Preparing for the first Half Marathon!

Not a humongous running goal if someone reading this is an avid runner, but if you were or are a beginning runner you can see that it takes time to build up to such a lofty goal – run 6 half marathons in 6 months. Training is a mega-beast! I don’t, my any means, consider myself an expert half marathoner. I have gotten questions about where to start, though, from others who want to take the plunge and thought I’d write a post with what I’ve learned. Running your first half marathon is a huge accomplishment that many can achieve but don’t believe they can – but should!
So, how did I get there myself?
Rewind back to when I began running – Back in 2006 I was becoming more of an avid runner. I was weight training and working out around 5 times a week. I was newly single; I had a lot of free time. I then began running because some friends of mine showed off these flashy medals and spoke of numbered bibs and competition – my ears perked right up. I began running with a few friends of mine who worked out at my gym and we slowly build up mileage week to week (about .50 a mile each weekly run session.) Eventually I’d built up enough mileage to run an actual race. I got a rush from that first race and was definitely hungry for more. Over the course of 2006 & 2007 I ran over 5 5k races. I loved that distance; it was just enough for me to feel a great sense of accomplishment while also keeping me winded by the end. Then, I ended up in a ‘not-so-great’ place in my life and my health and fitness took a backseat…bad, bad Kat. By efore I knew it, it was 2009, I was 25 pounds overweight and clueless about how to get my old self and body back. I’d been here before, and didn’t understand just how I got back here, again.
I got back to the gym. I did some elliptical machine work. I jammed to my ipod. That wasn’t what I wanted, but it was a start. I also did the Insanity Program – which helped me peel off 15 lbs. and gain muscle tone that I didn’t have before. I’d gained newly found strength and it pushed me to want to do more and try more workouts. I did Zumba, TRX, Crossfit/Crossboot…I’d found my passion and it was a positive outlet for me. I even met my [now] husband in the gym – of course.
At the end of 2011 I decided to take my training up a level. I befriended some new running friends through a local organization – I met them through another friend who invited me out to local 5k fun runs. I began running with them once, then twice, then three times a week. Before I knew it I found myself with a 15k plan. In March of 2012 I ran my farthest distance race: the Gasparilla Distance classic 15k. From that point on, I wanted more…I wanted to keep running farther. I, first, had to take into account the many lessons I learned from that 15k … they were plentiful…and looking back, I wish I’d known better but feel better knowing I can help others learn from my newbie runner mistakes. You can read the full race report here, but I’ll spare you the picture-proof.
I took what I learned from that race and decided to train for an even bigger beast: the Half Marathon. Over the course of the Summer of 2012 I trained and trained and ran my first race in November at the Women’s Half Marathon. I couldn’t believe I did it sub 2 also. (I give my pacer 90% credit 😉 I’m now on to my 6th half marathon in 6 months – I would have never thought I’d accomplish that feat.
What did I do to prepare for my first Half Marathon?

* If you’re just starting out: walk/run. Running is a new movement for your body that t needs to adjust to! Also, don’t run every day, it’s too much at once. Crosstraining also helps to build muscles you’ll need to help you with running vs just running period. Injuries aren’t good to start out with!

We have crosstraining lunch dates

* Especially on long runs, I made sure to fuel. I’m not an a.m. run eater, but I did take gels/shot bloks beforehand and then every 3 miles or so to not lose my mojo or tucker out.

* Look to the professionals to measure your feet & gait, etc. for shoes

* Tack the mileage! You can use a ton of apps or sites like DailyMile…helps watch progress! Also, notes mileage on your shoes to change them out every 350-400 miles at the most (My Pure Cadence sneaks last 250-300.) I usually felt something off in my hips or knees letting me know if was time to change my shoes out. Now, I actually rotate 3 pairs instead so there’s no need to break new ones in.
* Find a good running group or group to run with or at least a running partner- good run support keeps you on track. We also keep each other moving when we want to give up or have a tough mental block.

* Hydrate the week of and day before your race – not just during. I’m not a Powerade/Gatorade fan so I usually use sugar-free hydration and E-caps (electrolyte tabs).

Cheers to hydration!
* Practice running in all conditions – you never know what race day will bring. I never went out into a downpour, but if it rained while I ran I kept running. If it was hot, I dressed appropriately. If it was cold, I bundled up.
Sleeves come in handy when it’s chilly.

* Medical issues? have your medication and or med info with you. I always wear my Road I.D. so [particularly when I’m solo) I have my asthma info on me in case of emergencies.

* Start out slow, shoot for negative splits not the other way around. I’ve learned to start out slow. Warm up properly. Work on going faster instead of being faster and then tuckering out because you’ve lost energy or momentum.

* Be sure to know where the bathrooms are on and off the course. On weekly runs I always have a plan and routing of going beforehand. In a race, I make sure to take breaks beforehand and to know where they are per the course map in case of emergencies on the course. I don’t want to end up on Google under “I sh*t myself in a race”. No bueno.

* Get in those training miles and stick to a plan. I believe in having a training plan. Whether you have a running coach like me, or can find one online, it’s best to get in those miles that are of varying degrees. For example, tempo runs and long runs…speedwork helps increase speed if that’s what you’re looking for. Also, doing those runs as they should be: don’t race your long run, it’s meant to be slow and steady.

* Slowly increase mileage weekly – don’t jump the gun – with a training plan, this is usually protocol anyway.

* Know your body – know when to take a rest day – along with sticking to the plan comes roadblocks. If you’re sick or your body hurts and is telling you to rest, rest.

* Insert ‘training races’ before the big event. Smaller races help to get rid of those butterflies before the actual ‘big day’

* Accountability – meet up with others, track your runs, review progress. You paid for a race. You signed up on your own. Dedicate your training to being the best YOU you can be!

