#1) Using the word “just”
13.1 miles is a distance that demands respect. Actually, any distance of any kind demands respect if you want to stay injury free! I often hear the phrase “it’s just a half marathon” being thrown around from both seasoned and new runners. This phrase dismisses how much hard work and training goes into running and racing a half marathon.
Though we’re not discussing half marathon training in and of itself today, this mindset often means a runner isn’t likely to train appropriately for a half marathon from the get go and is already sabotaging their goals. Runners who have conquered the 26.2 distance or completed several half marathons are often the most guilty of doing this.
On the flip side, runners who haven’t completed a half marathon before shouldn’t compare their race distance to that of the marathon or to the race distance others have completed. Focus on the goal in front of you and not what anyone else considers a big deal. This is a big deal for you!
Bottom line: Runners who fail to acknowledge that 13.1 miles is a long way to run or race aren’t likely to set themselves up for success on race day.
#2) Not fueling properly
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people tell me they don’t think they need to take in fuel during a half marathon. While I don’t believe in a cookie cutter approach to training and or fueling, the likelihood that you need to take in carbohydrates during a half marathon to avoid crashing is high.
Normal glycogen stores in the human body are insufficient for fueling a half marathon. This is especially true if, like myself, it takes you more than 90 minutes to complete the race. Therefore, you should plan to ingest carbohydrates at least once during the half marathon and twice if you anticipate finishing in more than 2:00. If you’re taking in one gel/gu/electrolyte drink, I suggest doing this between miles 7-9. If your stomach can’t handle too many carbs at one time, slowly consume your fuel of choice over the course of those three miles.
Bottom line: Develop a hydration and fueling plan that will allow you to run a strong race and that will help you maintain your energy levels for 13.1 miles.
#3) Winging it
No matter what your goal is for your half marathon, don’t arrive at the starting line without a race day strategy. Race day strategies can range from being super strategic to being more general. No matter how simple or complicated your race strategy is, make sure it includes pacing guidelines based on terrain, level of perceived exertion, when to fuel, etc… Having a plan calms race day nerves, can prevent bonking, and can help ensure you have a great race day!
Bottom line: Always have a plan on how you’ll go about running 13.1 miles, whether it be to set a new personal record, just have fun, or complete the distance for the first time.