Ten Helpful Tips for Running Your First Half Marathon

Since there aren’t any runners in my inner circle, I’ve pretty much had to fly by the seat of my pants and figure things out as I go. I completed a major goal a couple weeks ago when I finished my first half marathon. If a half marathon is on your to-do list, here are ten helpful tips to keep in mind on race day.


1. Connect with the race via social media.

After I registered for the Frederick Running Festival Half Marathon, I discovered that the race has a Facebook page. Once I “liked” the page, I had access to a ton of information about the race, like videos of the course, and was able to submit questions to the race organizers. It was also a great place to connect with other runners who were planning on running the race. One of the questions posed to the runners was “What is your goal for race day?” It was inspiring to read all of the responses and see all of the encouragement from fellow runners. I explained that although I was nervous about the race, my goal was to finish and accomplish a lifelong goal. I received responses like “You will finish!” and “Good luck!,” as well as many “likes” on my post. It gave me a bit of extra confidence going into the race to have that support.


2. Arrive to the race site early.

I left my house two hours early, which should have given me plenty of time to get there, take care of business, and mentally prepare for the upcoming thirteen plus miles. I didn’t anticipate that traffic would come to a standstill near the race site. By the time I parked my car and headed to the port-o-potty line, there was less than thirty minutes until the race start. The bathrooms lines were horrendously slow, which meant I only had about two minutes to spare by the time I made it to the start line. If you’re like me and get stressed easily when things don’t go as planned, leave an extra thirty minutes on top of the time you already factored in to get to the race. It’s better to be early than be late and miss out on running your race.


3. Don’t wear any rings on your fingers.

This may be a “duh” moment to some of you, but since I never played sports and only ran short distances before the big day, I had no idea that my fingers would swell like they did. I made the mistake of wearing my engagement ring, and boy did I regret it. By mile six, I had to move my ring to my pinkie finger because my fingers were swelling so much. I remember one of the runners behind me referring to her fingers as “Vienna sausages.” I looked down at my hands and sure enough, my fingers were swollen “sausages.” This added additional stress since I was worried I might lose my ring the rest of the race. I had to keep my pinkie finger bent the entire time to ensure that I wouldn’t have to send out a search party for my precious ring. Leave your rings at home.


4. Thank the volunteers.

I can’t tell you how special all of the volunteers made the race for me. Complete strangers yelled encouraging words as I ran by. The police officers that were directing traffic clapped for me as I passed. The race volunteers kept telling me that “I could do it.” The kids at the water stations were ready and waiting with cups of water. These people didn’t have to be out doing what they did, but they were. And you could tell they wanted to be there. The volunteers, community members, and law enforcement made the race, and I made sure to thank them as I ran by.



5. Be mindful of other runners and volunteers at water stations.

When I reached the water station, I drank a few sips of water and then tossed the cup near the curb. What’s the problem, you ask? Well, once that cup hit the curb, the water bounced back and splashed all over me. Not really a big deal except I have a feeling it may have hit other runners nearby as well. It was completely unintentional, but I’m sure it was really gross for those people. By the time I turned around to apologize, they were gone and I felt really bad. I made sure to be more cautious at the next water stations. I also tossed my cups in the designated trash cans. I know that there are volunteers there to pick up all the trash off the street, but I’m sure that job has to suck. There were a few volunteers who looked relieved when some of the runners skipped the street and aimed for the trash can.

6. Taking walk breaks is okay.

Other than the elite runners who managed to cross the finish line in a little over an hour, I saw a majority of the runners take walk breaks, myself included. Many people were using the run/walk method, and every few minutes I would hear another series of beeps from running watches around me indicating it was time to walk or run again. Not to mention there was a huge hill right before mile 13 and running up that thing just wasn’t happening. If you want to try to run the whole thing, more power to you. Just make sure you train properly for that method so you don’t hurt yourself on race day.


7. Enjoy the experience.

My advice for your first half marathon is not to put too much pressure on yourself. Enjoy being out on the course and be thankful for each one of those thirteen miles. I felt some disappointment when I neared the finish line and realized that I would finish slower than I had planned. A few days later I was sad to learn that one runner collapsed shortly after the finish line from a heart attack and died. She was only 38 years old and had a family that now misses her dearly. Learning of this tragedy put it all in perspective and made me realize that I was grateful for being able to finish, celebrate with my family, and still be alive to achieve more accomplishments.

8. Wear your finisher medal all day.

Hey, you just ran 13.1 miles and earned that finisher medal, so wear it proudly. After my race, my family took me to lunch and I wore my medal at the restaurant. It was a good conversation starter with the wait staff. I also wore it the rest of the day while not being able to move lounging at home.


9. Expect to be in some degree of pain for the next three days.

I have to be honest and tell you that your body will probably hurt or be sore the days following your race. The worst part for me was climbing stairs. Ouch. My feet were also in a lot of pain. My race was on a Sunday and by Wednesday I started to feel better. My suggestion would be to make sure you stretch properly after the race and use lots of ice packs on those sore muscles.

10. You’ve achieved a big goal. Set another one.

When I crossed the finish line, I told myself I would probably never run another half marathon. The race was difficult and I had some issues out on the course (mainly foot pain and leg cramps). While I was proud of myself for completing a life long dream, I wasn’t sure I could deal with those issues again. Give yourself a week and rethink it. After the pain wore off, I started researching my next big race. I’m guessing the feeling is similar to giving birth? You forget about the pain and want to do it again.


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6 thoughts on “Ten Helpful Tips for Running Your First Half Marathon

  1. I find it so strange that many women wear their rings when they run! I don’t really have an issue with my fingers swelling, but I just hate the feeling of sweat gathering around my ring, yuck! Plus, I’m always afraid that, somehow, it will fall off my finger. I don’t even wear my rings to the gym. And yes, ENJOYING your first half is a must! I remember being so nervous before mine, I ran it very slowly because I had no clue how I would feel towards the end (my longest training run had been 11 miles), but I enjoyed every mile and I think that’s really important. Plus, it’s a huge accomplishment so it’s good to soak it in!

    • Funny, I didn’t wear my ring at all while training, but thought it would be a good idea to wear on race day. I guess jewelry is included in the “never wear anything new on race day” category! Lesson learned!

      I was also very nervous but it was all worth it in the end when I crossed that finish line. No one can take away that accomplishment! Congrats to you!

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