My first half-marathon was a race that I had walked for three years in a row before I decided to run it. It was the Indy 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, which is the largest half-marathon in the country, and third largest in the world (source). I didn't have a time goal in mind, but I really wanted to truly enjoy the entire race--and I think that made all the difference in how great of a race I had!
I've now completed 11 half-marathons, so it's no longer an intimidating distance for me. My favorite distance is still the 10K, but half-marathon is a close second. It's long enough that you have to train for it, but not so long that the training consumes your life (like a marathon does). Anyway, I hope these tips will be helpful! Feel free to share your own tips in the comments.
A couple of other posts that may be helpful are:
A guide to "running lingo"
50 running tips
*I do not recommend a half-marathon as your first race. I'd start with a 5K, move to a 10K, and once you get at least a couple of races under your belt, then think about the half. I think if you've finished a 10K, you're running regularly, and have the discipline to stick to a training plan, you're probably ready to tackle the half-marathon!
*Choose a training plan based on your goal. If your goal is just to finish, feeling strong, find a plan that doesn't focus on a bunch of speed work. I always recommend Hal Higdon's Novice plan--it includes four runs per week, without speed work. I don't recommend having a time goal for your first, because it adds a lot of unnecessary stress in what should be an enjoyable race.
*If you DO decide to have a time goal, at least make it a realistic one. I love this pace calculator. You can input a recent 5K or 10K time, and it will give you a prediction for a half-marathon time. That is also a realistic goal.
*Pick a race that works well with your goal. If you're a slower runner, or a walker, you'll probably want to choose a race that has a lot of people in your pace range. You can check the website to see if there is a time limit on the course, and then check out the previous year's results online to see where you fall. Just for reference, the winners of a half-marathon will usually finish just over an hour; and a common time limit for a half is 4 hours (18:19/mi). So in general, you'll be finishing somewhere in there ;) (Fun fact: In 2012, the median finish time for males was 2:01:28, and 2:19:47 for females. Source)
*Announce on Facebook, and all your social media sites, that you've registered for your first half-marathon. Telling the world makes you much more likely to stick with the training ;)
*Don't slack on your training! While some people can manage to complete a 5K or 10K with little to no training, the half-marathon distance is definitely tougher--even if you plan on walking it. When I walked my first, I didn't train at all, and I paid the price for that (I had to wear a walking cast for a few weeks because I had bad tendonitis). You should get in a long run of 10 or more miles about two weeks out from the race.
|Walking my first half-marathon|
*On a related note, if you DO happen to miss a run for a very good reason, don't worry about making it up. Just start where you left off.
*Practice your fueling plan during your long runs. When you run for 13.1 miles, you're going to on the course for roughly 2-3 hours--and you're going to need something to help give you the energy to keep going. During training, you can experiment with gels, chews, sports drinks, etc. to find out what works for YOU. This is one area that truly is unique to each individual. Your training partner may do great with gels, but they might make you nauseous. Or vice versa. Try out all different types of fuel during your training runs to find out what agrees with YOUR body. In general, I'd aim to take in 1-2 gels, or 3-6 ShotBloks (or equivalent) for a two-hour half-marathon (maybe miles 5 & 10?). An additional gel for three hours.
*Check out the race website to see where the water stations are, and practice taking in your fuel at those points during your training runs.
*Make a mental plan about what you're going to do at the fuel stations. Personally, I walk through the stations and drink at each and every single one (unless I'm doing a 5K or 10K). It's important to hydrate early on, before your body gets upset that you're running for so long. And yes, walking through the water stations still "counts" as running a half-marathon ;)
*If possible, find a training partner to prepare for the race with. Running with a partner really helps the long mileage fly by!
|Jessica was my training partner for my first full marathon, and it helped a LOT!|
|Partners that run together, treat themselves to fro-yo together!|
*Check out the course, and try to mimic the terrain if possible. If there are tons of hills, then you'll obviously want to include a lot of hills in your long runs. If it's a trail run, then you'll want to run on trails.
*If your shoes accumulate more than 300-450 miles, you may want to swap them out for a new pair. My shoes have to retire at 350 miles, not a single mile later! I learned this the hard way ;)
*Running your first half-marathon is a really big deal, so make sure you treat it like one! Let your family and friends know how much it means to you, and if you want them there, just ask. Non-runners usually have a hard time understanding how important a race is, and it's not personal. Just tell them what you're hoping to get from them--cheers, posters, whatever floats your boat.
*Like always, don't go out too fast when you're at the race. Chances are, you'll be feeling great, and with the spectators and other runners around, you'll want to push the pace a little. But that almost always will come back to bite you later. Start out very conservatively, and if you're still feeling great at the 10 mile mark, push the last 5K.
*Some half-marathons have "pacers", which are people who are assigned to finish the race at a particular time. They'll carry a sign that reads the projected finish time, so you know who they are. If you're afraid of going out too fast, or if you want to finish in a particular time, you can always choose to stick with a pacer to help with your goal.
*This is an obvious tip, but make sure you go to the bathroom before the race! The porta potty lines are long, so allow enough time.
*Don't worry about stopping your Garmin, or other sports watch, right as you cross the finish line. There will likely be a photographer taking photos of you, so smile big and forget about your watch until you are well across the line. You want great race photos ;)
|What NOT to do when you cross the finish line!|
|A perfect finish line photo ;)|
*Be prepared to be sore for a day or two after the race. Once your legs are accustomed to doing that distance, it won't be so bad; but after your first half-marathon, you'll likely be pretty sore! Plan on taking a week off of running to recuperate.
|You may need help putting on pants (be careful not to spill|
your celebratory beer).