Tips for the Beginner Half Marathoner: By Guest Blogger Linda DeFalco

Tunnel runningAre you contemplating running your first half marathon? If you are, you are not alone.  In fact, you are in great company? An article from Running states the following statistics¹:

  1. Over the past decade, the      half-marathon has become America's most popular distance.
  2. For the first time in history, 60%      of U.S. half-marathon finishers were females (approximately      1,110,000, a record).
  3. According to Running USA's 2013 National Runner Survey, the half-marathon is also      the favorite distance to run for both genders (38% men and 43%      women).

I started running 5ks in 2005 which led up to me running my first half marathon at the 2006 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.  Since then, I have run all five Disney’s Princess Half Marathons.  I am really excited that my momentum has picked up more than ever this year.  I have signed up for three more half marathons and for my first marathon in the ING Miami Marathon in February 2014.

I started running without any idea of what I could do to make my runs more successful.  I have learned a lot of hard lessons through trial and error.  This would include, but is not limited to the following; extreme dehydration resulting in heat headaches; then, wearing socks that were too thick which caused bruised toenails.  Then, thinking to myself "Hmmm, I probably need to bring some water, so why don't I bring a flask?  It's small and it fits nicely in my hand."  I wonder if anyone who saw me thought there was booze in there.  That'd be something!  Good thing there isn't any evidence of me doing that, like a picture.  Or is there?...

After learning what not to do, I have come up with important tips and ideas that have really helped improve my running, which in turn, I hope can help you become a successful runner.  And not be accused of drinking on your run!

  1. Get EXCITED about making the healthy decision to challenge yourself!
  2. Find a few friends or family members to join you, if not for the actual race, ask them to support you      through your training.  My experience is that I have better results when I run with a partner than by myself.
  3. Research a half marathon training program that will work with your fitness level (to help prevent injury) and your schedule.  Most training programs range from three to four months prior to running a half marathon.  I found one training program that seems very balanced, as it also incorporates cross training two times a week – (The Beginner’s Guide To      The Half Marathon²).  I recommend that you ease into a light running regimen a month prior to starting your chosen running program.  This way you can test out how your body feels, your shoes, clothing, music and any other running gear without feeling that you are taking away from your training program.
  4. Midway through your training program, think about running a local 5k or 10k to have something to look forward to and to keep your training on track.  This is also helpful to be able to gauge race day running.
  5. Preparation is key to having a great run.  I am a huge proponent for proper hydration, which needs to take place days before your runs.  We live in Central Florida where most days in the summer the temperatures are 90-100 degrees and the humidity is 80% – 100 %.  In my research, I found out that drinking too much water actually depletes you of electrolytes, which your body needs in order to perform properly; therefore, when you hydrate before your run, hydrate with fluids that contain electrolytes.  My absolute favorite is Nuun tablets.  You just drop one in 16 ounces of water, and they come in a variety of different delicious flavors.  As their website³ states, they “have less than 1g of      carbs, fewer than 8 calories, no sugar, no high-fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavors or colors”.  The first time I tried these, the heat headaches I had been experiencing vanished.  I have been a believer in this product ever since.  Many of my friends have tried it and have incorporated it into their own fitness regimens.  You can buy them at your local running store, Sports Authority, or from      Nuun online.
  6. Your running shoes: Before you run out to buy new running shoes, I strongly recommend going to your local running store that has a treadmill and a video setup that films your running style.  I had my running style filmed at Fleet Feet and they were able to see how I ran and gave me tips on how I could be helped.  I had the proper type of shoe for my foot, but they noticed that I needed a little bit more      support inside my shoe, so I bought Super Feet Premium      Insoles.  I really appreciated this tweak in my running shoes, as it has helped correct my form and comfort while running.
  7. Your running socks:  There  are so many styles of running socks, it can be overwhelming.  I must say that you’ll notice your socks more when you sweat a lot, especially on your longer runs.  My recommendation is to try out a few different styles and thicknesses.  I have run in socks that were too thick, and they pushed my toes up too high in my shoe, causing my toenails to bruise.  I have also run in socks that were too thin, and my foot slid around and caused blisters on the ball of my foot.  I run in Balega socks.  I love them.  The Balega sock contours my foot but not too tightly and it has a just the right amount of thickness where my foot has room and doesn’t slide around in my shoe.
  8. Wear comfortable clothing that  doesn’t bunch or ride up on you.  Also, find a good running bra.  You may have to try on many, but it’s well worth the effort.
  9. Headphones were a very big issue that I had during my training.  I had regular wired headphones and no matter what I did with the wires, they always seemed to be in the way.  My boyfriend was very kind by surprising me with the Motorola S10-HD Bluetooth Headphones.  WIRELESS!!!!  After  all these years of irritation, I no longer had to deal with wires anymore.  Also, in regards to music, play awesome songs that really motivate you and make you feel happy and strong.  Change up your playlist often to      help keep it fresh.
  10. Tracking and monitoring your  running progress:  I am a very visual person.  I have a large  year at a glance calendar in my kitchen.  We have all of our races  and events written on it.  In my home office, I have a dry erase  board monthly calendar where I write all of my plans for workouts and running.  This helps me to plan ahead for my training, as I see it  every day and love checking off my completed runs/workouts.  I run  with my iPhone and use the Nike+      Running app.  It is an amazing tool, because not only does it track your run, it also tracks all the analytics of your runs on the Nike+ website.  I keep my phone,  car key, energy gels and two 8 ounce water bottles on my Fitletic hydration belt.  The Fitletic belt is made from neoprene which really hugs and stays tight to my body.  And no more flask!

I am so happy that you are considering running a half marathon.  I'm not trying to sound too dramatic, but it really is life changing.  The amount of effort you put towards this epic goal will stay with you for the rest of your life.  You will see how much inner strength you have, which in turn will majorly boost your confidence levels in all areas of your life.  I wish you the best of luck, and feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback (or tips, can't ever have too much information!).

-By Guest Blogger Linda DeFlaco of Tapas Lifestyle: Check out her website : Follow @TapasLifestyleguest blogger linda deflaco