5 Things To Know Before Running Your First Half Marathon

12181141_10205638748153646_104400634_o professional image courtesy of EmilyMeganPhotography

So.  You want to run a half marathon?  You’ve come to the right place.  I love the half.  It’s the perfect compromise between challenge and trainability.  It’s a big enough accomplishment to leave you feeling like you totally rocked something hard, yet it’s still short enough that it’s manageable to train for in the midst of a busy schedule.  So, here are 5 things I wish someone had told me before running my first half.  You can easily take these tips and apply them to other distances, especially if you are brand new to running and racing.

Tip #1: Don’t set a goal time

Here’s the deal.  I’m not telling you not to set goals.  I’m not.  However, setting a goal time for your first half is something that might set you up for dissapointment.  Here’s the mental space you should go in with….crossing the finish line is a HUGE accomplishment.  Celebrate it.  Enjoy it. Leave the goal pace for future races.  If you decide you love the half and want to race that distance again and were able to tolerate the training, then by all means, change things up a bit for your next one and start working on that goal time.  But, for your first…just soak it up friend.  You did the training, and if you are anything like me,  you never thought you’d be able to do that.  But you did!!  So take the race to celebrate your first long distance accomplishment and leave the pressure off to perform at a certain level.  You’ll enjoy it so much more.

Tip #2: GEAR!!!!!

Can't wait to break these puppies in after Chicago!!!!!! It's onto shorter distances and speed. Pretty sure these will help. Thanks to @fitapproach they are decked out and ready to rock breast cancer awareness month. Also, I'm talking about my race week thoughts today #ontheblog. Link in bio. #sweatpink #sauconyisotriumph #blogger #fitnessblogger #marathonmonday #chicagomarathon #chicago2015

Ok ya’ll.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear complaints about shins hurting or the feeling of pounding the road with little support.

One word….


Before you embark on training for a half, get a good pair of running shoes.  It’s not one size fits all, so I can’t tell you what to wear because our feet are different.  So, I’d suggest heading to a local running store and have them assess your gait and footfall pattern.  Then, they should be able to get you in a good pair of shoes.  You need the support for building higher mileage so don’t take this lightly.  It’s important!!  Also, if you will be training in the summer months, buy some cool wicking fabrics and if training in winter, appropriate cold weather gear.  You don’t need a whole new wardrobe of running clothes, but a few quality pieces will go a long way and keep you comfortable while covering all those miles.

Tip #3: Train Smart


Finding a training plan can be tricky.  Google half marathon training plan and you are flooded with options, both free and for a price.  So, how do you know which one to choose?  I look for several elements in a training plan before I choose one.  First would be a gradual progression in distance.  Ideally, you want to stick to a 10% increase a week.  If you are training for your first half and are not used to high weekly mileage, you want a nice gradual increase each week.  Try to find a plan that is about 12 weeks in duration.  This should give you plenty of time to safely build your mileage.  Second, find a plan that includes more than 3 run’s a week.  This may be personal preference, but I have found that a bit more running is ideal.  I have done the 3 day a week plan and have ended up injured every time.  For me, 4-5 days is ideal.  It should include a mix of easy running, some speed work to make your easy pace feel easier, and cross training to avoid injury.

Tip #4: Find a training partner

✨✨"Out on the roads there is fitness and self-discovery and the persons we were destined to be."✨✨ Dr. George Sheehan 12 super early, hot and HUMID miles with this awesome lady. 4 more for me this afternoon. Now for some chocolate milk, a quick shower, a coffee to go and off to church. Happy running today you guys!!!! @8french #chicagomarathon #chicago2015 #instarunners #runnersofinstagram #runnersofIG #runnerland #marathontraining #longrun #sundayrunday #justrun #sweatpink #sohot #humidityisjuststupid

✨✨”Out on the roads there is fitness and self-discovery and the persons we were destined to be.”✨✨
Dr. George Sheehan

If you are training for a big race alone, the miles can get long.  I’m typically a solo runner.  I’ve honestly just never really found someone I was completely comfortable running high mileage with(before Candace that is).  You really bond over sweat and stomach issues and blister’s and just all kinds of lovliness that comes with distance running.  So, it needs to be someone you are comfortable with.  While training for Chicago this year, I recruited one of my closest friends Candace and it made the entire process so much more enjoyable.  It keeps you accountable and makes the miles much more fun.  We laughed and screamed at spider’s and saw some amazing sunrises together.  So, recruit a pal if you can.

Tip #4: Find a Fun Race!!


It doesn’t have to be a destination race(although if you have the resources to make that happen…it is absolutely so fun to find a fun race away from home).  It’s not always practical to head out of town, so find a fun local race.  Even one that is within driving distance but takes you to a new location so you are running in new territory.  It makes it more exciting and interesting if you are running somewhere new.  Or, find a fun race with a theme such as the Rock n Roll series.

You may find by having a larger race, trail race, or exciting race with a theme like Rock n Roll(bands and music along the route with lots of crowd support) make the race that much more exciting and something you look forward to even more.  Plus, races like this make the finish line a little more exciting as there is a lot going on.  Just a thought but obviously, not a must.  If you live in a smaller town and have a local half that is right down the street, go for it!!  There is something to be said for not having to fight a crowd on race morning and not having to weave in and out of all the people as you run.  So, find a race that excites you, whatever that may mean for you. 

That about does it!!

I could include so many things in this list, but these are tops for me.

What about you?? What are some of your favorite tips for running your first half?

Or, something you wish you had known before running your first long distance race?


10 comments on “5 Things To Know Before Running Your First Half Marathon

  1. I’ve run two half marathons and the time issue got me. I felt so defeated because my 13 mile practice run went so great. And man so much of it is mental and I’m mentally weak! ? Sadly I don’t know what the deal is but I have severe stomach cramps and chills after. I curl up in a ball under blankets and I’m out the rest of the day. I even fueled better the second time but still had problems. Any ideas? I’d love to to the Rock n Roll in San Antonio!

  2. Michelle…yes!!!! Ok I’ll do a marathon top things to know…I did one last year if you want to take a look, but I can do one more specifically to fuel and training through the long runs=)
    I did the last one in two parts….
    This is an older post so there are some things I’d add now that I have 3 of these things under my belt…so I’ll work on it for you Michelle!!!

  3. How about marathon top ten…. Would love to know more about nutrition during long runs. I’m training and struggling with this!

  4. hey Shay!!! Agreed!!!!! Love audio books! It’s so good to give yourself a reason to look forward to those long runs…nice work!

  5. Love it! And I love that you don’t wear a watch on race day. I didn’t look at my watch for the first 10 miles in Chicago and it was so liberating!!!!

  6. Kate…I’ve so been there!!!! You know that=) Thanks for reading and we need to plan one to do together!!!!!

  7. I made the mistake of having a time in mind for my first half, and during mile 9 it became clear that I was not going to finish in my “time”, the mental defeat I felt was beyond crushing. Here I was, only a few miles from finishing something I NEVER thought was ever possible, something I still felt ready to do after not being able to run for a month, 6 weeks before the race due to surgery, and I was so sad, depressed, and embarrassed that I struggled to find the will to finish.

    Never again. You couldn’t be more right about not being a slave to your watch. Cross the finish line, that’s what counts.

  8. http://www.halfmarathons.net/half-marathon-training-schedule-for-beginning-runners/

    Kelly, this is the training plan I have used for my half marathons. I never set time goals because for me they would make running aversive.

    I never keep my own time on race day. I just try to gauge the clocks at each mile to get an idea of what minute pace I am running. For me, times would make me anxious so I really don’t try to focus on them. I just try to run a little faster at certain points if I can.

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