Guest Blog: Training for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon

Christina G. is an avid runner and a 2020 #IndyMini Ambassador. Check out her training tips, from picking the right plan for you to fueling through your race.

You’ve registered for the OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon, or your contemplating doing so, and  you want to know, “Where do I start?” The half marathon is a friendly distance and running  13.1 miles is possible for most runners .   The right training plan, along with proper nutrition will make it an achievable challenge, even with a busy lifestyle.   Whether this is your first half marathon, or you’re planning to crush your PR, these tips will get you to the Indy Mini finish line. 

A good training plan that caters to your schedule and fitness level is key.   You should not choose the first training plan you found on the internet.  Just like shoes, there are no “one size fits all” training plans.   There are few questions you should ask yourself when choosing the right training plan.  How many miles am I currently running? You don’t want a program that starts with more miles than you are currently running.  It may increase your risk of injury.  What is the total weekly mileage of this training schedule? This can vary widely.  How many weeks until the Indy Mini?

Training plans can vary widely from 10 to 16 weeks.  If this is your first half marathon, a plan longer than 10 weeks is strongly recommended.  You need to consider your goals, the amount of time you have to commit to training, and your current fitness level to choose a plan that will work for you.  A successful half marathon training plan will have you consistently running enough mileage during the week to get your body acclimated to running for long periods of time by increasing mileage.  Most plans will scale back your long runs every three weeks after a peak mileage week to rest and avoid injury.  You should notice that your training plan scales back on mileage a couple of weeks before the Indy Mini.  This is what’s known as the taper.  You’ll decrease the mileage and intensity of your runs so that your legs will feel  fresh and rested. 

Strength training is essential to a runner because it strengthens muscles and joints, which can help to improve race times and decrease your chance for injury.  Complete one to three cross-training workouts per week.  Choose primarily strength training based workouts that are mostly low-impact and that you enjoy.   You can swim, do yoga, bike, or even attend a group fitness class.  Try focusing on your running weaknesses, such as moves that focus on the core, hips, glutes, hamstrings, and ankles.   Either way, make sure you have strength and flexibility training, but don’t continue to do any workouts that may leave you so sore that you have to skip running.

Good nutrition is extremely important while training for the Indy Mini and should be a part of your on-going training.   In fact, without the right nutrient intake, performance can be adversely affected.  Low energy levels and dehydration can occur when not properly fueled.  You should consider taking fuel with you for any exercise or running lasting over an hour. 

Learn what foods work best for you.  This will come from trial-and-error and this process of elimination should have you ready for race day.  Two to four hours before starting your long training run, consume easily digested complex carbohydrates and protein.  Oatmeal, fruit, and milk or a bagel with peanut butter are good examples.  Commercial gels and sport beans usually contain carbohydrates and may include caffeine, electrolytes and/or vitamins.  Commercial sports bars, usually a source of protein, contain larger portions of carbohydrates.  Real food options include pretzels or peanut butter and jelly on soft bread. Whatever you choose to fuel your runs, plan to hydrate at the same time.   

Hydration is crucial to successful training.  Two hours prior to training, hydrate with at least 16 ounces of water, then during , hydrate with 6 to 8 ounces every 20 minutes.  Sports drinks provide fluids, carbohydrates and electrolytes.  Dilute them to half water or less until you know what  you can tolerate. There are many options available.

Indy Mini training takes valuable time and effort.  Let’s not waste it by wearing a brand new sports bra that chafes at mile 6 or socks that give you a blister at mile three.  Choosing the right running gear can be just as important as our training and nutrition.  A technical, moisture-wicking shirt is a must have.  Tech fabrics will keep you dry and warm in cold weather and wick the sweat away and help prevent chafing on hot weather runs.  A good pair of lightweight running shorts or tights that do not restrict stride and keep you cool are important.  Women should ensure that they are wearing a good, supportive sports bra designed for running and high-impact activity. It should fit properly and not be stretched out.  Wear running-specific socks that are a synthetic blend to help prevent blisters.   Running belts can keep your hands free on the run.  This can hold id, money, keys, and even water bottles. 

Running shoes are probably one of the most important pieces of running gear.   Never run in old or worn-out running shoes.  Over time, they lose shock absorption, cushioning, and stability.  The stress and impact on your legs and joints caused by running in worn-out shoes can cause overuse injuries.   Find a reputable running store to get fitted for proper running shoes.  Running shoes serve a purpose, so always remember style and favorite color come second.  Your feet will swell while running, so keep this in mind for sizing to help avoid black toenails and blisters. 

Running is an all-weather sport.   Keep in mind, no one can promise you perfect race day weather.  It may not be ideal training conditions, but you should really consider getting out there to run on those days that non-runners can avoid.  Rain, cold, and heat are all possibilities for the Indy Mini forecast.  Be prepared for all of them.  It will make your race day more enjoyable if you know what to expect and how to dress properly. 

Training is not just about how many miles you can run.  Half marathon training should be a comprehensive plan that involves your scheduled runs, cross-training, nutrition, hydration, and gear.  Race day is not the time to experiment with a new energy gel that you got at the expo the night before or the day to to wear your shiny new running shoes.  Your training season is the time to experiment, not on race day.  Trust your training, and NEVER try anything new on race day. 

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