Hello friends, welcome here!
Yayayayayay! So, you have decided to run your first half marathon (or you are *thinking* of running your first half marathon). That is super exciting! This past February, I ran my first half marathon and fell in love with the distance. I want to run another one in the near future as well as a full marathon – which is something I thought I would n e v e r say, but here I am. Throughout my half marathon and running journey, I have learned a few things that may help you on yours:
You’ll feel all the feelings.
“Running is a mental sport.” You have probably heard that before, but maybe have not felt that before – but you probably will during your half marathon journey. When you get to the point where your long runs are 1.5 – 2 hours long, that’s a lot of time to spend with yourself and to think and feel all the thoughts, not to mention how you are physically feeling. Know this: You are stronger than you imagine and can crush the distance. For me, it helped to have a stellar playlist and a mantra (“It doesn’t get harder than this”) for when the going got tough.
Wear gear you are familiar with.
A good rule for race day in general: Try nothing new. Nothing. If you did not get a chance to test it on a long run, race day is not the day. Over the course of training, I bought a pair of leggings I was sure I was going to wear on race day. Spoiler, I didn’t. When I tested them on a long run, the adjustable elastic band rubbed me raw. That would not have been fun on race day. Wear the gear you plan to wear on race day for at least one long run to make sure there will be no surprises at your half marathon!
Invest in a good pair of shoes!
When I worked at Panera Bread my manager gave me the best piece of advice that I may have received from anyone, ever: Take care of your feet because they take care of you. Sure, they were not talking about running shoes, but same thing applies. I am a firm believer injury prevention starts with your feet. If the shoes you are running in do not support your feet, your stride, your build, you could easily be running yourself into an injury because unnecessary strain is being put on your muscles. I personally love my HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 6 road shoes (although, the next pair I am planning to get is the HOKA ONE ONE Mach 2 for a more responsive ride). The best way to find shoes best suited for you is to go to your local running store – they will hook you up!
Eat tried and true nutrition.
Just like race day is not the day to wear something new, it is not the day to eat something new. I would even say the day before the race is not the day to be adventurous. There is a lot going on race day, stomach problems would be a way to put a real damper on the day you worked so hard for! Eat things you know your body likes and fuel it well. The day before the race, my friends and I had a potluck at my house full of nutritious foods versus joining the local running club for pizza. Morning of, I had a plain bagel, peanut butter, and a banana about an hour before go time, and I felt good the entire race!
Get your nutrition mid-run down to a science.
This is probably the hardest part of running long distance. A little science for you: After 45 minutes, your body will have used up all of its glycogen stores. So, you need to refuel to keep your body happy and full of energy (and to prevent injury, of course). Gu and other gels do not work for me. I have had great success with chews and bars mid run. During your training runs, find a refueling method that works for you and make sure you have it with you on race day. It is likely the race you are running will have nutrition available at aid stations but I would be cautious of trying anything new on race day, including gels and chews, as mentioned above!
A half marathon is over a hundred miles.
You read that right. Somewhere I read a quote along the lines of, “A marathon is hundreds of miles, the finish is the last 26.2.” So. True. Over the course of training for my half marathon, I ran well over 100 miles. It is SO easy to fixate on race day and running the distance, but don’t forget all the dedicated work that you did to get there. You are literally amazing.
You’ll go out the gate 10x faster than you think you will.
My first mile running my first half marathon was in the 7:00s. I barely run 7:00s now, let alone back when I ran my first half marathon. My second mile was in the 9:00s which was spot on with how I had been training. I do not feel like running the first mile so hot hurt me later in the race, but I had also incorporated regular speed work into my training, so my body was used to what I was asking it to do, but it is something to be aware of or sure. There is a lot of energy and nerves at the starting line. Slow down. Enjoy the moment. Celebrate every mile.
Speaking of training, have a plan.
There are so many half marathon training plans out there – find one that works for you! My friends had run a half marathon before, so they were using a higher mileage plan than I was. Even still, I was able to smush together two plans to create a training schedule that worked for me and kept me running with them. The most important thing is to find a plan that is realistic for you and that you will follow. I am not a believer in the race day miracle. You get in what you put out, and again proper training will prevent injury! There are a few things you will want to look for in a training plan: A long run, cross training, mid-distance runs, and bonus: strength training. I’ve linked the plan I followed here – I will 100% use it again in the future myself.
Have a way to track your runs.
I would highly recommend having a way to track your runs! It is so helpful to be able to look back at your run and compare how you felt to the data. It might help you realize you need to add or subtract something from your training. Before getting my Garmin 235, I used the Nike+ Run Club app. I loved it. It gave me a ton of insights about my run for free. Of course now, I am head over heels in love with my 235 (review coming soon) I couldn’t imagine life without it! It gives me insights not only about my runs but my life that are extremely helpful!
Stretch, stretch, stretch. Recover well.
Seriously, do not skimp on the stretching. If you only have an hour to run before moving on to your next something, do not run for that full hour. In my opinion, it would be better to run for 50 minutes and stretch for 10. If that means you only get 5 or 5.5 miles versus say 6 in during that hour – wonderful! You did the work and are probably making sure you can continue to do the work in the future. Take days off as you need them. Drink plenty of water. Eat enough calories. Recovery is everything.
Running a half marathon is such an amazing accomplishment. It made me feel strong and redefined the way that I think about myself. I knew I could do it on race day because I had put in the work for months leading up to race day. There is something so magical about having a goal, working towards it, and seeing it through, especially if you are lucky enough to do it alongside your friends.
Let me know if you have any half marathon tips or questions in the comments below! Until next time!
Love, love, love ❤ Cyndel