How to train for a 1/2 marathon in 2 Weeks: Sharing my full experience of pre-race training, race day tips, and post race recovery*
*DISCLAIMER* Although we trained for the 1/2 marathon in just 2 weeks, my friend and I were already under an intensive fitness regimen as D1 tennis players. We would not recommend attempting this to people in the early/beginner stages of their fitness journey. Read on further for tips & tricks on how we successfully completed the race in a time of 1:48:06.
My junior year of college (November ’15), my best friend and I had a spontaneous idea to train for the Richmond 1/2 Marathon in just 2 weeks out from race date. Crazy right?! Ya, we know. However, we were determined to cross a 1/2 marathon off the bucket list.
Mind you, the longest distance I had run up to that point was a 5k. We ran the Color Run 5k back in September at a pretty solid pace. However, I definitely had some fear committing to this, as 13.1 miles was a SIGNIFICANT difference than my longest distance to date of a mere 3.2 miles.
My fears were partly alleviated, as we were both D1 athletes on the tennis team, and were on a pretty intensive training regimen all semester. We had daily 7 am workouts which was a torturous variety of short sprints, stadium runs, timed miles, and beep tests. Mixed into this was 3 times a week weight training for one hour sessions, plus 2 hour daily afternoon tennis practices on top of the fitness component.
We were both in peak shape, but neither of us had tested out our long distance running capabilities.
We had an intensive two weeks leading up to race day, but successfully ended up completing the race with a 1:48 finish time! It was an incredible feeling getting the results we did with such a last minute decision.
I pulled together some of our top tips that helped us ultimately cross the finish line. I definitely recommend finding a race day buddy that is around your fitness level as this makes the entire process a billion times more fun.
- 3-5 mile runs every other day with your longest run one week prior to the race (we did 7 miles). We were transitioning into off-season by this point in the semester, so our only tennis obligation at this point was 2 hour practices each day on top of our training runs.
- The following is a screenshot of all of the runs I tracked for the 2 weeks leading up to the 1/2 marathon on 11/14:
- SHOES: Investing in a good pair of running shoes. The shoes I wore are not in stock anymore, but these Asics are one of my favorite pairs to train in.
- Stay HYDRATED. This is SO crucial to your training program. We were chugging water morning to night to ensure optimal performance and recovery. I highly recommend purchasing a large Insulated Water Bottle to keep your water cool and to help keep track of how much you are drinking.
- Running OUTSIDE for almost all of our runs leading up to race day. I only did one 5 mile run on the treadmill, and everything else was outdoors.
- FOAM ROLL – we tried to foam roll every night to reduce muscle tension, soreness, and prevent injuries. THIS foam roller is one of my favorites to use as it is small, portable, and comes in some fun color options.
- DIET: Cleaning up our diet – cutting out all sweets and focusing on eating lots of protein and leafy greens. This helped give us energy for long runs, and build more muscle during our training regimen.
- HEADPHONES: Invest in a good pair of Bluetooth Headphones – I swear by the Apple Air Pods as they don’t fall out of your ears, have long-lasting battery, and amazing sound. If you are on a tighter budget, these $25 Sony headphones are a great alternative as they will not fall out of your ears.
- ENERGY: Buy Energy Blocks to have on hand mid-race. We ate 1-2 blocks at the halfway point which gave us the energy to power through the rest of the race. We each held one pack in our sports bra which did not budget throughout the race.
- OUTFIT: As the race was in November, we had to factor in the possibility of cold temperatures and rainy weather. We ultimately decided on wearing long leggings (the Lulu Lemon Align pants are my absolute FAVE) and a sweat-wicking Lulu Lemon top. Another option is to layer up if it will be extremely cold out and coordinating with a friend/family member to meet you at a spot mid-race to drop off your layers. We did not have that luxury so we decided to start off slightly colder as we knew we would warm-up throughout the run.
