Health & Fitness

7 top tips for acing a half marathon

I survived running a half marathon, and you can too! Here's how...

Last month I took the plunge and took part in my first ever half marathon - the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run. To say I was feeling nervous is an understatement.

A foot injury meant I hadn’t run for two weeks before and the thought of running for the bus, let alone a gruelling 13 miles, seemed daunting. But after the atrocious Manchester terror attacks, I was more determined than ever to take part. After what the city had been through, I wanted to show my support and take part in the race for all those families that had been affected.

That doesn’t mean to say it was easy though! So, if you're about to embark on your first half marathon, here are my top 7 tips for getting to the finish line...

It's all about mind over matter (Credit: Getty)

1. Playlist Power Nothing gets you motivated like music. Although some people prefer to take in the atmosphere of the crowd, I found focusing on a super upbeat playlist improved my mood and helped me keep to a rhythm.

2. Map your Miles If you’re running a long distance, I found it helpful to use an app that measures your progress, such as Map my Run or Strava. It’s not always easy to spot the signs counting down miles during races and some don’t have them at every mile. I needed that mental count-down to keep me going.

3. Mind over Matter I admit for the first few kilometres I thought, ‘what the hell am I doing this when I could be in bed with a bacon sarnie?’ But once I hit the 10k mark I actually got into my stride. I’ve realised the body can pretty much keep ticking along; it’s the brain that may tell you to stop. Visualise the sense of achievement you’ll feel at the end and use that to spur you on.

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4. Pace Yourself I was slightly alarmed at how many lycra-clad super-athletic types sped past me at the start and had visions of being the last ones to cross the finish line. But it’s best to run the first five miles slightly slower than normally, then speed up in the second half. Your limbs will thank you for it later.

5. Beat Boredom During the last couple of miles your body will be tired and at this point you can start to flag. That’s when it’s important to keep your mind occupied – count spectators, high five them, take in the scenery, ponder over the latest drama on Love Island – think about anything other than how much your legs feel like they’ve been stuffed with candy floss.

6. Embrace hills Ok this might be a slight lie, and fortunately there were only a few small mounds (think one bridge) in the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run. But the principle is true. What goes up, must go down (unless you’re running a really tough half marathon up a mountain and, well, that’s just madness) and knowing I’d have a nice downhill run the other side kept me going and gave me a chance to get my energy levels up again.

Enjoy the flat parts... and embrace the hills! (Credit: Getty)

7. Run your own Race As clichéd as it sounds, it’s important to set your own goal and aim for whatever achievement makes you happy. I originally wanted to finish the race in 1hr 50. But after injuring my foot, I was chuffed to cross the finish line in just under 2 hours. Whether you push yourself to do it in 1hr 45, or walk for several miles, it doesn’t matter – it’s your race to run however you like and the sense of achievement at the end is amazing.

Francine took part in the Great Manchester Run as a guest of Simplyhealth

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