You may have triumphantly completed a 5K or even decimated a 10K, but it's the half-marathon that really marks your transition from fun-runner to serious competitor. The half is a whole new ballgame, resulting in a greater need to pay more attention to your clothing and gear during the race. Make sure you're not only suited up properly, but you're wearing clothes and gear that has been tried, tested and true during your training. That way, you know your clothes aren't going to slow you down in reaching your goal time.
Always check the weather for the race long before you start training. Registration for half marathons typically happens months in advance. Since you're not going to get a perfect forecast, you can look up the general climate for the location and month of the race to get a better idea of how you need to be prepared. If you plan properly, a little rain or a colder run shouldn't affect your performance. Plan for more than one type of weather so you're not completely derailed by a little rain or extra heat. When in doubt, dress in layers; you can always peel some off if you get too hot.
When it comes to the right clothing for the job, performance fabrics are always best for half marathons. While cotton clothes might work for shorter races, sweaty cotton can weigh you down with extra water. Performance fabrics like Spandex help wick sweat away from your body for a more comfortable run. Pay special attention to fit as well. Too loose and skin-on-skin rubbing can cause rashes. Too tight and it's your clothes that could be doing the chafing. Depending on the weather, a pair of performance shorts or leggings with an athletic top work best. Just make sure to train in your race-day clothes so you can identify potential problems before you're in the middle of 13.1 miles.
A half marathon is definitely not the time to take your new shoes out for a spin. Instead, run in well-practiced training shoes that have been fit specifically to your foot and striking pattern. Plain old cross trainers definitely won't hold up to the abuse. Lighter, tighter shoes work the best as long as they have the right fit. Since shoes should be replaced every 300 miles or so, plan to run around 100 to 150 miles in your shoes before the race to ensure they're properly broken in.
The length of a half marathon means you need to stash everything you need on your body. While there will be stations for bathroom breaks and water, if you take an energy gel or you run with music, you'll need to grab a running belt to take with you. As always, run with the belt beforehand to check for chafing and test the weight of your various gear to make sure it won't slow you down. Hats, sunglasses and sweatbands are other options that you might want to bring as well.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.