How to Make Your Next Half Marathon Better
Photo: Brian Metzler

8 essential tips to improve your next half marathon

Regardless of speed or experience level, who wouldn’t want to run their next half marathon faster, finish stronger and recover better afterward? Use these eight tips to enhance your race experience next time you give 13.1 miles a go.

1. Plan Ahead

As popular as half marathons have become in recent years, 13.1 miles is still a long way to go. Give yourself at least 10 weeks to train so that you can safely and methodically progress your training and build up your weekly long run. Following a training plan can be very helpful, too.

2. Find a Friend

Committing to a two- to four-month training schedule can be a grind, but recruiting a friend will keep you accountable and help you to stay on track. Make plans to meet for long runs and key workouts, keep each other honest and enjoy one another’s company as you work toward your respective goals.

3. Invest in Good Shoes

If you’re training consistently, expect to go through one or two pairs of shoes before race day. Running doesn’t require a lot of fancy equipment but finding a pair of comfortable, durable shoes that you know work for you is the best investment you can make. Not sure what shoes are best for you? Visit your local running specialty store and let an expert help steer you toward the best options.

4. Become a Better Athlete

Running will improve your cardiovascular fitness but it won’t necessarily help you become a better overall athlete. Adopt a weekly strength and mobility routine to address your imbalances, reinforce good movement patterns, strengthen your upper body and core, and reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries. This routine doesn’t need to be fancy or exhaustive—performing a series of bodyweight exercises once a week for 30 minutes will go a long way!

5. Hit the Track

You don’t necessarily need to go to your local high school or college track and run lung-busting quarter-mile repeats, but you SHOULD run intervals faster than your goal race pace once a week. Doing so will improve efficiency and add an element of “fast fun” to your weekly routine. Link up with a local running club for a group speed workout or recruit your favorite running partner to help push you out of your comfort zone on occasion.

6. Make the Long Run Count

The long run is the cornerstone of any sound training program and will make up the highest percentage of your weekly mileage. Long runs build your aerobic fitness, which is ultimately what will allow you to run 13.1 miles efficiently. Make your long runs count by using them as opportunities to dial in your race-day routine: wake up and run as close to race time as possible, eat the same breakfast, test your race-day gear, test out your race nutrition and hydration, and practice your pacing strategy.

READ MORE: How to Shake Up Your Weekly Long Run

7. Practice Fueling

The last thing you want on race day is for a gel or sports drink to wreak havoc on your stomach. Do your due diligence ahead of time by practicing the nutrition and hydration strategy you plan to use on race day, whether it’s what you’ll be carrying with you or what race organizers are offering on the course. Not all sports drinks and gels are created equal, so find out what works for you.

8. Nail the recovery

Recovery doesn’t mean jumping into an ice bath after a hard workout or putting on a pair of compression socks after you cross the finish line. Sure, those things can help, but recovery is an ongoing thing. Develop good habits from the first day of training—keep your easy runs really easy, take your rest days seriously, prioritize sleep, eat well consistently, start restocking fuel stores within 30 minutes of finishing a workout, and hydrate well throughout the day—and you’ll get more from your key workouts, bounce back quicker throughout the week and recover faster after you cross the finish line.

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli is a Bay Area-based running coach who works with a number of Olympic Trials-level marathoners and internationally ranked ultrarunners. He also writes and publishes The Morning Shakeout, a weekly email newsletter that covers running and other topics that interest him. Follow his work at @mariofraioli and themorningshakeout.com