Crossing the finish line of your first half-marathon is a fulfilling experience. Running full speed as the crowd cheers, and the finish line gets closer, knowing that all your hard work is about to pay off…there’s nothing like it. Plus, you don’t only become a better running, but the benefits extend into your everyday life.
To set a goal of running 13.1 miles and then reaching that goal will not only build your confidence, but it will change your mindset. Now setting big goals and achieving them come much easier. Not to mention the laundry list of potential health benefits that will be available.
Building your endurance to the half-marathon level is one of the greatest strengths a person can develop.
So whether the half-marathon is your end goal or a stepping stone to a full marathon, this step-by-step guide will help show you the way.
Within this guide, you will receive steps for running your first half-marathon. You will also receive a beginner friendly training program to follow.
So…are you ready to run your first half-marathon?
Great! Let’s begin, starting with taking you first step.
Please note: I am not a certified health physician and do not claim to be one. I’m only sharing the methods that worked for me. Remember, sometimes when you push the limits, the limits push back. So proceed with caution and never forget that safety comes first.
Step 1: Take The First Step
You know what the best part about becoming a runner is? It’s easy! You literally only have to take one step, and POOF, you’re a runner.
The term “runner” is subjective, since it’s based on your own individual perspective. If you consider yourself a runner then you are a runner…PERIOD. So walk out the door, move your feet forward, and run!
Also, the first step will help build the force for another. And another. And another. The average person takes 2,000 strides per mile. That’s 262,000 strides in a half-marathon.
But here’s the secret: movement creates more movement. The first step produces energy for the next as you tap into the secret power of the endurance world: MOMENTUM.
What is momentum?
Momentum is as the strength or force gained by motion. You often hear the word used in sports. A team said to have the “momentum” is moving forward on their opponent like an NFL team driving for a touchdown. So stopping the team with momentum will take a lot of effort.
Here’s another way to view momentum. Remember when you were a kid and played on a merry-go-round with your friends?
At a standstill, a full merry-go-round was tough to move. But the more you pushed it, the easier it became. Soon you could barely keep up, so you jumped on and spun around in circles with your friends. Then to keep the momentum alive, as it would slow, you jumped off and gave it another push before it reached a full stop.
Momentum in your running is the same. The first few steps are always the toughest. But as any seasoned runner can tell you, once you get into a groove, your run becomes much easier.
The key is not to stop, even if you must slow down or walk. Try to continue moving forward, no matter what. Avoid a standstill at all cost, because the longer the run, the more effort it takes to get going again.
On race day there will be times that your mind will scream “STOP!” But I’m here to tell you different. The key is to keep moving forward. Even if you must walk, just keep moving forward by any means necessary.
In ultramarathon running, we say, “beware of the chair.” When you stop moving during an ultramarathon, you become weak, stiff, and tired. You lose your running momentum, and starting back up takes a substantial amount of energy.
Momentum can also apply to your new training program. The first few weeks can be tough for some and can even be discouraging. But the further you progress, the easier the act of running will become. Why does it become easier? Running becomes easier because you tap into the secret power of momentum!
Step 2: Use A Shoe That Works
Running shoes have the potential to help you or hurt you.
What do I mean exactly?
Well, when running long distances you need a shoe that supports your footstrike. Otherwise, the further you run the greater chance of pain and injury. It’s essential to determine if you have flat, neutral, or high arches and find a shoe to support it.
What’s the fastest and most reliable route to finding the best shoe for you?
Walk into your local running store and ask for help. They will look at your foot, have you stand on one foot, and provide you with a few shoe options to choose from.
Running with a shoe designed for your footstrike will not only prevent pain and injury, but it will build the foundation to exceptional endurance. It may even allow you to move up to the marathon distance.
For more information on preventing and eliminating running related pain and injury, click the link to my blog post below…
Step 3: Sign Up For The Race
Goals will remain goals unless you take ACTION. To make your goal of running a half-marathon real, you must sign up for the race. Plus, as we all know, when you give a goal a deadline you are more likely to follow through.
Those who wait until last minute to finish something will know this best. Ever wait until the last minute to study or complete an assignment at school or work?
Whether it was due in 1 month or 1 week, you space the task out until the deadline. But in reality, if the task takes 4 hours of work, it only takes 4 hours of work.
The point is we are all prone to procrastinate. But here’s the problem, running and procrastination do not mesh well together. If you stop training, you will disrupt both your progress and momentum. Two critical components to finishing your training program.
Signing up for the race will eliminate excuses too. It’s the best step you can take to assure you start training immediately.
Ready to find a half-marathon to run?
Here’s the good news: signing up for a half-marathon is simple. There are plenty of registration websites online.
