So You Want to Run a Half Marathon

I’m not sure whether it’s the new year or the chilly weather, but I feel like a lot of people are experiencing a renewed motivation to get out there and run.

On the PBF Facebook page alone, I’ve received three different inquires about training for a half marathon and figured it would make a decent blog post topic!

As you know, I am definitely not an expert runner or someone with natural running ability. (You may read my running story here.) I’m not breaking records out there and running is hard for me, plain and simple. But I have completed four half marathons after feeling unsure about whether or not I could run for more than 20 minutes non-stop. I think that puts me in the same boat as a lot of you!

savannah rock n roll marathon

The key is in the training.

I am a firm believer that anyone can run a half marathon (assuming they don’t have any serious injuries) if they put in the time and effort to properly train for the race.

Finding a plan that meets your needs and caters to your current fitness level, allowing you to increase mileage over a time period that is both realistic and safe, is pivotal.

If I were to give advice to a novice runner who is interested in running their first half marathon, these would be my key points:

  • Invest in good running shoes. I started training for my first half marathon in an old pair of Nike Shox and my shins were sore and my feet kept blistering. After following a running friend’s advice, I went to Track Shack, a local running store in Orlando, and had a professional help me select a quality pair of running shoes based on the way I ran. I ended up heading home with a pair of Mizuno Wave Riders and haven’t experienced blisters or issues with my feet since. (I previously posted about my other favorite running gear, in case that’s of interest!)

mizuno waverider

  • Run shorter races first. Make mini goals! My first goal was to run a 5K without stopping. Then a 10K. Then a half marathon. By completing shorter races on my journey to running a half marathon, I didn’t get burnt out on training and I felt like I was achieving mini-milestones as I reached for my main goal.

savannah rock n roll

race for the cure

  • Tell others about your goal. I made sure to let those close to me know about my goal. Sticking with a training plan can be difficult, especially when long runs on the weekends may require you to take it easy on Friday or Saturday nights. By explaining how important this goal is to you to those close to you, they’ll be much more likely to support you rather than make you feel guilty for not drinking a bunch of beer at a birthday get-together or something. They may even want to join you in your training or cheer you on as you run on race day! I’m convinced half marathons are contagious.  

chicago rock n roll

  • Train with fuel. This is something I didn’t do during my first half marathon and now, after running four total races, it’s something I’ve found really, really helpful during long runs. I always carry some kind of fuel with me on long runs. I’ve experimented with different kinds of fuel and found that Gu Chomps work great for me. Having calories to ingest during a run greatly helped me keep my energy up as I conquered longer distances.

gu chomps

  • Pick a FUN race. The first half marathon I ran was rather small and just plain boring. The course itself was dull and that can weigh on a runner! It wasn’t until I ran the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon that I realized how much the quality of a race can impact your experience. Ask around and do some research to select a race that seems fun and exciting to you. You may prefer smaller races or thrive in popular races. Make sure to pick the kind of race that you feel will allow you to have the most enjoyable experience on race day. I personally prefer races with tons of spectators and entertainment to keep me stimulated and energized.

Questions of the Afternoon

  • Runners: If you could offer one piece of advice to someone interested in running their first half marathon, what would you say?
  • Non-Runners: Do you have any desire to one day run a half or full marathon?

Comments

  1. says

    I have been running for 4 years with an average of 25 miles a week for that long. All I can really say is that you HAVE to keep up good nutrition. Nutrition is very important, especially for me. I lost a severe amount of weight (unhealthy) because I was unable to keep up with the lost calories. So make sure you’re getting enough! Running burns a lot more than you think!

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  2. WinterSundays says

    Great post! Thanks so much for sharing! I have some race experience (5K, 10K and the Army 10 Miler) and I agree that location/environment is KEY. I’ve found that I prefer large, highly organized and fun-filled races. So for my very first half-marathon I am going to run Disney’s Wine and Dine Half-Marathon. The race starts at 10pm and ends with a Finish Line Party. I love the idea of running my first half in the Happiest Place on Earth and partying afterwards!

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  3. says

    For anyone interested in running a half marathon I would definitely say you are capable of more than you think you are!! Some people think they can’t but don’t really have a good reason why. The human body was made to run and jump and all kinds of crazy stuff! Even if you have to walk part of the run, who cares?? The feeling of accomplishment after your first HM is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had – and it was worth every mile I trained!

