In August 2014 I had a problem. My 5K times were slowly getting worse and I was struggling to make it through a race without stopping and walking. I felt like something was wrong. I was running races in 30 or 31 minutes when in that year my best race ever was a 28:54. To most runners that might not seem fast but I had only been running for a little over two years. I thought I was content to be running 5Ks.

After talking to one of my friends who is also an avid runner, she thought that maybe I was just getting bored of doing 5Ks. Perhaps I needed more of a challenge. The whole idea scared me. Running three miles was hard enough for me, how could I run more than that? With encouragement from her, I signed up for my first five-mile race. Eventually, this led to signing up for and training for my first ever half marathon.

5 Tips for Training for Your First Half Marathon

Now, I’ve run in five half marathons in three different states and will begin training for my first full marathon early next year. Here are some tips that I have found to be helpful during the training process., especially if you are training for your first ever half marathon.

1. Set a date for your race.

Setting the date makes your goal of running a half marathon more concrete and something you will be more motivated to be working towards. With the attitude of “I’ll run it when I feel ready”, I promise, you’ll never feel ready. If there is a particular race you want to do, that is always helpful. Sign up for it ASAP before you change your mind! No specific race you’re interested in? Search for some around the date or month you want to reach your goal by. Ask friends and others in your running community for suggestions.

2. Find a training plan that fits.

Need help getting started? Check out Runkeeper’s training plans to take you from a 0k runner to an “any k” runner. These day-by-day workouts give instructions and motivation on what to do and how to do it. The prescribed workouts feature that comes with Runkeeper Go are even customizable, as they take into consideration your running level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) as well as how many days per week you would like to run. There’s a plan for everyone!

3. Find your tunes.

You’re going to be running for approximately 2 hours (maybe a little more) by the end of your training. Good music to take your mind off of how you may be feeling during the race is essential. I definitely give credit to any runner who can go that long without something to entertain them. Make sure your playlist is upbeat and long enough for your run. If you have wireless headphones, make sure they are charged for your race so you don’t lose power.

Try this: During training for my third half marathon, I had started listening to audiobooks. Definite game changer. There are plenty of apps out there that allow you to listen to books for free. I enjoy anything with a little adventure. Harry Potter or Percy Jackson are my go-tos right now. I’ve also heard that listening to podcasts can be pretty great during long runs too.

4. Remember, you’ve never done this before.

You may have days where the workout seems impossible and you start to lose confidence. Just remember, this is your first shot at this (and hopefully not your only shot). You’re going to have days where running is a breeze and you can’t wait to get on the road or trail and you feel like you’re running like the wind. There’s going to be other days when you just can’t get moving or a run doesn’t feel like it normally does. Everyone has these days. The best part about running is that the more you do it, the easier it gets.

5. Celebrate your successes.

Even the little ones. You cut 30 seconds off of your five-mile training run? Awesome! Way to go! You were able to run a whole three miles without stopping? Go you! You managed to get up early three days this week to run? Fantastic! You ran a new route that was really hilly and you didn’t give up? That’s what it’s all about! Look for a positive in every run, even if you feel like it doesn’t deserve it. Every run is one step (and day) closer to your big moment.

5 Tips for Training for Your First Half Marathon