When searching through the different races, do yourself a favor, find one close to home. Save the traveling for another time. The day of your first half-marathon can be stressful. Don’t add any extra stress that traveling tends to create. Stress is a resistance that uses up energy. So save as much energy as possible for the race, not traveling to the race.
Also, I’d recommend staying away from races with high elevation. When reading the course description look for key phrases like “beginner friendly” or “great for your first half-marathon.” Trust me, you will thank yourself for it later.
Step 4: Find A Training Program
After signing up for the race, it’s time to begin training.
Click here for a beginner friendly training program.
Since you are a half-marathon beginner, it’s critical to use a beginner friendly training program. Your body needs time to break down, adapt, and grow. Patience is the key to running long distances.
The above training program will work just fine or you can find another online. Simply search “beginner friendly half-marathon training program” or something similar.
Step 5: Take It Slow
There are two types of physical activity: aerobic and anaerobic.
Aerobic activity is when you train “with air.” When you run from an aerobic state, you should be able to hold a conversation.
Anaerobic activity is when you train “without air.” It’s when you run fast and lose your breath.
If you want to run your first half-marathon, it’s recommended to train at an aerobic state. Make sure you never entirely lose your breath.
Sure you can run fast and try to increase your pace. But when you lose your breath, slow back down into an aerobic state. Pacing yourself will help build your foundation for endurance running. From here you can practice running faster.
Always remind yourself that you cannot build a house on a shaky foundation.
Step 6: Relax While Running
Often, beginners run much harder than required. Running harder is not necessarily smarter.
When a child begins to write they tend to constantly break pencil points while an adult has a natural relaxed flow due to a lifetime of repetition.
Here’s the point: don’t apply any unnecessary force to your run, it takes time to develop at anything. It’s a waste of energy that could otherwise be utilized later in your run, not to mention a likely way to become injured.
Training should be about gaining experience and practicing technique not about forceful moves or worrying about who’s watching.
So, relax those arms, land softly underneath your body, and move your feet short and quick. Run with assertiveness, run relaxed, and then, watch yourself run to that finish line every time.
Step 7: Warm Up & Cool Down
Before every run, it’s a good idea to walk for five minutes. Start to walk slowly, bring it to a fast walk, and ultimately transfer into a very slow jog. This benefits you as it warms up your muscles to prevent injuries. I never stretch before a run and do not recommend it. Your muscles are cold, and it will only result in injury.
After each run, be sure to cool down also. This helps to bring your heart rate back down and flushes out any lactic acid buildup in your body.
One technique I picked up is to walk backward for five minutes. After a run, walking backward helps. You are cooling your body down but using muscles and movements that you rarely use. Also, walking backward puts less strain on your knee joints and helps with lower back pain. A well-deserved relief for your overworked body.
Step 8: Find The Right Gear
Running gear is an essential part of running your first half-marathon. And it’s even more important to train with your gear before the race.
The primary type of running gear is running shoes, running shorts, running socks, and a sweat-wicking tech shirt. You may also want to consider headphones, a GPS watch, compression wear, and hydration gear.
As you train, make sure to do your homework and find the best gear for you. Each piece has the potential to make training and race day less complicated. And you want to keep things as simple as possible when running your first half-marathon.
For more information on running gear, be sure to click the link below to check out my blog post on the subject…
Step 9: Nail Down Fueling
When it comes to fueling, there are many paths you can take. The way you fuel will be solely up to you. Different fuels affect different runners in different ways.
But whatever fuel you choose, do yourself a favor and test it during training. Do not experiment on race day.
In regards to fueling here’s what I can tell you: the majority of half-marathon and marathon runners use a sports drink+gel combination.
Here’s a good place to start:
1. Eat a pre-race/training meal 1-2 hours before your run. (eg. bagel + peanut butter or oatmeal + berries or banana + walnuts)
2. Drink a 20 ounce sports drink before your run.
3. While running start with water, then sports drink, then a sports drink + gel combination
You will most likely not need gel until around mile seven. But again, fueling cannot be standardized, and you will have to determine when your body needs replenishment.
So, remember–training is the perfect time to practice fueling. Make sure to nail down your approach before race day.
For more information on fueling, be sure to click the link below to check out my blog post on the subject. The post is for a marathon fueling plan, but the same strategy can be applied to half-marathons…
Step 10: Actively Recover
Rest days are a part of training too. Recovery is when your body grows back stronger.
Always remember this: endurance is not developed during your run. Endurance is developed during recovery. So, make sure you actually give your body time to rest.
During rest days you can take the whole day off, go for a walk, or perform some light cross training like swimming or yoga.
Movement will promote blood flow which helps with recovery…just don’t overdo it.
