories burned. See my suggestions!

» running apps on your smartphone (especially if you don’t have a fitness watch with GPS). I use RunKeeper and MapMyRun.

» time to stretch before and after each and every run! <- so important!


Please feel free to reach out with any specific questions in the comments section or via email. Best of luck in your training!

See you in back the morning with Friday Favorites. <3

*Disclaimer: Some affiliate links are included in this post. I really appreciate your support for this blog!

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