How to prepare for a long run

The Valley of the Lilies half marathon and 5k is coming up on Saturday, April 2. The course will take place around campus and along the Tuckaseigee River in Cullowhee, NC.

Some students have been training for months, others will just sign up on a whim. Want to participate in the half marathon but don’t know where to start? Whether you decide to do Valley of the Lilies this year, wait until next year, or decide to sign up for another one, here are some tips and tricks on half marathons from Heather Peterson, a junior at WCU.

Heather has run at least 10-12 half marathons, so she’s got it down.

Advice to runners who have never done a half marathon before:

Progress slowly! Don’t increase mileage too fast, that’s how you get injured. Try nothing new on race day, only what you’ve practiced before! For instance, no new shoes on race day and dont eat anything you havent tried before a run before.

Mental tips:

You have to have a mantra, something you say to motivate yourself. For me, its either “don’t be sorry tomorrow for not trying harder today”, “one foot in front of the other” or “you’ll be better and stronger for this I promise.”

Join a training group?

Absolutely! That’s how i trained for my first race. They help keep you on pace and the effort seems minimal when you’re able to chat with people during the runs! Plus you can get and give great training/nutrition advice and see what works for different people and for you. It’s really just trial and error to see what your body handles the best.

What’s your training schedule?

This time I decided to follow the training schedule that was emailed to the registrants through Valley of the Lillies. Basically it is 3 runs during the week of anywhere between 3-5 miles each, and one longer run on the weekend, that increases each week. I use it as a template, then adjust as necessary. Usually I’ll run three miles on Mondays, five miles on Wednesdays, and four miles on Thursdays and Fridays.

Since its been a little chilly/rainy out, I’ll run on the treadmill for the shorter ones. When I do that, I increase the incline every couple of minutes and vary the speed so I dont get bored and get in some speedwork. Even when training for a longer distance, it’s important to keep up with speedwork and hills. The long run on Fridays increases by one until the longest run three weeks out from the race, which is 12 miles. From there it’ll taper down until race week, where I’ll make sure to run easy and recover. I also love to take a spin class once a week, and work on core training a couple times a week. Strength training 2-3 times a week really helps supplement the running.

Is your diet any different when you are training?

Not really, I am already a pretty mindful/healthy eater so my regular diet consists of usually oatmeal with a banana in the mornings, some trail mix for a snack, a salad and apple for lunch, a granola bar then maybe a sandwich for dinner. Either way, you want to make sure youre getting a balanced blend of veggies fruits, whole grains and protein for optimal recovery and energy. Lots of small meals throughout the day suits me best, because with classes I dont get alot of time to eat. I also beleive in not depriving yourself if you get a craving, but indulge moderately and maybe on a day that you exercise. For instance I always crave mexican food after a long day of activity, so I just go for it.  Just dont overdo it!


What to wear? 

Quick drying base layers, shoes that you have ran close to that distance in before, nothing that will chafe! Good socks,I like Balega and Feetures socks.

What to eat?

A good size breakfast 2-3 hours before the race. Usually a cup of oats or cereal with almond milk for me, plus something small about 45 mins-1 hour before, like a banana.

What do you do for cramps?

Do your best to prevent those by not eating too much too soon before the race, sip water dont gulp or drink too much, and train properly! If you do get cramps, slow down and breathe deep until they go away.

Extra Tips for Success:

Always have a training plan and do your best to be prepared. Build your base slowly, and allow a minimum of 12 weeks before to do this. It always beneficial to mock a race day run on your longest run day. Wake up early and eat/wear/do what you plan to on race day. Stretch after every run, especially the hamstrings.

The race fee is $60 March 6-29, and $80 on race day. Register on IMATHLETE.COM.

Good luck to everyone who participates in Valley of the Lilies half marathon and happy training!