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Tips for Running Your First Half Marathon


I reached out on Instagram recently and asked my followers, “What is your favorite distance to run?”

The majority responded with the half marathon distance. The half marathon is my favorite distance to run too! It’s the perfect combination of speed and endurance. Compared to the marathon, the recovery isn’t as long and the race is over pretty quick so that you can still go about the rest of your day!

My first half marathon was back in October 2012- my friend Sarah and I trained for the Hartford Half together! That race really sparked my love for distance running. When I moved to California in 2014, I realized that I could run year round at the beach! Running quickly became my favorite form of exercise. I started signing up for more and more half marathons so that I would always have a goal in place.

I have ran a total of 17 half marathons now, some with a good training in place and others I’ve just gone in hoping that my race experience and fitness level would carry me through.

Anyways, let’s get into my top 8 tips for running your first half marathon:

  1. Follow a plan! For my first half marathon I followed Hal Hidgon’s novice guide. His plans are a great place to start to help structure your training. If you’re really looking for more 1:1 training, running coaches are great options as well! They help keep you accountable and will prevent you from over or under training. 
  2. Invest in a good pair of running shoes. Head to your local running store and get fitted. Ordering your favorite color of Nikes isn’t going to cut it as you increase your mileage during training.
  3. Don’t eat anything new the morning before the race! Stick with fuel that has worked for you throughout training. I can’t tell you how many questions I get asking if something is good to eat before a race, and I tell my them to try it out and they tell me their race is tomorrow. Practice different types of fuel during your training cycle so you know what your stomach can handle on race day. I have a whole separate blog post on running nutrition if you’re interested!
  4. Pace yourself- the biggest mistake I made in my first half (and sometimes I still continue to do this) is starting out fast! You want to start out slow. Try not to get distracted by all of the other runners sprinting by you. They’re going to hit a wall later on in the race and you’ll have energy saved up from starting at a slower pace. Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint!
  5. Bring a throw away shirt! It’s usually cold at the start of the race since they begin before 7am. Wear a shirt that you don’t really care about so that when you warm up a mile or so into the race you can take it off and throw it away! Stop by Walmart, Salvation Army, Target, wherever and buy a cheap top you don’t care about! I usually forget to buy a top the week fo the race and end up just wearing an old race shirt that I don’t care about!
  6. Give yourself plenty of time before the race! There have been a few times when I didn’t think I was going to make it to the race into because I left too late or parking was a nightmare. Leave with plenty of time to spare and make sure you figure out the parking situation the night before.You need to give yourself plenty of time to warm up before a race, just like you would before your long runs. If you’re interested here’s my dynamic warmup routine!
  7. Create time for mobility, maintenance, and strength training to help prevent risk of injuries! I could go on and on about this but adding in a proper strength training program along with maintenance work will prevent muscle imbalances and weaknesses by strengthening you for running!
  8. If you can, recruit a training partner! Find a friend to train with to help stay accountable! Running with friends for my first couple of marathons was my key to success! They pushed me to run harder than I would have pushed myself if I was running solo. It also made marathon training more fun!
  9. Make a kick ass playlist! Having a good running playlist always motivates me and gets me excited to run! You are very likely to feel pretty nervous before your first half, so having a good playlist will get you excited and ready to hit the race course!

I hope my half marathon training tips help!! Good luck to everyone running their first half this winter and spring! Happy Running!!