The Biggest Half-Marathon Training Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

You did it! You registered for a half marathon and now it’s time to train for the big race.

According to Running USA, the half marathon has been the fastest growing standard distance in the United States, with a 12.5 percent annual finisher growth rate. Translation? You can totally do this.

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However, before you cross the finish line, there are some common mistakes coaches and trainers see every day committed by first-timers and even half-marathon vets. Finish strong and avoid injuries by avoiding these training no-nos.

Not Following A Plan

Whether you’re a seasoned long distance runner or a newbie, you need to have a game plan. There are plenty of free training plans you can follow throughout the weeks up until race day, so you’ll have to do some research to see which is right for you.

Allow yourself enough time to follow through with a training plan completely, to avoid injury and to condition your body to carry you through those 13.1 miles. Following a training plan to a tee will give you insight on what you need to do personally cross the finish line. This also includes which foods to fuel you through training and your race, the right pace for your fitness level, and how far you should push yourself physically to get a new personal record. If you haphazardly schedule in a few runs between now and your race day, without any regard to a plan, that’s a recipe for disaster… and injury. Before race day, your plan should ensure that you’ve run the whole length of the race, and even a mile or two longer, more than once.

Not Doing Any Cross-Training

There are two kinds of people who call themselves “runners”: those only run, and those who incorporate cross-training and strength-training exercises into their fitness regimes. The latter tend to be the most successful and well-balanced athletes. A powerful runner will be faster and less likely to suffer injuries than one who only runs and does no other form of exercise.

Failure to condition properly throughout your training and up until race day will set you up for injuries, such as shin splints or plantar fasciitis, as well as a poor race time — if you’re able to finish at all. Incorporate other workouts, including strength-training days, to build up muscle, so you’ll have a better, more effective race. Strength-training, especially your core and lower body, will help you be more injury-resistant and improve your strength for the long runs. Other excellent cross-training activities for runners include swimming, cycling, spinning and yoga.

Making Your Half-Marathon Your First Race

It’s always a good idea to complete a shorter race, like a 5K or a 10K, before moving up to a half-marathon. Running 13.1 miles is a big enough challenge as it is, without adding on first-time nerves. Being prepared for the small things, like how to use the public toilets, where to get water cups, and dealing with race crowds for the very first time, can make all the difference. Get familiar with how organized races work so you can run your half-marathon with confidence.

Skipping Rest Days

You may think that running every day is the best way to train for a half-marathon, but you’d be dead wrong. Giving your body a break from the stress of running can reduce your risk of over-use injuries, such as shin splints and stress fractures. Not to mention it’s a good idea to take a mental break from running, so as to not lose motivation. Rest days should be used for an easy cross-training activity, such as swimming or yoga, or simply to take a complete day off. Trust us, your mind and body will thank you.

Wearing New Running Gear On Race Day

You’re pumped. It’s the day before the big race, and you’re fully equipped with some shiny new running gear: New sneakers, new running shorts. You’re ready to go. Right? Wrong! Step away from those new kicks and wait until after race day to break them in. The goal on race day is not only to finish the race, but to finish comfortably. Breaking in a new pair of shoes when you need to run and stay focused will most likely lead to more difficulty and discomfort.

Do many trial runs with your running shoes and the rest of your race outfit. The last things you want is to deal with are blisters and chaffing or a top doesn’t breathe enough. You need to focus all of your attention on your pace, breathing and crossing the finish line, not cursing yourself for wearing shorts that ride up with every stride.

Failing To Hydrate Properly

If you’re dehydrated, your performance will be compromised. According to the Boston Athletic Association, while you train and on race day, you want to drink at 15 to 30-minute intervals to help minimize loss of moisture. You can evaluate how much water you personally need by weighing yourself before and after a run to determine your sweat rate. If it’s a particularly hot day and you know you’ll be sweating, drink 10 to 20 ounces of fluid an hour before the race to ensure proper hydration.