Next up, is the Divas Half Marathon weekend in Myrtle Beach – Girls’ weekend! I am so excited!

Disclaimer: While I am studying for my CPT exam, I am not a licensed running coach or personal trainer. These tips are solely based on my personal experience and are meant to come from my perspective only.

Remember, stop saying “I can’t” and ask yourself “Can I?” and just give it a shot!
Life’s too short to let self-doubt or regret seep in – live it up and to the fullest!

Half Marathoners – Any tips you’d share?
Future Half Marathoners – anything else you wonder about?

HI! I'M KAT - I am a pug-mom, wife, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, & Fitness Coach focusing on living the fit life while tackling work, coaching others - doing it all! My blog is to hold me accountable for all the goals I plan on accomplishing and also a way for me to try to inspire others through my own experiences - if I can do it ANYONE can! Fitness is a huge part of my life as well as travel and seeing all that life has to be lived! PAY IT FORWARD!

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54 Comments
  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 12:05 pm

    Excellent tips Kat!!! 🙂

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 12:05 pm

    Ive run one half.
    I have no tips 🙂
    (except dont be me! dont be me!) but you nailed it with the first step: SET THAT GOAL.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 12:14 pm

    Your journey and transformation are so inspirational, Kat! Great tips!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 12:24 pm

    You have done a tremendous job of turning yourself into a true athlete. Running your first half at sub 2 hours is remarkable! I love the tips and I actually ran a longish training run in the rain on purpose just so I knew how to handle it. As you mentioned…you never know what race day will bring!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 12:43 pm

    Great tips, Kat! It’s always fun to look back at that first half… and you’ve come such a long way so quickly!!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 1:12 pm

    OMG! So much good advice in this. I love the “running in all conditions” tip. I totally weasel out of a run if the weather doesn’t suit me. I need to do this more often to help prepare for whatever weather may be waiting for me on race day! Cheers!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 1:53 pm

    Your first half was sub 2?!? I am SO jealous! I want a sub 2:30 — that was my goal for this year — but with a little hicup I’ll be moving it to next year haha 🙂 GREAT tips lady!! You’re ROCKING it!!!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 2:15 pm

    A lot of great advice..thanks for sharing.

    I’ve always struggled with running but this makes me want to give it another shot. 🙂

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 2:46 pm

    Great tips! Your guns look amazing in those sleeves! I remember not too long ago when I thought a half marathon was HUGE. Hey it still is!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 2:50 pm

    Perfect, Kat!
    I think you covered it all!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 3:02 pm

    Great tips Kat! I think the most important thing is to run YOUR training and race. Don’t compare with other runners! I’m jealous of your sub-2 for your first half – I’m still working toward mine 🙂

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 3:33 pm

    Awesome tips 🙂 I agree with all of them! I am guilty of not running in all conditions. I have been blessed this year with perfect weather races, but I think I may have my first taste of heat/rain tonight!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 4:45 pm

    Great tips!! Running in all conditions is super important!!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 5:13 pm

    Great tips! For me hydrating the week before is crucial and then amping it up 2 days prior. Amazed how much better I feel.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 5:17 pm

    Thanks for all of the tips! I’ve never been much of a runner, but I know that when I used to run years ago, I felt so good. Maybe I’ll try to ease back into it one of these days.

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 5:26 pm

    Great tips! Informative and inspiring. Thank you for this!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 5:28 pm

    Great tips! So proud of you xox

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 5:33 pm

    This is a great post! You provided informative tips that will help other people’s journeys as well!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 5:50 pm

    Excellent advice for all those first time half marathoners. I agree completely. Great post Kat!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 6:02 pm

    You are amazing I wish I had your motivation and dedication! When it comes to running I’m a one (mile) and done kind of girl 🙂

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 6:40 pm

    Awesome, AWESOME post Kat!! I’d consider myself an avid / experienced runner and I think 6 halfs in 6 months is a SOLID goal. I have no doubts you’re going to ROCK THEM ALL!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 6:43 pm

    “Training races” before the big race to get rid of butterflies is so what I recommend too! That and just have fun during the race!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 7:22 pm

    These tips are great Kat & spot on! And wow sub-2 for your first half?! I need some of your speed 🙂

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 7:51 pm

    The only half marathon I’ve run, I injured myself during. So it’s tough for me to get back out there. But I’m doing it! Thinking positively is my absolute number one tip. It may sound hokey to some people, but once you get inside your head negatively, you’re done for!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 9:18 pm

    I completely agree with all of your tips! One I would add: Don’t ignore the importance of stretching! It really will prevent injuries (and make your muscles recover faster, too)!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013, 11:23 pm

    all great tips Kat! great post! thanks!

  • Reply
    April 12, 2013, 12:34 am

    Great tips.
    My tip of half number #1 would be – Don’t set crazy goals. Make your goal to finish and to enjoy it. Then focus on time goals in other races.

  • Reply
    April 12, 2013, 2:27 am

    I’m a semi-new runner, with my eyes on a marathon hopefully by the end of the year, and I love these tips! Thanks for the great advice, Kat 🙂

  • Reply
    April 12, 2013, 3:51 am

    This came in for me just in time for Sunday …did you write this for me? hahahaha thanks for the tips!

  • Reply
    April 15, 2013, 5:01 pm

    “I sh*t myself in a race” I am dying of laughter. For some reason in the last two weeks or so I have referenced the poor Boston Marathon runner more times than I can count. Don’t get me wrong, I feel horrible for the man, but I respect his perseverance. I would have slinked off and hid somewhere, but he kept running and that is awesome. I am almost positive he is not the only one that has happened to, but he always comes to my mind first and I proceed into every workout with caution that that could happen.

  • Reply
    May 2, 2013, 9:08 pm

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