If you are planning on running your first half-marathon this year, congrats! Hopefully you are excited for what is to come. If you are like I was before my first half you may be feeling a little bit lost. The good news is there are plenty of resources available to support you in your journey! As you are getting started with your training there are some things you need to know so you don’t make the same mistakes I did before my first half. Make sure to read on to find out 7 things you need to know before running your first half-marathon!
7 Things You Need To Know Before Running Your First Half-Marathon
Before I start sharing some of the things you need to know, let me take a minute to tell you about my first experience running a half-marathon. It was 2007 and I had never done a race before. I trained and ran on my own, with the guidance of nothing other than Runners’ World magazine.
My training went ok, but I ran all my runs at the same moderate pace and just increased my long run each week. I didn’t know anything about fueling and therefore didn’t take any fuel in training or during the actual race. On race day I ended up in a porta potty line as the gun went off and started the race late (which was ok since it was chip-timed, but not ideal!). The race went ok until mile 10, when I realized I had never run that far before and it was getting hard. I pushed through and managed to finish, but there was no one there to celebrate with me at the end. Oh, and I should also mention that I wore the race shirt that day- but luckily it didn’t cause any problems!
I made alot of mistakes while running my first half-marathon, but luckily it worked out ok. It could have gone terribly wrong. Let’s talk about what would have been helpful to know before my first half!
The right gear matters
For a half-marathon, it’s usually not a good idea to wear the race shirt on race day unless you have a chance to practice running in it first. Most of the time you get your race shirt the day before the race so running in it isn’t practical. Instead, buy a few good pieces of running clothes and wear them for your training runs. Learn what works the best so you can plan to use those on race day. Same goes for shoes. Find one good pair and make sure they will last through your race. (Most will last for about 300-500 miles). The last thing you want to deal with on race day is blisters and chafing!
Training plans work
My approach to training was not ideal and could had led to injuries or not feeling confident enough to finish the race. I don’t recommend setting a time goal for your first half (just finish and have fun!) but it’s important to have a realistic idea of what your pace should be. A training plan can help you make sure you are running easy enough to get through all the miles. Most plans for beginners will include about 4 days of running with rest or cross-training on the other days. If you are running 4 days a week you want to spread them out and not do all the runs back to back so you have time to recover. Following a good training plan, or working with a coach, will help you get to the start line feeling healthy and confident.
Fueling properly is important
When you are running 13.1 miles you need to take fuel. Most runners will take at least 1.5 hours to cover the distance (and for beginners it’s usually at least 2 hours, or longer). Your body needs carbs during this time to run well and fueling is something that should be practiced in training. When doing your long runs you should take fuel on runs that are 80-90 minutes or longer. It can take some trial-and-error to figure out a fueling plan that works for you, but there are many resources available to guide you.
Slow and steady wins the race
Most runners do not need to set a time goal when running their first half-marathon. Slowing down, especially during training runs, will probably make the experience more enjoyable. When you keep your easy runs easy you are able to build up your endurance so you can run for the amount of time required to cover 13.1 miles. You are also less likely to get injured following this approach. As you become more experienced with racing half-marathons you can add in speedwork and work towards a time goal.
You can also consider trying out the run walk method!
Practice makes (almost) perfect
As you approach race day it can be helpful to practice things like what you will wear, what you will eat/drink, etc. It can also be a good idea to sign up for a shorter race during your training cycle so you are familiar with the race atmosphere. It can be intimidating to show up for your first half-marathon if you’ve never done any race before.
Support teams are for every runner
There are many ways to get support when preparing to run your first marathon. You can find a running group to train with, or recruit some friends/family members to train with you. Another option is to work with professionals, like a physical therapist, running coach, and/or registered dietician, depending on your needs. All these people can help support you as you prepare for your race. Here are more ideas for building your running support team.
You only get one first half-marathon
Most importantly, remember to have fun and enjoy the experience! You only get one first half-marathon, so make the best of it! Try not to put too much pressure on yourself and remember that finishing is winning.
If you are an experienced half-marathoner, what do you wish you knew before your first race?
What do you think is the hardest part of running your first half-marathon?
Now it’s time for the Runners’ Roundup! Link up your running and fitness posts below! Join myself, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs , and Laura Norris Running to post your favorite running tips, experiences, race and training recaps, workouts, gear, and coaching ideas.