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?


  1. 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.


  2. 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.


  3. 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.

    Ricardo Sinesio


  4. 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 ;))


  5. 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!


  6. 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!


  7. 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


  8. 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 🙂


  9. 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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  11. 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?


  12. 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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