Running Your First Half Marathon
So you signed up for your first half marathon? Congratulations! You probably feel very excited and nervous at the same time. Okay…maybe just nervous!
But I have good news…you can do this! If you put in the time to train and have the discipline to prepare properly, you will be well-prepared to cross the finish line at your first half marathon!
There is no doubt that running a half marathon is an amazing accomplishment. It takes strength, determination, discipline, and perseverance.
This process will transform you. It will challenge you and help you to learn new things about yourself. The most exciting thing is training for your first half marathon will make you learn what you’re capable of. And that might be a lot more than you thought.
After running many half marathons myself, I wanted to share some of the biggest pieces of advice that I have learned along the way.
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Begin to Prepare Well in Advance
Running 13.1 miles is not a simple feat, but it’s not impossible. It can be a highly achievable goal if you prepare.
Preparing means following a structured training plan to help you build up your endurance in preparation for the race. You will want to make sure you build up an aerobic running base and then begin to add distance to your training.
The amount of time needed to train will depend on how much running experience you currently have.
If you are unsure how much time you will need, you can consult with a running coach to get some guidance.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of time so that you are well prepared with the big race day comes!
Build up Endurance Slowly
As you begin to train for your first half marathon and follow your training plan, you must build up endurance slowly.
It can be tempting to go out and run really far when you are highly motivated. But you want to be strategic about how much mileage you are adding each week.
The general rule of thumb is that you should not add more than 10% of distance per week. Otherwise, you put yourself at serious risk of injury.
Build your mileage up slowly, and it will pay off in the long-run.
Prioritize Distance over Speed
When you are running your first half marathon, the most important thing to focus on in your training is distance. Remember, this is your first time running 13.1 miles.
All of your efforts should be focused on safely training your body to run that distance. Trying to “get faster” while also trying to build up your mileage is a bit tricky, and in this case, it’s best to prioritize getting your body prepared for the distance.
Learn to Fuel Properly
A half marathon is a long enough distance that you will want to consider how to fuel properly. Fueling preferences vary from person to person, but as an RRCA Certified Running Coach, there are a few basic principles that I recommend.
On the nights before your long runs, eat a carbohydrate-rich dinner.
About 30-45 minutes before your long run, you should eat a snack that is low in fat and rich in carbs. A few examples could be half a bagel, half a banana, a handful of pretzels, a piece of toast, etc.
The most important thing is that you eat familiar foods that you can tolerate. It might take a little trial and error to learn what works best for you.
When you are exercising over 90 minutes, you will also need some additional carbs during your run. My favorite way to do this is to carry an energy gel with me and eat it around mile 7 or 8.
Learn to Hydrate Properly
In addition to fueling, you will need to learn how to hydrate properly so that your body is well-prepared for your first half marathon.
It is important that you make sure you are properly hydrated without over-hydrating yourself (which can also happen).
You should drink 10-16 ounces of fluid 1-2 hours before you begin exercising and another 4-8 ounces right before you begin.
During your runs, you should plan to drink 4-8 ounces of water or sports every 15-20 minutes. For long runs, I recommend drinking more sports drink so that you can get the electrolytes.
I personally like to wear a hydration belt when I am doing my long training runs or running a half marathon. This hydration belt has 2 bottles and a center pouch. I usually fill one bottle with water and one bottle with a sports drink, and I store my sports gel in the center pouch.
The most important thing is to practice what you are going to do on race day in advance. Everyone’s body will work differently. You should experiment and find out what works best for you during training, not on race day!!
Learn to Manage Chafing
Chafing is something that you may have the delight of experiencing for the first time as you train for your first half marathon! This was something that I learned about the hard way.
Chafing is caused by rubbing on your skin that happens when you run for long periods of time.
A few tips to prevent chafing:
- Avoid cotton like the plague! Use moisture-wicking run clothing that is made specifically for running. Avoid cotton at all costs.
- Invest in some Body Glide. Once you learn which spots you experience chafing, you can use body glide in those spots to prevent chafing during your future runs. Apply it generously before long runs and reapply as needed.
- Practice running in your race day outfit in advance to make sure it doesn’t cause any chafing issues. Similar to the fuel/hydration advice, you don’t want to try something brand new on race day and have a surprise! I learned this the hard way at the end of my first marathon when my armpits were bleeding.
Prepare to Be Transformed
There is no doubt about it – running a half marathon will transform you! You can expect to be a different person when you cross the finish line for the first time!
In the process of training for and running your first half marathon, you will learn so much about yourself. You will learn what motivates you. You will learn how to navigate through setbacks. And you will learn what you are capable of.
When you cross the finish line, you will experience a sense of accomplishment unlike anything else.
Because you just ran a half marathon!