- TRACKING: Find a fitness tracker that works for you. I used both the MapMyRun app on the iPhone and a Fitbit Charge 2 to track all of my runs. MAKE SURE YOU CHARGE ALL ELECTRONICS the night before. (Since post written, I now prefer using my Apple Watch to track runs)
- CARBOLOAD the night before. We went to a Mexican restaurant the night before and loaded up on all the chicken fajitas, rice, beans, veggies, guac, etc.
- MUSIC: Create a KILLER PLAYLIST – you need AT LEAST two hours of pump up songs to keep you motivated throughout the entire race. You can follow my ‘Running‘ playlist on Spotify for over 15 hours of workout motivation!
- REST: Allow yourself to rest the day before the race. At this point any workouts you do are only going to exhaust your body and you need all of the energy you can get.
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Race Day Tips:
- FOOD: Wake up two hours before the race to eat and give your body enough time to digest. We ate a microwaveable oatmeal cup to not upset the stomach and give us the energy we needed throughout the race.
- PIN YOUR BIB ON PROPERLY – Sounds simple enough, but I still cannot believe that I messed this up! I accidentally pinned the bib on my shirt AND onto my leggings prior to the race starting. I did NOT catch this until halfway through when we took a porta potty break. It was an absolute nightmare. I was struggling for a few minutes because my shirt was pinned to my leggings, and my hands were too numb from the cold to unhook the pin. This lost us a few minutes in time trying to sort this out which you can clearly see in our run stats below.
- PARKING: Give yourself enough time to park (if driving) and get to the starting line. Factor in lost time due to the race blocking off a number of roads.
- WARM-UP: Do a dynamic warm-up prior to starting. This is key to starting the race off on a good note and highly underrated. We did some light jogging, side shuffles, butt kicks, walking toy soldier kicks, and leg swings to get our body lose to prevent injury.
- PACING: Determine what pace you want to maintain the entire race and stick with it. You don’t want to start off the race with a pace far quicker than what you can maintain.
- HILLS: Speed up your pace slightly on hills and slow it down a bit on the downhills. This helps you maintain your pace throughout the entire race.
- MENTAL TOUGHNESS: Prepare yourself for the final 1-2 miles mental block that happens. This was easily the most challenging part of the race. We both began to really struggle in our own ways. I was starting to feel the fatigue of pushing my body to run that distance, and my friend was starting to feel some serious pain in her foot.
- PERSEVERE: However, we both fought through our pains and maintained our pace despite our body fighting against it. The final .1 mile was the most rewarding part of the entire race with everyone cheering us to the finish line. All of the pain vanished in those final moments, and all we felt was pure joy as we approached the finish line.
- CELEBRATE: Tell your friends where to meet you! We were so grateful to have such an amazing support system. A few of our friends met us at the finish line, and some girls on the tennis team went to brunch with us after to devour all of the food we were craving post-run.
- STRETCH: It’s definitely easy to get caught up in all the post-race excitement, but give yourself at least 5 minutes to do a static stretch to prevent injury.
- EAT – enjoy all the yummy food post-race. We went to Cafe Caturra in Richmond for a post-race brunch with our friends, and devoured all the food we were craving after the run. Try and plan out where you will eat after the race because you will definitely be hungry!
- REST – we were beyond pooped after the race. After brunch, we went home and passed out for a much needed few hours. We did not run anytime soon after the race and allowed our bodies to fully recover.
- Epsom Salt Bath – my absolute FAVE to wind down at night and help prevent sore muscles the following few days.
- HYDRATE – your body is going to be depleted after exerting so much energy throughout the race. Chug, chug, chug to stay hydrated and ensure optimal recovery.
All in all, this was such a great experience and I would definitely recommend crossing this off the bucket list to anyone thinking about running a half! I still can’t believe how crazy we were to run the 1/2 marathon with just 2 weeks of training, but SO happy it all worked out. I went on to run a FULL MARATHON in March ’18 and will share more of that experience soon!
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If you have any other half-marathon tips, please share in the comments below! I would love to hear.