How to run a half-marathon when you’re not a runner

It’s not unusual when people find out that I’ve run a half-marathon, and am planning to run a full marathon by the end of the year, for their response to be along the lines of: I cold never do that, I’m just not a runner. The thing is, I wasn’t a runner, until I was. So today I am going to give you my top eight tips on how to run a half-marathon if you’re not a runner. This is information that I used to get me to my first half-marathon, and am currently using while training for my second and third.

I also want to let you know, that I am participating in a seven day blogging challenge in order to get me posting more consistently. Today is day one of the challenge, and today’s theme is a list post, so… here it is.

  1. Get the okay from your medical care provider.
    I’m not a professional athlete, a personal trainer, a sports coach, nor have I completed any training in exercise instruction, so before you start, see your GP or other medical care provider to make sure you are well enough to start running. If you have any niggling injuries or unexplained, get them checked out and treated if need be.
  2. Get properly fitted running shoes.
    Whether it be sneakers/runners, minimalist running shoes, or running sandals, it’s a good idea to get properly fitted by a specialist running store or podiatrist. Many feet and blisters aren’t worth not getting decent footwear.
  3. Find a learn to run program that works for you.
    There are a few free and paid learn to programs around. The program I used came as part of an online diet and exercise membership that was quite popular in Australia for a few years. I no longer believe in the philosophy of the program as a whole, so I am not going to recommend it, however, I did find the learn to run program useful. It was based on walk/run intervals for 30 minutes, gradually increasing time running, and decreasing time walking over time.C25K is a free learn to run program, and there are C25K apps available for smart phones on google play and the apple app store.

    I have also heard positive feedback about Operation Move’s learn to run program, although I’ve never used it. It is a paid program, and it’s designed for women, but I’ve heard the support from coaches, and the Op Move community is fantastic.

  4. Set yourself a goal.
    Once you are able to run about 5kms non-stop, choose an enter a half-marathon event that you can work towards. Pick an event that is far enough in the future that you can realistically train for and achieve your goal. When I entered my first half-marathon, I was able to run 5kms non-stop, and the event was 15 weeks away, plenty of time train for and achieve my goal. My current training plan is a 12 week program, however I started it about a month after running my first half, so while I was coming back from a minor injury, I had a good level of running fitness under my belt. The SMART goal planning framework would work well here. You may want to participate in some smaller events along the way, and something like Parkrun would be a good way to do this.

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  5. Find a reputable half-marathon training plan.
    Running a half-marathon isn’t simply a matter of just getting out there and increasing your distance each run. A good training plan should result in both improved endurance and pace. Just like learn to run programs, there are both free and paid half-marathon training program available.For my first half, I used the My Asics half-marathon training plan. It’s great for a beginner, it’s free, and there is a smart phone app available. At the moment, I am using the training plan that came with my next event entry. Most running events will give you access to a training plan when you enter, however, choose what works for you.

    STRAVA is a run tracking program with free and paid subscriptions, that will develop a training plan for you through their website. They also have an app that for smart phones, and link to some sport/GPS watches.

    Operation Move has a half-marathon training program as well as a learn to run program, however, it is a paid program. For personally developed training programs, you may want to invest in a running coach. Your local running club should be able to point you in the right direction.

  6. Find a running support group.
    The support from the online, national running support group I am a member of has been invaluable. It’s a pretty specific group, but if you are an Australian mum runner, I can highly recommend Running Mums Australia. There’s a link to their Facebook page on the website. Google and Facebook should help you find other online running groups.For in person support, I’d recommend checking out your local running club if you have one.
  7. Listen to your body.
    Sometimes we all have bad runs. Listen to your body and work out what it’s telling you. Sometimes you can push through if it’s your mind trying to talk you out of running, but if you are really struggling to run and your form is off, you may need to head home early. There is nothing wrong with this, it is better to cut a run short and take it easy rather than risk injuring yourself, or if you are coming down with something. If it’s happening regularly though, you may need to ask yourself if you are pushing yourself too hard, are there mental barriers you need help pushing through, or do you need to be checked out by a medical professional.The same goes for pain and injury. There is a difference between exercise-induced muscle soreness, and injury pain. Don’t ignore pain that could be the sign of an injury, get it checked out. Had I ignored the pain in my leg following my first half, I don’t think I’d be running today. I saw a great sports physiotherapist who gave me a recovery plan, and then a back to running plan. It has worked really well. While I won’t be up to running the marathon I had planned for September, I only had a few weeks off running instead of months, and there was no need for a moon boot or crutches.
  8. Reward yourself.
    Going from being a non-runner, to training and running a half-marathon takes handwork and dedication. rewards yourself along the way to keep motivated. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but show yourself some appreciation for the amazing things you are doing. And after you’ve run your half-marathon, take the time to rest and recover – you deserve it.

I hope I’ve given you some useful information on how to run a half-marathon when you’re not a runner. This post certainly ended up much longer than I expected. I would love to hear your thoughts.



Author: Georgia

30-something wife, and mother of four. Student, coffee drinker, chronic hobbyist, eternal day dreamer.

3 thoughts on “How to run a half-marathon when you’re not a runner”

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