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  4. says

    advice: STICK WITH IT! i totally agree with you that ANYONE can do it… find a training plan that works for you and your schedule… there are a billion of them out there and stick with it, so you can join the “club,” cuz it’s pretty damn awesome! :)

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  5. says

    Having a plan and a running partner are my biggest advice! You’re right, with the right training…ANYONE can run a half marathon! Also, picking a good and exciting race is important. I’m running the Rock n’ Roll half marathon in DC this March! I’m pumped!

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  6. Hailey says

    So…I did it. After this post, I finally forced myself to go out and run this morning. I only ran a little less than half a mile but I haven’t even worked out in months so that was a big deal. I didn’t stop at all and I made it home in one huffy-puffy mess but it’s a start!! Thanks, Julie!

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  7. says

    I’m running my first half this Sunday and I also always felt like it was something I would never be able to do and running is incredibly difficult for me. The biggest things that have helped me are training with a friend (although my 2 solo long runs may be my very favorite part of the experience), telling everyone–like you said, it helps hold me accountable and the support I’ve gotten from everyone has been overwhelming, and learning how to fuel my body–I used to never eat before I ran and then the day came where I went to run 8 miles and I had eaten a light and early dinner the night before and by mile 6, I plain ran out of fuel and spent the end of my run feeling super hungry and worn down. The biggest thing that I would tell someone else though is that you can do anything. I believed for so long that this would never be a reality for me even though I always wanted to do it, and this whole process has been more about proving to myself what I’m capable of than anything, and I would love for everyone out there to know just how much they can do (in all areas of life really) if you just decide and don’t look back!

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  8. Karl says

    Julie, I want you to know that I have almost exclusively used your tips for running and nutrition over the past 5 months and I have reached the point where I went from no running to a 5k in just 3 months. I have also lost 46 lbs in those 5 months.
    I feel like I’m the only guy at times besides Ryan that reads your blog. :) I found it because of our love for PB but I just want to say thank you and let any other guys out there know that this will work for them as well.

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  9. says

    Thanks for these tips! I’ve wanted to run forever and am finally focusing on DOING IT this year! I’m also in the middle of the book Born To Run which is about ultrarunners and just what people are actually capable and it’s amazing. Its a pretty interesting read! I think people who already run would find it even more interesting than I do.

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  10. Laura Katherine says

    Hey Julie!!

    I was wondering what kind of watch you use for races/running? I’m wanting to invest in one but don’t know what kind to get… thanks!

    PS love your pinterest :)

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  11. says

    I haven’t fully decided. On the one hand, running to me is about one of the least fun things to do in the entire world. Running a long distance (longer than a block to catch a bus) doesn’t appeal to me. But reading race recaps about swag bags, and the great feeling of accomplishing something with so many other people, does appeal to me. Maybe. One day.

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  12. Josey says

    Hi Julie!
    Love your blog! My husband and I have enjoyed many a meal from your recipe section! =D
    I started as a total non-runner a few months ago and have (slowly, slowly) worked my way up to regularly running 2-3 miles 3-4 times a week on the treadmill at the gym. I know that’s nothing but I never thought I’d get past 1 mile when I started! (I’m more into strength training than cardio.) To celebrate, I’ve signed up for a 5K in mid-March. Was wondering how important you think training regularly outside is for me in preparation, since I’ve been running solely on the treadmill? I’ve heard running outside is generally harder….
    Appreciate any tips! Cheers!

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  13. Beth says

    one of my favorite tips for new runners who want to do long distances is to run your favorite route in loops – two loops of a familiar route means you can stash water/chomps in places you know well (or your front porch, a friend’s yard, etc.)

    as for treadmill training for outdoor running – living in the snowy North, i’ve completed many 10+ mile runs on a treadmill, including two 20-milers. the key there is to jazz it up with inclines/speed work and find a movie or a Kardashian marathon to keep you entertained :) the treadmill is handy for holding water and energy needed for your run

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  14. Meisha says

    I love all of the advice! Esp buying new running clothes. Sometimes I ‘treat’ myself to things like that as a reward for staying on track. I am training for a half marathon in October. I have run a few 5K’s and I plan on running a 10K in April. My boyfriend enjoys running too, but he thinks that anything more than a 10K can be damaging to your body, so I am alone on the desire to run a half, but I am hoping to win him over eventually.

