10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Running My First Half Marathon
This weekend, my sister Stefanie and I ran the Queen Bee Half Marathon in Cincinnati. She just turned 31, has given birth to two beautiful babies, and wanted a goal to work towards. Obviously, when the idea arose, I knew I couldn’t let her run alone.
This was my 7th half-marathon, and I have also crossed a full marathon off my bucket list. While I am finally starting to feel like a ‘runner’, I got to thinking of all the things I wish I knew before my first race 6 years ago. If seeing all these Fall runner posts is leaving you with FOMO, and you’re thinking about adding this to your bucket list, consider the following…
Have a goal, but be flexible. It’s great to have a set time as a motivator, however it’s important to understand that things will come up. You may get injured along your training, or get sick and have to skip a few long runs. Giving yourself at least 12 weeks to train will take some pressure off when life gets in the way.
Give yourself at least 12 weeks to train. Regardless of your fitness level, it is important to dedicate the time to training. I will admit I have run a few races now without training (FOMO got the best of me), and while I did OK, the races I trained for were much more enjoyable. I personally believe that training for the race is almost better than the race itself. This is the time to put in the work and push new limits, helping you prepare not just physically, but mentally, for race day.
Slowly bump up your mileage. I prefer to follow a training plan, such as Hal Higdon , but a good rule of thumb is to increase your mileage by 10 percent each week. Most plans program long runs on the weekend, but you can (and should) always adjust to what fits your schedule. My sister works crazy hours and has kids, so we worked around this to ensure she was able to fit in most all the long runs. I also had to adjust due to my teaching schedule. If you are a fitness instructor, consider your current class schedule. Are there formats you can coach vs actually do the workout? You will need to prioritize your runs as well as recovery. It is easy to get burnt out mentally and injured physically, if you overtrain.
Don’t skip your long runs. The shorter runs during the week will help to build your endurance, while the long runs help you truly prep for race day. You are able to work out all the kinks with nutrition, and just get used to running for a longer distance. When training for a half, it is OKAY to not get up to the full 13.1 until actual race day. Most novice programs build you up to 9 or 10 miles, so trust that adrenaline will help push you through! You may get bored, so be sure to switch up your routes, pick a new playlist, listen to an audio book, or dive in to a new podcast. I sometimes just enjoy the rare silence, using the time to mentally decompress or day dream.
Cross training and lifting is still important! Only doing one mode of exercise (running) for 3 months will leave you weak in other areas, and burnt out in all. If there’s a day during the week where you were supposed to run 3 miles, but would really rather Turbo Kick (who me?), then go for it!! I usually try to lift weights or take a class 2-3 days throughout the week. Strength training can also help to build/maintain lean muscle to make you a stronger, more efficient runner.
6. Talk to experts. If you are having trouble with managing your nutrition, talk to me! Likewise, if you are having pain in your feet or need certain shoes, go check out your local running store. Success leaves a trail, so remember, you aren’t the first person to run a half marathon. I have had some good and bad races due to the food I put (or failed to put) in my body, so I wish I had the sports nutrition knowledge I do now. I also currently have shin splints for being stubborn and not getting new shoes before this past race! Don’t be stubborn! Ask for help.
7. Forget your time on race day. Trust yourself and the hours you put in. It is hard to track your exact time due to the placement of chips, various corals, etc, so don’t stress about it. You will want to SPRINT right away because you are so hype, but DON’T!! Keep your pace, and save this adrenaline for miles 7-9, when others start to tank. You can then bump up your pace (if you want) to finish strong. Enjoy the sights, encouragement from others, and playlist if you choose.
8. Take the water breaks. It helps you SO much to avoid dehydration, and the reality is, it won’t really affect your time in the long run. I like to alternate gatorade and water, and take a supplement like gu or sports beans around mile 9. Most races will hang this out for free, BUT only take it if you trained with it. I have also made this mistake, leaving my bowels wanting to run their own sort of race if ya know what I mean. The electrolytes and carbohydrates from the gatorade will help, however be careful if you are not used to this, as the sugars may be too much on your GI system! I love my *Flipbelt and *water bottles that fit right in it. It is light weight and hands free. I tried SO many belts - this is the only one that didn’t hurt my back and didn’t look totally dorky.
9. Chafing is a real thing. So are bloody toenails. Practice running in the same outfit and shoes before race day. I tend to chafe under my sports bra line and inner thighs, so using a special *chafing stick or just deodorant helps this. Guys are also known to get bloody nipples from chafing. Lovely, right?
10. Celebrate your success. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by friends and family who get that fitness is important to me. They see that it is more than just running a race, and it is something to be freaking proud of! Nothing worse than crossing the finish line to take a selfie, give yourself a pat on the back, and drive yourself home to take a nap. If your people don’t ‘get you’, don’t be afraid to ask that they come support you along the way. Go out to eat at your favorite restaurant after, and plan some TLC for the next day. I make sure I allow myself time to nap and chill the rest of the day. I also plan some restorative workouts for the following week such as yoga, foam rolling, easy bike rides, and more sleep.
If you’re considering running your first race, I would love to know which one! Check out my instagram where I shared the journey of training for this past race with my sister. If you enjoyed this article, be sure to share with a friend!
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