Crossing the finish line of your first half-marathon is a fulfilling experience. Running full speed as the crowd cheers, and the finish line gets closer, knowing that all your hard work is about to pay off…there’s nothing like it. Plus, you don’t only become a better running, but the benefits extend into your everyday life.
To set a goal of running 13.1 miles and then reaching that goal will not only build your confidence, but it will change your mindset. Now setting big goals and achieving them come much easier. Not to mention the laundry list of health benefits you will gain.
Building your endurance to the half marathon level is one of the greatest strengths a person can develop.
So whether the half-marathon is your end goal or a stepping stone to a full marathon, this guide will help show you the way.
Within this guide, you will receive tips steps for running your first half-marathon. You will also receive a beginner friendly training program to follow.
So…are you ready to run your first half-marathon?
Great! Let’s begin, starting with turning your thoughts into your reality.
1 – Make it a Goal
You can think of a near infinite amount of challenges you would like to accomplish. The fact is you can think all day, but unless you make your thought a goal…it will remain just that–a thought.
The key is to make your new challenge a goal. Make it an OFFICIAL goal. When you make a goal you fully commit yourself. By fully committing you will then hold yourself accountable and develop the discipline to see it through.
There’s a difference between being interested in running a half-marathon and committing yourself 100%. When you are interested it’s not a big deal to stop training because you were never fully committed. But when you make it a goal, and commit 100%, you will FOCUS entirely.
FOCUS is the key to accomplishing any goal. When you focus on a challenge, you give it all of your energy…not just some of it.
And remember–it will take a lot of energy to run your first half-marathon.
So make it a goal, commit yourself, and focus. You will then find it much easier to follow through on your training.
2 – Use Shoes That Work
Running shoes have the potential to help you or hurt you.
What do I mean exactly?
Well, when running long distances you need a shoe that supports your footstrike. Otherwise, the further you run the greater chance of pain and injury. It’s essential to determine if you have flat, neutral, or high arches and find a shoe to support it.
What’s the fastest and most reliable route to finding the best shoe for you?
Walk into your local running store and ask for help. They will look at your foot, have you stand on one foot, and provide you with a few shoe options to choose from.
Running with a shoe designed for your footstrike will not only prevent pain and injury, but it will build the foundation to exceptional endurance. It may even allow you to move up to the marathon distance.
3 – Sign Up For the Race
Goals will remain goals unless you take ACTION. To make your goal of running a half-marathon real, you must sign up for the race. Plus, as we all know, when you give a goal a deadline you are more likely to follow through.
Those who wait until last minute to finish something will know this best. Ever wait until the last minute to study or complete an assignment at school or work?
Whether it was due in 1 month or 1 week, you space the task out until the deadline. But in reality, if the task takes 4 hours of work, it only takes 4 hours of work.
The point is we are all prone to procrastinate. But the problem running and procrastination do not mesh well together. If you stop training, you will disrupt both your progress and momentum. Two critical components to finishing your training program.
Signing up for the race will eliminate excuses too. It’s the best step you can take to assure you start training immediately.
Ready to find a half-marathon to run?
Here’s the good news: signing up for a half-marathon is simple. There are plenty of registration websites online. Here’s a site you can use to get started
When searching through the different races, do yourself a favor, find one close to home. Save the traveling for another time. The day of your first half-marathon can be stressful. Don’t add any extra stress that traveling tends to create. Stress is a resistance that uses up energy. So save as much energy as possible for the race, not traveling to the race.
Also, I’d recommend staying away from races with high elevation. When reading the course description look for key phrases like “beginner friendly” or “great for your first half-marathon.” Trust me, you will thank yourself for it later.
4 – Find a Training Program
After signing up for the race, it’s time to begin training.
Since you are a half-marathon beginner, it’s critical to use a beginner friendly training program. Your body needs time to break down, adapt, and grow. Patience is the key to running long distances.
For your convenience, provided below is a novice half-marathon training program.
HALF-MARATHON TRAINING PROGRAM: NOVICE
5 – Take the First Step
Here’s the problem: for some, routines are hard to break. Think about it, if you’ve been sleeping until 8:00 am for the past 5 years your body is not going to like waking up a 6:30 am for a training run. So EXPECT discomfort.
You will soon realize training for your first half-marathon is not only a physical challenge, but it’s a mental one as well. You will face many mental obstacles during training and on race day. This is not a maybe…it’s a guarantee.
