How to survive a half marathon
The original marathon, as many will know, was not a race between competitive runners but the transmission of news from a battlefield. In 490 BC the Athenians and their Greek allies won an unlikely victory against the invading Persians, and a messenger Pheidippides was dispatched to the city of Athens around 26 miles away. According to legend he ran non-stop, burst into the assembly shouting “nenikekamen – we won!” and dropped dead. Not something you can really do in halves.
But no matter. Half marathons have become increasingly popular over recent years – the extremity of the 13 mile distance being mitigated by the idea that it’s only half the full distance, and that therefore it is reasonable to think you may survive it. It has become the sporting event for breaking free from your limits, for showing support for a special cause – but no need to die for it, or even get to the finish feeling half-dead, if you’re sensibly prepared.
Terry Skelton, road running manager of Hastings Athletic Club, identifies four elements that help. First he is very adamant on the advantages of joining a running club. “It will allow you to meet new people and new friends, this will help you to adapt to the training process easier”, he says.
On the other hand you also need to prepare not just physically but mentally too for the loneliness of the long distance runner. “Unlike football where you can depend on team-mates, running a marathon is solely dependent on yourself. You will be facing a lot of challenges while you are running, and I regard 40% of running as a state of mind.”
Terry’s third tip is to avoid dressing to impress. In order to run with least strain you need to dress comfortably – best in clothing and shoes you’ve already worn during training.
Lastly, the most important thing to have in mind while running the race is control of pace. It is a common mistake to think you are not going fast enough. “The key to running a marathon is to keep an even pace, this will help with your speed throughout, and eventually you will find yourself running quicker towards the end”.
You didn’t manage it this time? Next year’s training starts on Monday. And Hastings Athletic Club, which organises road runs several days a week, winter or summer, rain or shine, will welcome all-comers.