Planning on running your first half marathon this upcoming fall? First of all, congrats! You should feel super proud for setting and committing to this goal. 

Running a half marathon isn’t an easy feat but the feeling of crossing that finish line for the first time is worth all the tough training runs. Training for a half marathon, or any race for that matter, takes a lot of self-motivation and mental toughness. To be completely transparent, some days you will love it and some days you will hate it, and that is absolutely to be expected.

Training cycles for fall races typically kick-off sometime in the late (and hot) summer months – especially if you are using a 10-12 week training plan and/or running your first half marathon. But don’t worry, there is still plenty of time to find a training plan and a race that works for you. 

Just a friendly reminder that the IMT Des Moines Marathon race series is currently still a go for October 17 and 18 and registration is open! Their half marathon race would be the perfect race to add to your bucket list if you haven’t committed to one yet! You can head here to register and learn more about their race day options.  

No matter what race you plan to run this fall, I thought I would compile 12 tips I wish someone would have told me before I ran my first half marathon years ago.

You might have to walk on race day, and that is OKAY

I had to walk during my first half marathon and I felt like I had failed myself and didn’t train hard enough. My one goal for the day was to not walk but I had to–I needed to that day. I wish I would have known what I know now; that goal probably wasn’t realistic given the circumstances during that race. It was 99 degrees out and extremely humid. My only goal should have been having fun and crossing that finish line. Who cared if I walked a little? 

Anyways, this is my friendly reminder to whoever needs to hear it. Walking is OKAY and does not make your training or effort any less meaningful than someone who doesn’t walk. Yes, maybe your time would be better if you didn’t walk at all during your race, but you know what, if you finish the race, that is all that really matters in the end. 

A training plan for your first half marathon, or even your fifth, half is essential

I am big on creating an overall plan. I feel like if you have read any of my past blog posts on this, you know that I am all for creating goals and strategic plans to achieve them. Setting the goal to run a half marathon is great but do yourself a favor and find a training plan that you KNOW you are going to stick with. I have personally always really liked the Hal Higdon training plans. There is a great one for beginners and I will link it here

Training for a half marathon doesn’t need to take over your life

Although training for a half marathon does take time and commitment, it doesn’t need to control your entire personal/social life. Plan your runs/workouts ahead of time each week, complete them when you are able to, and then move on. If one run or workout doesn’t go as planned or you get caught up doing something else that day, that is okay too. Life goes on and one missed training run or workout isn’t going to spoil the entire training process. Give yourself some grace and just get back on track the next day. 

Don’t eat anything new on race day

I shared this in a previous blog post, but I learned this one the hard way. I always eat the same thing on my long run mornings that I do on race day morning. I typically don’t eat before shorter runs, but before I head out the door for my Saturday long runs, I eat a piece of toast with light butter and jelly. I also will have straight-up black coffee. That. Is. It. Find what works for you and stick with that! Trust me, if you take any of these tips to heart, this is the one you don’t want to skip. The last thing you want to worry about is having stomach issues while running 13.1 miles. 

 Be prepared to train in all elements

Like I mentioned above, I wasn’t prepared (mentally or physically) to run in 99º weather. Unfortunately, unless it is lightning on race day, you’re going to be running no matter the conditions. Try to train or run in different elements as best as you can. My husband and I ran a long run for our Boston half marathon in the snow one Saturday morning. Was it ideal? Heck no. Was it kind of fun? Actually, yes! The moral of the story here is that you never know what the weather might do on race day and you don’t want that element to take over your mindset or the outcome of your race day experience.

 Have a race day plan

Just like a training plan, try to have a race day plan. Can you tell I like plans?! 😉  Look over your race-day course. Find your water stops. Decide when you want to take your energy chews or whatever it is you will be using to fuel your body during race day. Know when you might need to walk a little. Know where the hills are. Having a plan ahead of time will allow you to enjoy the moment a little bit more, rather than stressing about when/where your next hydration stop is going to be.

 Your half marathon race should be FUN

I stress this so much in all aspects of any type of workout or fitness activity, but race day should be FUN! Enjoy it. Take it all in and be proud of your accomplishments after each mile. Try not to stress or worry too much and trust that your training has prepared you for this moment more than you might realize.  And laugh at that person with the “Never trust a fart” sign. The human body is pretty amazing, and you shouldn’t let your time goal or the conditions get in the way of the fact that you just did something amazing.

Plan for hydration stops not only on race day but during your training

This is super important. It’s not only important to know where your hydration stops are throughout your racecourse, but it is important to somewhat parallel your training with similar hydration stops as well. I personally carry a water bottle with me and will stop to take hydration breaks where I plan to stop and grab the water on race day. Just as a heads up, most hydration stops will have water AND Gatorade. I personally only train with water, so that is what I grab when I stop at hydration stops, NOT Gatorade. Again, I made this mistake during my first half marathon and got sick. I never trained with an energy drink like that during my training runs and so I shouldn’t have switched things up on race day. Consistency with the foods and liquids you decide to fuel your body with is important.  

 Fuel your body during training, not just on race day

This is sort of along the same lines as tip number eight, but you will want to find something that works for you to fuel your body throughout your training runs and throughout race day. For my long runs, I like using Gu Chews. I have tried the liquid Gu and HATED it, but my husband doesn’t mind it. Again, you will just want to find what works best for you and make sure you train with that and bring it with you on race day as well. 

Strength training is important…don’t skip it!

I wish I would have figured this out a little sooner. I cannot tell you how much strength training has helped with my overall running performance. It has not only made my mile splits faster, but I feel stronger and feel better while doing it too. You can do this through a fitness class or lifting weights at your local gym. You will want to factor that into your overall training plan and most plans will designate these workouts at “cross-training

days.” I personally love hitting all the major muscle groups of the body to hit my resistance training goals throughout training. 

Proper running shoes are vital

Another super important tip, and if you take anything to heart, let this be it too! I cannot stress how important a good pair of running shoes are to not only having a successful training and improving your time, but reducing the potential for any physical injury. I know they can be kind of expensive, but they are worth the investment for the 10-12 weeks you will be training in them. 

You must wear your medal to brunch–it’s an unspoken rule

Last but not least and probably my favorite tip (I mean who doesn’t love brunch?!), wear your medal out to eat after your race! It is always so fun going out with friends and family after your race and wearing your medal out and about in the city you just ran in. You should feel proud about your accomplishment and wearing your medal out to brunch afterward is just the unspoken race day rule. 😜

I hope you found these tips helpful! As always, if you have any running-related questions or have any questions about the IMT Des Moines Marathon race day series, please let me know.

With love,

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