The beginning of a training program is typically the hardest. But after a few weeks, you begin to develop momentum and walking out the door to run becomes much more manageable. It may even become enjoyable.
So know that taking the first step to start your training program will be the hardest part. But once you are moving forward, it’s a matter of maintaining momentum and taking each run one day at a time. Remember–if running a half-marathon was easy everyone would do it.
So, don’t just expect discomfort…WELCOME it. Understand stress and discomfort is a part of the process and when you overcome it, you grow. It’s the key to building the mental strength you will need on race day.
6 – Take It Slow
There are two types of physical activity: aerobic and anaerobic.
Aerobic activity is when you train “with air.” When you run from an aerobic state, you should be able to hold a conversation.
Anaerobic activity is when you train “without air.” It’s when you run fast and lose your breath.
If you want to run your first half-marathon, it’s recommended to train at an aerobic state. Make sure you never entirely lose your breath.
Sure you can run fast and try to increase your pace. But when you lose your breath make to slow back down into an aerobic state. Pacing yourself will help build your foundation for endurance running. From here you can practice running faster.
Always remind yourself that you cannot build a house on a shaky foundation.
7 – Find the Right Gear
Running gear is an essential part of running your first half-marathon. And it’s even more important to train with your gear before the race.
The primary type of running gear is running shoes, running shorts, running socks, and a sweat-wicking tech shirt. You may also want to consider the following…
- GPS watch
- Compression gear
- Hydration gear
As you train, make sure to do your homework and find the best gear for you. Each piece has the potential to make training and race day less complicated. And you want to keep things as simple as possible when running your first half-marathon.
8 – Nail Down Fueling
When it comes to fueling, there are many paths you can take. The way you fuel will be solely up to you. Different fuels affect different runners in different ways.
But whatever fuel you choose, do yourself a favor and test it during training. DO NOT experiment on race day.
In regards to fueling here’s what I can tell you: the majority of half-marathon and marathon runners use a sports drink+gel combination.
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Here’s a good place to start:
- Eat a pre-race/training meal 1-2 hours before your run. (eg. bagel + peanut butter or oatmeal + berries or banana + walnuts)
- Start hydrating with water between your pre-race/training meal and your run.
- While running start with water, then sports drink, then a sports drink + gel combination
You will most likely not need gel until around mile seven. But again, fueling cannot be standardized, and you will have to determine when your body needs replenishment.
So, remember–training is the perfect time to practice fueling. Make sure to nail down your approach before race day.
9 – Take Recovery Serious
Rest days are a part of training too. Recovery is when your body grows back stronger. Your endurance is not developed during your run. Your endurance is developed during recovery. So, make sure you actually give your body time to rest.
During rest days you can take the whole day off, go for a walk, or perform some light cross training like swimming or yoga. Movement will promote blood flow which helps with recovery…just don’t overdo it.
10 – Show Up On Race Day Early
After your training is over and race day is here make sure to show up early. Better an hour early than two minutes too late. Trust me, you don’t want the added stress of rushing to the start line. This will only cause a waste of energy that could otherwise be used in the race.
So show up early, pin on your bib, and relax. As the start time nears set the intention to finish and get ready to run.
11 – Pace Yourself
You are running a half-marathon not a sprint. When the gun goes off, you will most likely feel some adrenaline. Excitement is typical at the start of your first half-marathon. This makes you want to run fast, that is, much quicker than you planned to run.
The problem is if you trained at a certain pace, your body is built for that pace. Any more and chances of burning out significantly increase. So even though you will want to run fast…don’t. Have the discipline to pace yourself. The real race is against yourself.
And here’s the extra bonus. If you get to the finish line feeling strong, then chances of jumping up to the marathon distance will be much higher.
12 – Enjoy the Process
Training for a half-marathon is fun! Running a half-marathon is fun! Setting a big goal and reaching it is fun!
Don’t lose sight that the process of running your first half-marathon should be enjoyable. Take the commitment seriously, but not yourself. Lighten up a bit, relax, and smile… you are about to accomplish something amazing!
Running your first half-marathon doesn’t have to be a complicated process. As you can see, by following a few simple steps the finish line can come with no trouble at all.
YES it will take patience, and YES it will take hard work, but isn’t that true for anything worth doing in life?
You are about to run your first half-marathon and become a real distance runner. It’s going to take consistent action every day.
Will it be easy? No, the miles will be tough.
Will it be worth it? Yes! The whole 13.1 miles!