10 Tips to Your First or Best Half Marathon

Are you looking for the tips and confidence to run your first half marathon or just want to crush your next one? These 10 tips will help you do just that!

If you are beginning this journey with little to no aerobic fitness, you should consider a shorter distance or accept that you may be walking… a lot. And, that it is going to hurt. If you have been working out regularly and even running a few days a week, then in ten weeks, you should be able to finish your race, feeling sore but good.


1.       Know where your journey begins - There are many paths and plans that will get you to your first half marathon or even your best half marathon. Are you starting from the couch, been running a few days a week or been crushing the shorter races.

2.       Pick a Training Plan and Trust It - With so many online resources, pick a plan that you think best fits your fitness level and stick to it. If you are new to running, choose a plan that has you running three days a week and if necessary, take walk breaks. If it seems easy, increase your pace. If it seems difficult, slow down.

3.       Get good running shoes – Running is a relatively inexpensive sport and great way to stay in shape but you must take care of your feet. Find a good running store, get shoes that fit, (typically ½ to 1 size larger than you normally wear) and try them before you buy them.

4.       Find a Friend or a Group - Getting into running shape can be difficult and even hurt. Having a training partner or running with a group can make really help keep your mind in a good place. Misery loves company.


5.        Listen to your body - As you build up mileage, you may feel fatigue, aches or pains that are new to you. Take an extra day off or slow down your pace.

6.       Cross-train - On your off days, you can cross-train with spinning, cycling, swimming or yoga.  If your body is fatigued, use them to recover.

7.       Run the Long Run - One of the most important things you can do is your weekly long run. Early in your training, it may only be a 5 miler. Increase each week until your long run is at least 75% - 80% of your race distance. Plan on running an 11 mile run, a minute or two slower than race pace, two weeks before your race. The long run not only builds the endurance that you will need on race day but it also builds your confidence.

8.       Learn to Drink/Eat/Fuel on the run- Depending on your fitness level, age, etc, your expected finish time will have you out there for two to three hours. Carry water or an electrolyte replenishment with you and learn to drink it while you are running/walking. Also there are many kinds of energy bars and gels that you can carry with you to help give you that boost when you feel the fatigue. Your long run is a great time to see what works well for your body.

9.       Nothing New - Once you have the shoes that work for you, your socks, shorts or top, and the food or drink that your body likes, don’t try anything new. That great looking new top or awesome shoes can become a real problem out there, especially when the problem shows up at mile 7 with 6 to go.

10.   Have Fun and Smile- Running is not only physical. After you have been out there for awhile, you may start noticing your internal dialogue changing from, “this is great, you can do it” to “why on earth would you ever think you can run a half marathon.” Thanking the volunteers with a big smile, having fun and enjoying others running around you is a great diversion and the best way to end on a good note.

This is not one of the 10 tips but let's call it #11. Choosing a charity and raising money is my bonus tip. Making your miles matter can help give you the additional drive and accountability to lace them up and train when you’d rather be sleeping in.

Good luck, have fun and enjoy your run.