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Holy Half: A How-To Guide

Troy Mathew | Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Finishing the 13.1 miles of a half marathon can be a momentous and exciting accomplishment — or pure torture for the unprepared. Follow these tips to ensure your stride across the finish line is a triumphant one rather than an agonizing crawl.

Create a shameless playlist

A good playlist is essential to maintain focus and energy throughout the race. Keep in mind, however, that “good” is relative. Don’t be self-conscious about your race-day music choices. If Miley or similar sickeningly-sweet pop music gets you amped, crank it up. The purpose of the playlist is to keep you motivated and block out the clomping feet and gasping lungs surrounding you during the race, not to show off your Indie music cred. The running playlist can be considered a judgment-free zone — unless of course your playlist contains Nickelback. In that case, I will judge you heavily.

Invest in looking legit

We’ve all seen the jeans-wearing gym goers, and we all know the disdain they garner. These unfortunate, and endearingly clueless, patrons of the gym give us a valuable lesson: avoid looking like a joke. Invest in nice running shoes and clothes. Not only will you look the part of a half-marathoner, but your quality gear will last you through the extensive training process and beyond. Plus, buying fancy new gear will spur you to go out training more often to show it off.

Stick to your routine

Everyone develops a routine through his or her training, and whether it’s a pre-race burrito or an intensive stretching regime, you need to stick to what works for you. While a substantial meal rich in carbohydrates a few hours before the race is generally a good idea, there’s no one-size-fits-all, race-day routine. With that in mind, don’t get too caught up in what information your frantic Google search brings. Develop your own system and stick to what works for your body.

Find a Friend

To the ultra-competitive Notre Dame student, a place at the back of the pack can be a source of much chagrin. Take advantage of this quality by training with a group. The group process will not only motivate you to stick to your training, but it will help you develop a consistent running pace that you will be able to maintain come race day. Running the race itself with a friend or two will keep you inspired as well and help you to regulate your pace. However, if you feel your friend is the proverbial dead weight, you have my permission to guiltlessly leave him or her in the dust.

The taper

Arguably the most important part of a training routine, the taper is the period of time a week or two before the race where workouts gradually lighten and physical activity greatly decreases. This period of time allows your muscles to fully heal from the strain of running and conserves valuable energy for the big day.

Dress for anything

The Holy Half takes place smack-dab in the middle of spring, meaning the volatile weather can range from blizzard conditions to balmy humidity. Last year’s race was ideal running weather: dry and around 40 degrees. However, the unpredictable conditions do not guarantee the same will be true for this year’s race. When in doubt, under dress. The temperature will feel much warmer once you start running, and shedding layers of clothing during the race is not always a possibility.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Troy Mathew at tmathew2@nd.edu