How to Run Your First Half Marathon

I remember the day before my first half marathon in 2012 vividly. I wanted to throw up, eat everything, and cry, all at the same time. So naturally, I turned to Google to ask the age-old question, “How the (insert expletive here) do you run a half marathon?” So I tumbled down a rabbit hole similar […]

I remember the day before my first half marathon in 2012 vividly. I wanted to throw up, eat everything, and cry, all at the same time. So naturally, I turned to Google to ask the age-old question, “How the (insert expletive here) do you run a half marathon?” So I tumbled down a rabbit hole similar to asking WebMD about the bruise on your shin and I walked away convinced that I wasn’t prepared for my race at all. Mile splits…um what? Moral of the story: I finished and I survived to tell the tale! So to anyone getting ready to tackle 13.1 terrifying miles, take a deep breathe! Here are 13 tips for running your first half marathon: 


Have FUN

It’s self explanatory! Embrace those pre-race jitters, the mid race panic and the post race bliss! Rule #1 of running any half marathon is to have fun!  

2. Go for a shakeout run.

Family Shakeout

The day before the race, go for a shakeout run. What’s a shakeout run? Basically you’re taking 20-25 minutes to shake out your nerves, doubts and limbs with an easy jog. (Yes, I said jog. Easy running!) Still feeling nervous? I’ve never completed a shakeout run and thought to myself, “I feel so ready”. Remember, you are ready and the day of the race, you be fine. (TIP: Getting ready to run a destination race? Try not to spend the entire rest of the day site seeing. Not. Worth. It. Put your feet up! Relax!)

3. Carbs, hydrate, repeat.

Drink water, lots of water. Eat carbs, lots of carbs. (OK so not all the carbs but enjoy that plate of pasta!) Resist the urge to drink alcohol with dinner (from experience…#TBT to Vermont City slow dehydration death). Fight the urge to over-indulge or try new foods  (again #TBT to Vermont City, Anoush + nachos = bad idea).

4. Curate the perfect race day playlist.

If you listen to music while you run, get your playlist ready to go. I used music for the first 4 half marathons I ran and LOVED it. Today, I run without music and LOVE it. It really depends on what you’re used to or what you prefer! If you do listen to music, try to sneak a few goofy songs onto your half marathon playlist that will pick you up and make you smile. I may or may not have had a little Frozen and Taylor Swift mixed into my solid Pitbull playlist.

5. Be prepared.    

Get as much sleep as possible and lay out your race day gear ahead of time. You will be nervous and you will be sleepy the morning of the race. You don’t want to end up at the start line in a bad pair of spandex. The chafing will be real, very real.

6. Make friends.    

First half

YOU MADE IT TO THE START LINE! Now it’s time to get pumped, stretch, and make friends. Trust me, the person next to you is just as nervous as you are or can offer you some insightful words of wisdom. If you’re not a talker, don’t worry about making friends! Avoid the talkers like me. I’M SORRY!

7. Don’t take off too fast.

The gun goes off, the speakers are blasting something inspirational and you want to sprint. DON’T. Remember there are 13.1 miles to run and you haven’t even gotten to mile 1. Be patient. Don’t take off too fast! 

8. Stay hydrated.   

Every so often you will get to hydration stops. Sports drink? Water? When and how do I refuel? Do some research beforehand and get familiar with the course. Are hydration stops every 2-3 miles or 5? Will it be hot or cold? Hydrating is personal and really depends on how you’ve trained and how you’re feeling on race day. Try to follow the tried and true rule, “Nothing new on race day”.

9. The halfway mark checkin.      

Okay, you’re halfway. You might be freaking out that you’re only halfway to the finish but you have to trust your training! You’re not just halfway there, you’re already halfway there. (The glass of sports drink is half full!) If you’re struggling, use the crowd support, your music or some tried and true running mantras. Feeling good? Pick it up a notch. 

10. Spectator strategy.   

Support crew

Strategically position your friends or family at specific point(s) on the course. My parents are world champion half marathon spectators. They plot out multiple spots along the course and one time even drove our mini van back and forth next to me on a highway. I’m sure that everyone running around me didn’t appreciate their support nearly as much as I did but seeing a familiar face gives you something to look forward to! I also give them gels as a backup if I really bonk.

11. The final 5K.

The 10 mile marker. This was the part of my first race that scared me the most. The furthest I’d run in training was 10 miles…now what!? Really rely on those running mantras and break the remaining distance into bite size manageable chunks.. I break the final 3 miles into half mile segments and then I run wild with the positive(ly crazy) self talk.

12. The picture perfect finish.

You have .1 left. Put your hands in the air, SMILE, and empty your tank as you sprint towards that finish line because YOU FINISHED LIKE A CHAMPION! But in all seriousness, if you are using a watch or Runkeeper, cross the finish line before stopping your time! Look up, smile, cry, cheer, do anything except look at the ground or at your watch. Get that picture perfect finish that will inevitably end up as a #TBT (throwback Thursday) humble brag for years to come.

13. The post race runner’s high.

You people are nuts

Say to yourself, “I will never do this again. You people are all sick.” And then immediately retract said statement when you ask your friends when you can do that again. (How about a marathon?!?)

13.1. Recover and refuel.


Besure to refuel with some protein and treat yo-self to some tasty food and maybe some chocolate milk. Stretch, ice, and apply heat. Your legs are going to be a little swollen and thats ok!

But most importantly, have fun! You worked your butt off to get here, so enjoy the glory, smile a lot, and be proud of yourself!