No matter how prepared you are, running your first half marathon, or any organized race for that matter is intimidating. I was lucky enough to have some experienced friends and family willing to share their wisdom. But after becoming an official half marathon runner myself, I have some advice of my own to share.
Tips For Running a Half Marathon
- Practice Running
This may seem like an obvious one but I definitely ran alongside people who did not properly train for the task at hand. Yes, you may be in shape from CrossFit, soccer, mountain biking, or other activities, and those forms of exercise can be excellent cross-training; however, they do not replace the same impact, form, and requirements of running long distances. Best of all, if you train to run 13.2 miles, you will recover faster. My friend, Chris, a very in-shape gentleman with nearly 10 inches on me, ran the race and finished almost 30 minutes after me and ended up taking the next day off of work. Don’t be like Chris!
- Break-In Your Gear
It is so tempting to reward all of your hard training with new shoes, running tights, shorts, or other gear for race day (I personally am always watching Seattle-based Oiselle for new running gear). You want to test how these bad boys will do in the wild – they may be stylish, but what if they rub the wrong way, cause you to itch, or become surprisingly and wildly uncomfortable on mile 3? No way – keep these prizes for after your race or when you hit a good mile marker in your training.
- Determine Race-Day Transportation
We’re lucky enough to live near downtown Bellingham, incredibly close to the race start. Out of nervousness, we drove and parked downtown. This is definitely doable, but finding a spot and driving home afterward was a bit of a nightmare. If you have the ability to, warm-up for the race by walking to the start line or consider having a friend or Uber drop you off to reduce parking fiascos.
- Check The Weather
If you didn’t know already, Washington weather is fickle. One of the many things I love about running in this beautiful state is the variance in weather — from dry and muggy to heavy downpours, and everything in between, often all during the same run. Check the weather the night before your race and plan accordingly. Hint: Light layers and sunscreen should do the trick
- Have Everything Ready The Night Before
This is not only a personal race rule but a travel rule, too. You never know what is going to happen the morning of a race, (but it will likely be early), so get your ducks in a row before you get some shut-eye. Layout your outfit, make sure your running watch is charged, your earbuds are around, and anything else you deem necessary.
- Nipples Chafe
This may seem funny now, but it won’t be funny when it happens. The severity varies for everyone, but you won’t know until it’s too late. Keep this potential pain point in mind as you’re practicing your long runs, and consider Bandaiding-up. Other areas may lead to chafing — think thighs, underarms, anything that rubs together — so vaseline or runners wax may become your new best friend.
- Drink Water When Available
This hot tip came from my multi-marathon running friend Meghan who has run races big and small, including The Boston Marathon. She suggested accepting the small dixie cup offerings of water from the dedicated volunteers whenever possible. The small amounts of water help prevent too much water rolling around in your belly, and the dreaded dehydration. Fun fact: Did you know The Bellingham Bay Marathon is a Boston qualifying race?
- Have Food Ready Afterwards
After my first race, I met up with my fellow racers, got a good shower, and headed downtown for a big burger and beer. But so did everyone else. We waited for what seemed like hours (in reality it was probably one full hour) in silence as our energy depleted. In hindsight, we should have had a protein-packed snack handy in the car.
- Take A Break
It’s so tempting to sign up for race after race after you get your first half out of the way. But do yourself a favor and take the time to rest afterward. Don’t push it too hard and savor the time you have not-training.
- Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
No matter how much you’ve prepared, you never know what is going to happen. In the end, do your best and realize it’s just a race. And races should be fun
What other half marathon training tips do you have? We’ve love to hear them!
Courtney Rambo is the Director & Co-Founder of Intellitonic, one of Bellingham Bay Marathon’s 2019 sponsors.