The half marathon has become one of the most popular distances in the country for many reasons. First off, it’s not as daunting as the full and takes much less time to train for. Second, many people long for the sense of accomplishment and achieving something really big, but doing something like climbing Everest or white water rafting down the Congo river are too out of reach. So what do they do? Something a little more achievable: run a half or full marathon.
The half marathon has become one of my favorite distances. It’s long enough to challenge you mentally and physically, and you still get the sense of accomplishment from doing something big. Over the years, I have coached many people through their first half marathons and here are a few tips if you’re just getting started.
1. Find a special race to enter: Ask yourself what is important in a race to you. Maybe it’s a really nice medal (check this one out HERE), a beautiful destination city, an amusement park, a trail race. Do you need a lot of support from crowds or do you prefer something more quiet? Find the race that appeals to you and plan ahead. Sign up for a race up to a year in advance, generally the entry fee is less and this gives you time to make travel arrangements and plan out your training schedule.
2. Run a 5K and 10K before your Half Marathon: Be sure to work your way up to the 13.1 distance. Have you ever driven 13 miles? It’s a long way. Don’t show up on race day unprepared, you might have a horrible race, or worse, get injured.
3. Have a plan: If you’ve never run before, start with a run/walk plan such as the one that Runner’s Connect offers- you can get more information and sign up HERE. Runner’s Connect plans are designed to keep you injury free and help introduce you to running in a positive way. Everyone I have spoken with who has tried these plans has not only had a successful race, but has gone on to run in several more events as well.
4. Start with a friend or running group: Sometimes running by yourself gets lonely. Having a friend keeps you accountable, it’s fun to have someone to talk to on your training runs, and accomplishing something big like this together is very bonding and intimate.
5. Don’t have a predicted finish time: Try not to have an expectation of a finish time on your first half marathon, make your goal simply to finish. Most races have a large time limit on the course. Don’t worry if you walk or need to stop at the water stations, in fact it might make it more pleasurable if you do. Don’t beat yourself up for stopping, you’re out there doing it while most people are sitting on the couch or watching from the sidelines. Be proud of what you’re doing and don’t worry about time.
6. Plan a post race celebration: 13.1 is a long way, if you can afford it, plan on pampering yourself post race. Make an appointment for a massage or pedicure. Make reservations for a nice dinner the night after your race. Or it might be as simple as allowing yourself to take a nap that afternoon. It’s a big deal… be proud of your accomplishment.
7. ENJOY: Go across that start line in a place of joy. If you get tired, hot, or something hurts, just slow down or stop. It’s called a race, but times have changed as these events are designed for everyone to enjoy, and we are all out there for different reasons. Your first race should be a good experience, there will be plenty of races in your future to “Race” but cross the finish of this first one with a smile on your face. Consider yourself a race virgin. Make the first one special, there will be quickies in the future, this one should last. 🙂
8. Don’t get caught up in the comparison trap: This one is important! Please, please, please do not compare your time, or performance to someone else. Run your own race, and be very proud of what you are doing.
9. Use a heart rate monitor: If you are not going to use the run/walk plan as mentioned above, invest in a heart rate monitor. Many external factors will determine your heart rate, ex: weather and course layout, but typically you want to keep your heart rate anywhere from 140-170 (although this can vary from person to person as well). Why is it important to have one? Because you need to keep your heart rate at a place that can sustain the half marathon distance. Many times people train by pace per mile, but that’s a slippery slope because pace is different in every person. For more information on heart rate training, and other great running tips, check out this site: Miss Zippy.
10. Have a support person: If it’s possible, have a loved one or friend come with you to support you along the course. There may be some physically and mentally difficult moments along those 13.1 miles, and there is nothing more uplifting than seeing someone who’s got your back, who believe’s in you, and who knows how hard you’ve worked to achieve this goal. For some tips on supporting a runner during a race, look HERE.
A great first race is one that is geared towards new runners and has a lengthy course limit, such as the Rock ‘n’ Roll series HERE.
For more running inspiration follow my “Running Dreams” board–
This was part of a paid campaign with FitFluential LLC and Women’s Running Series, all opinions are my own.
This post contains an affiliate link.
If you’ve already run your first and now you’d like to sign up for another, read this post