Eight Tips for Your First Half Marathon

I can’t believe time has gone so quickly, but my contract coaching with Fleet Feet West Hartford is nearly over. The team’s graduation race is coming up in just two short weeks. We will all be running the Hartford Half Marathon. I can’t wait! Until then, here are my tips for a great first half marathon experience:

  1. Run to finish. A great, and perfectly respectable goal, for a first half marathon is to finish. I like to keep my standards just a bit higher. I think a good goal is to finish happily. Focus your energy on running for the joy of running. When you run to finish you can soak in the atmosphere, stop to take pictures, and generally have fun. When you have fun in your first race, you’re guaranteeing there will be more. Race for time next time. You’ll never have another first.
  2. Taper properly. Reduce your milage and keep the intensity high the week or two before the race. How much you taper is personal preference, but don’t push yourself in the last two weeks before the race. Tapering will help your body adapt to training and will ensure that you make it to the finish line feeling fresh, strong, and ready to run.
  3. Hydrate, eat right, and sleep all week. Everyone seems to be overly focused on what you eat the night before the race. I think it’s more important to eat right all week. Don’t try new things, eat what you know works for you, and trust in the foods and habits that have gotten you through training. Be sure to get enough sleep the week before the race. Unless you’re a master sleeper, you’ll have a hard time sleeping the night before the race. Be sure you have some extra hours of sleep in the days before the race so that you’re well rested on race day, even if you don’t sleep well the night before.
  4. Prepare for race day the night before. Lay out your clothes, shoes, and gear the night before the race. Put the bib somewhere you’ll be sure to see it. Some people pin their bib right to the shirt they plan to wear. I prefer to put mine in my race bag along with my food, mid-race fuel, and extra gear (just in case!). If your race has a B-tag (the little thing you attach to your shoe), stick that tag on your shoes before you go to bed. If you have everything ready to go the night before, you’ll avoid forgetting something critical in the pre-dawn haze.
  5. Don’t try anything new on race day. Like that new shirt you got at the expo? Don’t wear it. Thinking of trying Gu for the first time. Huge mistake. Do what you know works. Wear the clothes, use the fuel, and run like you have in training. Trust in the training.
  6. Arrive at the race early and stay late. Soak up as much race atmosphere as you can. Come early so that you can park and make it to the starting line with a minimum of stress. Plan to stay after the race to enjoy the food, beer, and vendors that are typical of big races. Have fun and soak it all in.
  7. Remember why you’re running. There will probably be a point in the race when you feel less than stellar. You might be tired, sore, questioning your sanity… Most runners, even experienced racers, experience some niggling doubts mid-race. For me, it’s mile three. At mile three I inevitably wonder what could possibly have made this race sound like a good idea. Remembering why I’m running helps me get through the tough patches.
  8. Have fun! Enjoy your first half. You’ll remember it always.

Me finishing my first half marathon! (That’s me in the grey top and braid)


6 thoughts on “Eight Tips for Your First Half Marathon

  1. Great tips! I still haven’t raced a half marathon – but these all sound super sensible. I’ll be using these for my marathon 🙂

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