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What to expect when training for a half marathon

Are you registered or planning to register for the UPMC Health Plan Half Marathon or any other Pittsburgh Marathon weekend events? If so, you are officially one step closer to crossing the finish line and achieving a new goal. You may feel excited, nervous, anxious, or indifferent — and that’s COMPLETELY normal!

Many runners don’t know what to expect out of training, and that’s okay. Even seasoned runners come across new and exciting milestones with each training season. Training for a race and then crossing the finish line has many definitions and meaning for runners. Regardless of what it means for you, it symbolizes a huge accomplishment.

Before you start a training plan, make sure that you have consulted with your health care provider. This journey will have a positive impact on your health, but you also want to make sure you are healthy enough to begin and train safely. Talk to them about current or previous injuries, and also your goals to ensure they are on board that it’s safe.

So what are some of the basics to expect during training?

  • Excitement: Nerves are good, but don’t let them make you overreach. This is a big challenge, and you need to make sure that you are adequately prepared and staying on your training schedule. If you start out too ambitious you can get burned out — or, even worse, injured.
  • Structure: Most training programs are about 12 weeks. They include running, strength training, and cross training. Training programs also are pretty consistent in having long runs on the weekends; after all, that’s when most of us have the extra time to train longer. Make sure you find a balance and don’t overdo it.
  • Fatigue: Regardless of your fitness level coming into training, it’s a lot of work. On average, you may be running four to five times per week or more. It’s important to make sure that you are eating and sleeping well. Rest days are always scheduled in the plan, and it’s important to take them. Rest is a workout.  Adhere to your rest days like any other part of your schedule, so you can continue to improve and avoid burnout.
  • Hunger:  Adding a significant amount of physical activity requires you to adjust your nutrition. Make sure that you are eating a well-balanced diet and getting all the vitamins and nutrients necessary to repair your muscles. Try to avoid skipping meals and make sure you are always hydrating.
  • Muscle soreness:  Muscle soreness is normal as you start your program and add miles each week. Make sure that you are working on mobility and stretching after each run. On the cross-training days, make sure you are giving your legs a break from running so they can have time to heal and recover.


Remember to have fun during this process and to listen to your body. It’s okay if you have to modify your training program to fit your needs and goals. Start strong now and keep your eye on the prize! We will see you at the starting line in May!