Ok, so I finally did it. After saying I was going to run a half marathon the last (a lot) of years, I finally signed up for one.

It's official now. No backing down. I'm in it for the long haul. The marathon I am running is at the end of April. This might be a good time to mention that I'm terrified!

As background, I'm a runner. I run quite frequently, but rarely ever run for more than 12k at a time. What's another 9k, right? That's terrifying. The idea of running for more than two hours makes me want to pass out, but I know I can do it. I know I have the endurance and ability to complete a half marathon. I just need some tips, or maybe something to calm my nervous.

So, what can you provide for a first-time half marathoner in terms of advice? How often should I run, what drills should I be doing to further enhance my endurance? How do I properly prepare for hills (my biggest downfall our hills)? and what about nutrition? How much should I be eating (calories, protein, carbs, etc.)?  I'm a vegetarian so I often find most of my foods run right through me and don't leave me overly satisfied.

Thanks for calming me down . . .


Signing up is always the hardest, thing to do.  I have told many people that the most difficult part of my training for my first Ironman was singing up and writing a cheque for over $600 that guaranteed a spot in the following year’s race. Once you commit there is no backing out. 

Step number one is to believe in yourself and trust your commitment to the program.  If you do those two things you will arrive at the start line and the next 21km is your celebration party.  Do not allow the idea of over 2 hours of running scare you – it will be the most fun you have ever had running. Promise. 

Advice for a first timer
Your first time training for, and racing, a half marathon is exciting so enjoy the journey and do not put too much pressure on yourself to achieve a desired outcome.  Anything can happen on race day: you could wake up with a cold, you could have stomach issues on the course or it could be horrible weather, all of which will affect the outcome.  If you are only focused on the finish line rather than what it takes to arrive at the start line you could be let down.  Every day you run you will be going farther and longer than you ever have so celebrate ALL the small victories along the way. And pay attention to your body.  As your mileage begins to increase you are going to start to feel some aches and pains that you may have never felt before so get to know a good physiotherapist.

How many times a week should you run?
You should be aiming for four days a week with an optional fifth day recovery run.  When you train for an event it is possible that a pastime you once loved (running) can become work. I often like to get out one day a week and just run without having to focus on distance, speed and time.  You will also want to add in two days a week of strength and core training and one day a week where you focus on giving back to your body, such as attending a yoga class or seeing a physiotherapist or having a massage.

Drills to further your endurance.
Speed play and track workouts are important but since this is your first distance run you should stick with focusing on your mileage and attempting to increase your distance each week by 10 percent.  During the first half of your training plan aim for one day a week of hill repeats and the second half of your program work on running 400s, 800s, 1km and 1 mile repeats. 

How much should you be eating?
You will not need to change your diet too much, which is one of the biggest mistakes novice runners do – over eat.  Stick with an average of 1800-2000 calories a day, with a few more calories being consumed on the days before, during and after your long runs.  Eat complex carbohydrates as your body will burn through simple sugars and you will have a difficult time staying full.  For proteins you should be eating about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.  Stay away from consuming too many energy gels and drinks as they are full of sugar and may promote weight gain.  Try using different types during your long runs but only use one, maybe two.  I see a lot of novice runners rely on these high sugar content products rather than relying on real food and then wonder why they are gaining weight while they train, rather than losing it. Also, you should decrease your fibre intake the day and morning before a long run.

Here are some of my favourite foods to keep me fuelled and full.
Baked yams
Lentil soup
Brown rice sushi
Steel cut oats with berries and almonds
Cottage cheese with blueberries and walnuts
Vega Protein smoothies with Liberte Greek yoghurt, banana, berries and hemp hearts

Good luck and let me know how you do!

Attached -- Mel B working out in Sydney with her trainer.