Half Marathon Training: Breaking Down the Physical and Mental

As I’m coming down from the high of a PR from my last half marathon, I’ve been of course thinking about the next one I’m going to run. And as I do that, I’m also breaking down my training, both the physical and the mental, since I’ve been able to PR every single time I’ve raced. Here’s what it takes to get me to the finish.

Marathon runners. Not me.
These guys are much faster than me. That’s ok.

There’s obviously the half marathon training plan I’ve used for my last three half marathons. I like the runs on this plan because they count: two speedwork runs and one long run. But here’s where my training branches off: instead of crosstraining, which Active.com defines as biking or elliptical or something that raises your heart rate, I’ve gone all-in on strength training sessions. I do circuits at Conca Sport & Fitness: a block of three exercises three times, then another block of three exercises three times. It could incorporate anything from bodyweight exercises to the TRX, kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells – all a wide range of exercises, and all great for building functional strength. Three of those a week has helped me build muscle so that I don’t injure myself.

Nutrition has been just as important for me. While my dinners aren’t always the cleanest (I have three other people that need to like what’s in front of them), I try to follow this for the rest of my day:

  • Pre-workout banana (I work out first thing in the morning)
  • Post-workout Isagenix IsaLean shake made with water
  • Lean meat, veggie, sweet potato or brown rice combo for lunch
  • Greek yogurt or almond milk latte snack
  • Dinner (typically veggies and meat and sometimes a starch like a sweet potato or rice)
  • Treat (frozen yogurt or those Dole dippers)
Usually there’s a cheat meal on my rest day, like a giant chicken Caesar salad or mozzarella sticks.
And then there’s the mental. For my last half marathon, I felt like there was NO WAY I could do better than 1:55. No way, right? I mean, I only run three times a week. Lifting certainly can’t help, right? Determination means nothing, right?
Wrong. “Don’t tell me what I can’t do” is my motto. I kept that in my head during my training – and during the half, when the last few miles felt like torture, particularly when I got reacquainted with the Hill from Hell.
If I’m being told I’ll never get faster, well, I shaved four minutes off my PR, with more hills this time around. I was better than I was last time, and that’s what really matters, and at this pace I’ll be able to run a full marathon in under four hours, should I choose to do that.
Right now, I’m enjoying the half marathon a lot. It’s tough and challenging, but it’s not all-consuming. Half marathon training is doable, even with a busy schedule. I just need to want it enough, and I do.