Bekah Walters

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13.1 Race Day Tips for Your First Half Marathon

It is that time of year again – half marathon season! Springtime is when the first marathons and half marathons of the year are underway.

I completed my first half marathon last October with my best friend, Katie. It was such an accomplishment to cross that finish line after all the training I put in. When I started training, the most I ran was a 5K and that felt like a long distance. I followed a plan to work my way up to more miles slowly.

Some of these tips are from advice others gave me and others are from experience. Here’s what you need to know for your first half marathon race.

13.1 Half Marathon Race Day Tips

Half Marathon Race Day Tips

1. Don’t change much from your running routine. You’ve been training for weeks and gotten into a groove—don’t change it for the day of the half marathon. Wear your favorite running gear, including your broken-in shoes, so you are comfortable for the entirety of the race. You are not there to make a fashion statement. You are there to run!

2. Dress in layers. You are going to warm up after you start the half marathon within the first few miles. Make sure to dress in layers you can take off easily and toss if necessary. If you have someone waiting for you at the finish line, have them hold a jacket or pullover for when you cool off.

3. Lay out your clothes and gear the night before. You do not want to rush around the morning of the race looking for all of your gear and risk forgetting something (or worse, you find it in the dirty clothes hamper!). Make a list earlier and check it twice. If you can pick up your packet the night before, do it so you won’t have to in the morning. BUT make sure you have it before you leave the house.

4. Get up early and eat breakfast. If you are used to training in the morning, then continue your normal routine. But if you are like me and trained in the evening, get up early and allow yourself to wake up. Your body is used to having a full day and plenty of meals before a long run so fuel it with some food that morning.

5. Take ibuprofen beforehand. This will help with any minor aches as you continue running the half marathon.

6. Get there early. Check the parking situation, the night before. Plan enough time to park, hit the port-a-potty, and walk to the starting line. Remember there are lots of other people doing the same thing.

7. Line up 30 seconds ahead of your pace. This will allow you to get started with all the excitement and then fall into your pace. You don’t want to line up too far from your actual pace.

8. Run with a partner. Keep pace with your buddy for at least some of it. It keeps you both on pace and motivated. My best friend and I separated around mile 8 when my pace started dwindling, but I stayed motivated to look forward and see if I could catch her.

9. Start slowly. I know this seems counter-intuitive from my last tip, but you will get caught up in running with everyone and then realize you are running at an 8-minute-mile pace when you are supposed to be around 10. Just remember to pace yourself. You don’t want to use up all your energy at the start.

10. Have a great playlist! I’m not talking about choosing songs based on a beat per minute and all that nonsense. Just create a playlist with upbeat songs that you like to run to. Make sure to create a playlist at least an hour longer than you plan to run so you can skip the songs that you aren’t feeling. Here is my half marathon playlist – feel free to follow it and make it your own!

11. Do something repetitive. Like counting to 10 or singing the alphabet to keep your mind off running. I would pick a marker some short distance away and tell myself I only had to make it to that point. It made the goal more obtainable and felt like I was accomplishing something every time I reached the designated point without walking.

12. Don’t eat the goo. Unless you trained with energy gels, don’t eat them during the race. You don’t know how your body will respond to the goo, and you don’t want to find out during the race. Trust me. I’ve heard horror stories. If you are training with them and you like them, by all means pack them with your gear.

13. Stay hydrated. There will be plenty of water/Gatorade stations along the race route. If you need some water, grab some! But don’t drink too much too quickly or you will feel it sloshing around in your stomach.

13.1 Grab your medal and your stats! You’ve made it to the finish line and completed your first half marathon! Congratulations! There will be volunteers handing out medals. Then, depending on the race, there may be a tent where you can get your race stats printed.

If you’ve ran a half marathon before, what would you add to this race day tip list? What advice would you give a first-time half marathon runner?

First timers, let me know how your race goes in the comments. You’re gonna do great!

12 Comments

  1. Hi Tori
    Just ran my first half marathon last weekend. I am 62 yes old and I can’t tell you what it meant to me to cross that finish line! My son signed me up and he ran as well . What a great experience!

  2. This post was very helpful. I’m running my first half this coming Saturday the 22nd. I’m very nervous but I know I can run 11 miles, so what is 2 more miles. I have trained with a certain flavor of gel so I will stick to that. I need to put thought into my playlist and figure out my shirt/ short/ Capri combo. In your opinion are shorts or tight Nike capris better for long runs? I’ve tried capris and at first I felt a little restricted but then I felt like I warmed up faster as if the capris kept my muscles warm. I think the forecast is sunny and 65 degrees.

    • Bekah

      October 16, 2016 at 9:05 pm

      Hi Sabrina! Well if you’ve ran 11, you are in a great position to run 13! You’ll do great. I ran in performance capris and didn’t feel too hot. I actually preferred them at the start of the race because it was pretty cold and you start off just standing at the line. Good luck and have fun! I’d love to hear how you do.

  3. Well I’ve run,jogged and walked my first couple of 10ks. Now next challenge is to go for the half marathon. Unfortunately going to miss them for this season but let the training begin.

  4. This is very helpful. Thanks!! I’m running my first half marathon in 2 days. 😬😬 I’m excited and a little nervous too.

  5. Running my first half this Sunday in Rochester Hills, MI. Very nervous but I can’t wait to cross the finish line

    • Bekah

      September 22, 2016 at 3:07 pm

      Congratulations! You’ve trained hard, I’m sure, and you’ll do great! What an amazing feeling of accomplishment to cross that finish line. Let me know how you do!

  6. Bekah,

    Thank you for writing this! I just signed up for my first half marathon! I am so nervous and excited all at the same time. My race isn’t until September (I am running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half marathon in Virginia Beach!) but I will try to remember to tell you how it goes 😉

    Thanks again,

    Tori

    • Bekah

      April 25, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Hi Tori! I’m glad you’ve signed up to run your first marathon! Congratulations! You will feel very accomplished crossing the finish line. I’d love to hear how your race goes! Happy training!

    • Tori,
      I am also nervous about running my first half marathon. Its ironic that it’s also the Rock and Roll Half in Va Beach!!! Good luck to you!

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