7 Helpful Tips for Running Your First Half Marathon

A group of people running a marathon together

by JP Slater

Running your first half marathon can be a life-changing event. Sometimes the experience can make you never want to relive that pain again, but, like most of us, it makes you hungry for more. Running is one of the most natural things a human can do, even though a lot of the time it feels like quite the opposite!

A woman running outside

With that being said, when the time comes for you to embark on the journey of running your first half marathon, there are a few things to keep in mind to make your experience a good one and one that leaves you wanting to run many more (or even a full marathon)! So check out the follwing tips that will definitely help you with succeeding in your first half marathon:

Tip #1: Make a plan!

Making a plan leading into your first half marathon can greatly increase your performance as well as your overall experience. Don’t forget, running takes time. Unless you are one of the few people who can run as if they are a gazelle effortlessly trotting down the trail, you are going to need a couple weeks of training before you can jump into any half marathon. Pick a race a couple weeks away and develop a training plan. This will help you focus on training one day at a time and get you closer and closer to your goals come race day.

Tip #2: Find training buddies!

Misery loves company! Getting into running shape isn’t always the easiest task but if you can find a partner or group to help you in your journey, you are one step closer to being your best come race day. Having a running partner can help you to visualize breaking the tape of your first half marathon. But more importantly, they can be the ones to help you get out the door on those days where you might not be feeling up to it! Having someone else to hold you accountable for the days where you just might not feel like going for a run will help you stick to your plan and allow you to be that much more prepared when the big day comes around.

A group of people starting at a marathon

Tip #3: Practice your race pace!

Learning your “race pace” is a huge factor in ensuring that you are not completely gassed halfway through your first half. Practicing your race pace once or twice a week during workouts can help you become comfortable at the pace you are going to be chipping away at during your first half marathon. A way to maximize the fun of practicing race pace is by joining in on a local 5k or 10k on the weekend. This is a great way to add some excitement to your workouts, as well as allowing you to learn how to run your pace while other competitors are around. One of the biggest mistakes people make in a half marathon is getting so caught up in all the fun! Too often you see people spend all their energy in the first few miles, leaving them dragging behind in those final, crucial miles. Practicing your ideal pace the weeks leading up to your big race can help you to be the one leaving everyone behind on race day!

Tip #4: Practice race day fueling!

Running a half marathon puts a lot of stress on your body and knowing how to fuel yourself mid race can make the difference between a bad race and a personal best. Mid race fueling can help keep you from shutting down in the later miles of racing. During your training make sure you are practicing different types of hydration and fueling efforts. Practicing during your longer runs and workouts can help you find what fueling sits well in your stomach while still working out. Along with mid race fueling, pre-race and post-race fueling is also very important. Find meals that you know you can digest and allow for you to optimize performance and minimize bathroom visits (which will most definitely make your half marathon experience a little less fun!)

Tip #5: Long run!

One mistake most people make is not getting the proper mileage under their legs before a big race. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope a bit. Though recovery is important, so is making sure your body knows what it is about to endure! A half marathon is not your casual Saturday jog. A weekly long run will help you optimize race day performance and help you not break down in the final miles of your half marathon. Each week you can get a little longer in your long run and spend a little more time on your feet getting stronger and stronger with each mile run!

A man running outside

Tip #6: Recover!

One of the biggest things that can happen once you get the half marathon bug is wanting to make sure you are fit enough to do your best on race day! With that being said, we can sometimes get too fixated on working our hardest every day to make sure we are ready to leave all the others in the dust. Unfortunately, without the proper recovery, all that hard work could end up being for nothing. If your body isn’t getting the proper recovery, you open yourself up to injury and an entire world of running related problems! Allowing yourself some down time and easy days won’t make you any less fit but will actually help you get faster! With a proper training plan, taking easy days will allow your body to recover and allow for all your hard work to physically set in. Proper recovery gets you one step closer to optimal race day performance!

Tip #7: Trust your training!

And on to the last step, trust your abilities! One of the biggest deterrents for people running their first half is that they simply can’t do it. Pre-race anxiety or last minute second thoughts are totally normal! Even the best runners in the world experience this sensation! Have confidence and know that all the training you put in has left you more than ready! Just always remember you are out there to run for you, to see what you can do, and to have fun while doing it! Running is a process that is equally liberating and intimidating, but it is all worth it when you cross the finish line of your first half knowing that you did your best. Whether it leaves you wanting more or makes you never want to run again, embrace the process and have fun with it! Because that’s what it’s all about anyways, right? Having the time of your life and moving one foot in front of the other!

About JP:

JP Slater

JP Slater was born and raised in Los Angeles, Ca. He attended UC Berkeley, where he was the captain of the Cross Country and Track and Field teams. JP has the third fastest 10,000-meter time in Berkeley school history. After finishing school in 2014, he started racing professionally. JP has been involved in competitive running for over 10 years and will continue to race on the elite scene for as long as he can stay competitive. Slater says: “I’m super into eating healthy and living a healthy active lifestyle.”

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