How to Run a Half Marathon

Running my first half marathon was one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life, and definitely the most rewarding in terms of fitness. I won’t tell you it was easy..

..that would be a load of crap.

Running a half marathon is a daunting task, and it’s not one to be taken lightly! While it is in no means as difficult as a full marathon, you are still pushing your body to a pretty serious limit when you decide to run 13.1 miles. I’m here to tell you everything you need to know about running your first half marathon!

How to Run a Half Marathon

  • Commit to the distance. You’re about to sign up to run 13.1 miles, a huge commitment! Make sure that you have time in your schedule to train, as you’ll be dedicating quite a bit of time to running, especially as you draw near to race day. Just remember, you CAN do it!! Trust me, if I can do it, you can. There was a time in my life when I couldn’t run 1/4 of a mile without stopping to walk. A half marathon is totally doable for a healthy person if you are willing to make the commitment!

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  • Pick a race. I love runningintheusa.com. This site is how I find all of my races! You can filter your search by state, city, distance, month, etc. It’s fairly simple to use, and it almost always has the link to the race website (or active.com) so that you can register.
  • Find a training program. I used Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 program to train for my first half marathon. It worked well for me, and I will likely use it again when I start training in the fall. If you feel like going for the run/walk method, I recommend Jeff Galloway (although I can’t personally vouch for the training plan). If neither of these work for you, you can always find one on Pinterest. The most important thing to remember is that you have to find a plan that works for YOU! Hal Higdon’s worked for me because it only required 4 days of running per week, and I needed to keep my mileage fairly low due to shin splints. There are programs out there that can get you to a half marathon quickly or slowly, running or walking, etc. Do what works for you!
  • Invest in a good pair of running shoes. This is so, so crucial. Shoes matter, people! You’ll be putting in hundreds of miles during training, so your feet are sure to take a beating. I wear these Mizuno’s, but again, you have to do what is best for you. I highly recommend going to a running specialty shop and getting fitted. Those people know what they’re doing, and they will analyze your running and your feet to find you the best shoe possible. It may be a little pricey, but it’s worth the money!

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  • Find fuel that works for you. It’s recommended that you fuel during any workout that lasts over an hour. That means that as you advance in your training, you’re going to need something to keep you going during your longer runs. I use Clif Shot Bloks or Gu Chomps, usually whatever is on sale. There are also plenty of gels out there, but I’ve heard that a lot of people can’t get them down due to their texture. Also, many people swear by candy! I’ve heard that gummy bears and sweedish fish work great! Keep in mind that it may be difficult for you to eat while you’re running, but it’s worth it once you get used to it. You’re body needs carbohydrates to fuel it through a long distance!

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  • Stick with your training. While it’s an obvious fact that life happens, try your best to stick with your training plan! I know that by the end you may be sick of so much running, but just think about how awesome it will feel to finish that half marathon! If something has to give, give up the shorter run rather than the longer one. The long runs are the ones that will really help you during your half marathon. Also, feel free to rearrange the training plan to fit your schedule. If you’ll be busy on Sunday but free on Wednesday, do your long run on Wednesday! It’s in your hands- make it work for you.
  • Be prepared. Go to the race expo to pick up your packet if you can; it’s a lot less stressful than picking it up the morning of the race. The night before the big day, lay out your race outfit. Don’t try anything new; stick to outfits and gear that you know and love. I know you’ll be nervous, but try to head to bed early! And make sure you hydrate well throughout the week leading to the race.

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  • The morning of: Wake up on time and try to eat some breakfast. If you’re anything like me, you’ll feel way too nervous to eat. You need food! I usually go for two pieces of toast with peanut butter at home, and I hope for bananas at the start (I recommend eating enough to not be hungry at the start; it’s not worth the risk of them not providing food). A lot of people eat oatmeal, others eat bars…again, it’s all about what works for you! Whatever it is, make sure that it’s a breakfast that your stomach has gotten used to over the past few weeks. Also, I recommend bringing someone with you to the race. Parking can be a mess, and you’ll already be nervous! Having someone drive you is a great way to get there, keep your mind busy, and prevent you from getting agitated. Plus, they can hold all your crap while you run 😉
  • JUST DO IT! When that horn goes off, remember that you’ve prepared for this! You’re totally ready to rock it. There are people who love and support you and cannot wait for you to succeed! Most of all, remember to believe in yourself!

Running a half marathon is such a wonderful and rewarding experience. I wish you the best of luck!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or a personal trainer, I simply speak from experience about what works for me. Running a half marathon is a serious task, and if you have any health problems, questions, or concerns, you should speak to a medical professional. Remember that YOU know your body’s limits better than anyone else. 

Have you ever done a half marathon?

What advice can you add to this list?

Feel free to play along in the comments! I would love to hear your tips and advice!

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2 thoughts on “How to Run a Half Marathon

  1. Great list! The advice that I would add is to cross-train, especially with strength and flexibility training. It will make running easier and help to prevent injuries. Beginning runners don’t always suffer overuse injuries, but it’s likely to happen at some point without some good cross-training.

    • You’re so right! I always seem to forget about strength work, even in my own half marathon training 😉 It looks like you had a cool Fourth of July weekend! Glad you had a good staycation 🙂

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