Step 11: Show Up Early For Race Day
When running a half-marathon, it’s essential to arrive early. This will help you avoid potential problems.
Issues can arise from parking, check-in, bathroom lines, and others. By not rushing, you can pick up your bib and focus on the race, not on getting to the race on time.
For those who don’t know, a “bib” is your race number that’s safety-pinned to your clothing. It identifies who you are on the course. It usually contains a sensor that monitors when you cross the starting line and the finish line.
By arriving early, you avoid the need to rush. When you rush, it’s easy to make mistakes and waste valuable energy for the race. What if your race starts at 8:00 am, and you arrive at 7:30 am but it unexpectedly takes 25 minutes to park? Unusual traffic patterns are a commonality for larger events.
Suddenly, the real race becomes making it to the start in time, causing you to forget something before the race. So arrive early and take the start well prepared and with a clear mind, ready to run a half-marathon.
Step 12: Make Only One Goal
It’s tempting to go after fast times and placements, but for your first half-marathon, I strongly recommend you avoid these temptations. I tell you from experience: make your one and only goal to finish.
Once you have the first half-marathon under your belt, your aerobic base is built, and your confidence is high. Then go for a PR. By making your goal to finish, you will avoid energy-wasting behaviors and get yourself across the finish line in one piece.
Step 13: Pace Yourself
You are running a half-marathon not a sprint. When the gun goes off, you will most likely feel some adrenaline. Excitement is typical at the start of your first half-marathon. This makes you want to run fast, that is, much quicker than you planned to run.
The problem is if you trained at a certain pace, your body is built for that pace. Any more and chances of burning out significantly increase. So even though you will want to run fast…don’t. Have the discipline to pace yourself. The real race is against yourself.
And here’s the extra bonus. If you get to the finish line feeling strong, then chances of jumping up to the marathon distance will be much higher.
Step 13.1: Enjoy The Process
Training for a half-marathon is fun! Running a half-marathon is fun! Setting a big goal and reaching it is fun!
Don’t lose sight that the process of running your first half-marathon should be enjoyable. Take the commitment seriously, but not yourself. Lighten up a bit, relax, and smile… you are about to accomplish something amazing!
Final Word of Advice…
Running your first half-marathon doesn’t have to be a complicated process. As you can see, by following a few simple steps the finish line can come with no trouble at all.
YES it will take patience, and YES it will take hard work, but isn’t that true for anything worth doing in life?
You are about to run your first half-marathon and become a real distance runner. It’s going to take consistent action every day.
Will it be easy? No, the miles will be tough.
Will it be worth it? Yes! The whole 13.1 miles!
Experience The Power of Long-Distance Running
You can join the ranks of the hundreds of thousands of runners that race every year. These are the people you see running along the road, down sidewalks, and on the treadmill at your neighborhood gym.
Those runners, as well as myself, will all agree: the benefits from long-distance running stretch far beyond what you could ever imagine.
Whether it’s a healthier body, an increase in energy, or an unbreakable mindset. Long-distance running can do all that to a person…and more.
Are you ready to start your long-distance running journey today by running a half-marathon?
Here are ten great reasons you should consider reading My Long Distance Running Journey: 101 Long-Distance Running Tips To Pave The Way…
1-It’s jam-packed with proven secrets, tips, and techniques that have helped thousands of runners reach new distances.
2-It introduces you to all aspects of the running world— from what you need to know about nutrition… to different types of gear… to taking the right steps on race day to ensure you cross the finish line.
3-Each and every tip comes from my own personal journey. You sure learn a lot on your path from running a few miles on a treadmill to competing in 200-mile ultra marathons!
4-The beginner training programs allow you to start right away. You actually “run while you learn”… so you can begin increasing your endurance as you break into racing quickly.
5-You avoid countless years of trial and error. This way, you follow the shortest path to running long distances. Time is your number one resource…and now, you’ll have plenty of it.
6-Even if you’re not interested in racing, the running knowledge you’ll gain from this book will help you run for fun, join a running group/club, or become more fit on your own.
7-Everything written is geared to helping you succeed. No showing up to the starting line unprepared or unsure what to do.
8-Even if you don’t consider yourself a runner… you can complete the running programs. If you can walk and follow some simple, yet powerful techniques, you can create a body that enjoys the kind of fitness most people only dream about.
9- You learn how to develop a long-distance running mindset where growth becomes common practice in your running…and your life.
10-You will be a part of the running community! A place where anyone is welcome if they have the courage to begin. A place you can call “home.”
Simply put, My LongDistance Running Journey is your best path to becoming a long-distance runner and running a half-marathon. Let me help you become the runner of your dreams…