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  15. MegT says

    I am a little late to this post, but I think you gave some great advice. I did my first half the first weekend in may and then my second memorial day week. The quality of the race makes a huge different. My first half had 17000 participants. There were spectators cheering you on from start to finish. Overall it was a great experience. My second half had maybe 900 racers. It was a very difficult course with hardly any spectator. If you did see a spectator they rarely were cheering. Even the racers were not as motivating to each other. To have that motivation from the crowd and other racers makes a big difference.

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  16. says

    hello, my name is Ricardo and I am Brazilian. I found your blog and saw that you ran an edition of the Rock and Roll Half Marathon. I am interested in participating in one of the issues but I do not know what is the best to run. I would like if possible an indication of which one goes.
    Thanks

    Ricardo Sinesio

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  17. says

    Runners: If you could offer one piece of advice to someone interested in running their first half marathon, what would you say?

    –> don’t give up and stay cool ;) just have fun and run as fast, as often, as far you can….. we are not for running, running is for us ;) if you know what I mean (sorry for my English, I’m Polish ;))

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  18. Katie T says

    I just signed up for my first half-marathon! I have run 4 5k’s, 2 Warrior Dashes (5k’s with obstacles) and a Muddy Buddy (6 miles with obstacles), and have been running for about a year and a half. I am by no means a typical runner, I suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis among other joint problems, but running keeps me loose and has become, dare I say, fun? :) Julie, you are very inspiring! Thanks for this post!

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  19. dan b says

    just decided to do a half 2 days ago. i discharged from the military 3 weeks ago so running isnt new to me but i despise it.. however iv just had my second shoulder op in 18 months with a 12month rehab time. that limits my options to running and cycling.. tossed a coin and running it is. never run more than 10km but im jus gonna take it slow and steady. fingers crossed the old shins make it uninjured through to race day. considering how much i hate running im pretty excited about the challnge. cant wait!

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  20. Kate C says

    I love your blog !! I really wanted to achieve a half marathon this year but have been swamped and havent been able to run as much as I would like i run only once or twice a week doing 4 or 5 miles. My question is do you think if I REALLY start pushing the next 4 1/2 weeks I would be able to achieve a half marathon? I am a little scared that I wont bc I havent been training for 4 months like some people, what do you think?? Nervous and excited !! :) thank you

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  21. Alex says

    I love your post! I just found your blog and it’s so inspirational! I’ve wanted to start running and training for the longest time but it feels like I can never get enough time or motivation to follow through with it, so I just told one of my friend about it and we are planning to start training together :)
    I do have one big question though! I’m in college right now with a tight budget so obviously it’s easy to slack of on eating well, but how do you maintain a healthy lifestyle on a small budget? I feel like buying a lot of ingredients to prep stuff makes it more expensive but I really want to do better. Thanks for you time :)

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  22. says

    I was googling things about half marathons and found your blog! I love it. I love that you say you aren’t naturally a runner, because that is how I feel.

    When you trained on your treadmill, what speed did you set it at?

    I’m thinking about running one in August and don’t know what pace to start at.

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  24. Jordan M says

    I just wanted to say I love your blog and this post about running halfs! I am currently about to start training for my second half marathon! I ran the Rock and Roll in San Antonio last year and will run the same one again. One of the things that help is finding someone you are comfortable with to be your running buddy. I am not a runner at all, so I was kind of embarrassed to run with someone else. But a buddy does help! Another thing that helped me was running in different places. I made sure I was familiar with the area, but changing the scenery really helps keep you from getting bored! The other thing I learned is that you have to train for the incline! I live in Midland Tx, and it is as flat as possible here, my race was in downtown San Antonio and the mini hills killed me! Thanks for all the helpful tips as I start to get ready for race two!!!

    Any tips for nondairy pre run snacks?

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  25. Melissa says

    Thank you so much for this post. I am signed up for my first EVER half marathon, Las Vegas Rock n’ Roll Half in November and I am NOT a runner! I never run, i’ve tried to start a couple of times but I just can’t keep it up as a lifestyle so I’m hoping that having a deadline, a goal will help me stay committed to becoming a runner. The marathon is 13 weeks away and with no weekly mileage under my belt I am not trying to finish in a certain amount of time, I just want to finish.

    If you have any advice on what kind of a training plan I should use, please let me know!

    Thanks so much!

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