Running the half marathon takes smarts! It’s as much about the mind as it is about your body. Sports nutritionist and Saucony Running Expert, Pip Taylor shares her top 3 tips to prepare for long distance running.
As a triathlete, I’ve run a few half-marathons in my time and I know the mental and physical strength it takes to get to the finish line.
As a nutritionist, I learned the hard way that a delicious Kansas organic meal might not be the best ‘pre-race’ meal!
So here’s a few things I’ve know about getting ready for a half-marathon.
It doesn’t matter how fast the car is, if you have the wrong tyres you’re going to blow out.
Before you even start training get your gear in order! It’s likely you’re going to be running between 10 and 30km a week during your training regime. You need the right tools.
Wearing the right gear is critical to injury free, comfortable training and vital to a successful race day.
Start by getting your feet fitted by the experts.
Whichever shoe you choose, ensure you have them fitted by qualified professionals as the smallest detail can make a significant difference when you’re running a longer distance.
It’s smart to have two pairs of training shoes and alternate days wearing each pair so you are alternating stresses.
On the day, be sure to wear shoes and clothes you have run in before. Don’t choose the race to show off those new tights or shoes.
Gear discomfort is one of the biggest reasons for race failure and even injury.
Fuelling your body during your training and in the lead up to the race is vital.
Carbohydrates fuel your energy needs. In the lead up to the half-marathon, at least two-thirds of your total calories should come from carbohydrates, particularly complex carbohydrates.
Aim for around 10 per cent protein and the rest from unsaturated fats.
During training it is important to plan your meals for run-days. I make extra food at dinner for the next day. Personally, my favourite is chicken with roasted sweet potatoes.
Lots of people talk about carb loading – increasing the ratio of carbs in your diet in the lead up to an endurance event.
Carb-loading is often used by marathon runners and is also advisable for the half-marathon. Start a few days before the race but you don’t need to increase your calories. Just make sure the majority of your calories come from carbs.
On race day, nutrition is going to be just as important. A half marathon is going to take most of us more than 90 minutes so those last few kilometres might be tough.
Without the right nutrition, your muscles are likely to run out of fuel and your body will lag.
Consuming carbs during your run can keep your blood sugar steady and get you to the finish line.
About 30-60 grams of carbs per hour can help. Try chews, gels and sports drinks. Best to top up regularly than wait until you’re feeling the pinch.
Watch out for “runner’s guts” (the feeling of urgency that hits during exercise) by avoiding the major culprits Fructose, Lactose and caffeine. Too much fat and fibre can also rush your gut.
Too much vibration can also shake your gut during running (choose a good quality running shoe made specifically for running!)
Tempo training seems to work well for half marathon training.
That means normal warm up and cool down with a fast pace in between – around 30 seconds slower than your 5K pace. It should be uncomfortable – this means its working! It trains your body to take in and use oxygen better.
Try not to train every day in the lead up to the race. Recovery is equally important. Rest between runs so you recover from one run to the next.
Recovery also includes smart nutrition choices. Eating something with quality carbs and proteins as well as fluids will ensure your body recovers effectively. Opt for a smoothie, fruit and nut bar, peanut butter sandwich, chicken and brown rice or sweet potato or a low-sugar yoghurt.