Seven Tips for Your First Half Marathon


Mak­ing the leap from a 10k race to a half marathon can feel like a big step. That’s because it is a big step—actually approx­i­mate­ly 14,652 of them, to be spe­cif­ic. But if you’re a run­ner, you’ve prob­a­bly heard that run­ning a half marathon is a rite of pas­sage. Many run­ners claim that it’s their favorite dis­tance: long enough to be a real chal­lenge, but short enough to be achiev­able for almost any­one. A lit­tle chal­lenge is nev­er a bad thing, so if you’re think­ing of run­ning in your very first half marathon, here’s what you should keep in mind.

Pick the Right Race
For a lot of peo­ple, sign­ing up for a race makes it feel real. Sud­den­ly, you’ll have a very legit­i­mate rea­son to drag your­self out of bed on a cold, rainy morn­ing for the sole pur­pose of hit­ting the pave­ment. Sign up for a race at least three to four months away. Pick a race that gets you excit­ed: maybe you’ll feel more com­fort­able tack­ling a flat route close to home, or maybe you want to cross that half marathon fin­ish line don­ning a Mick­ey Mouse out­fit in Dis­ney World. The right race should scare you a lit­tle, but should get you pumped up, too.

Take Baby Steps
Dou­bling the longest dis­tance you’ve run to date…now that’s a daunt­ing thought. The good news is that you don’t have to do it overnight. There are count­less dif­fer­ent train­ing plans out there, but the vast major­i­ty have one thing in com­mon: increase your dis­tance grad­u­al­ly. Phys­i­cal­ly, this will help you make sure that your body is ready then try a longer dis­tance. Men­tal­ly, it’s a lot eas­i­er telling your­self that this week’s run is only one mile longer than last week’s.

Set a Goal
Set­ting a goal at the begin­ning will help you pick the right train­ing pro­gram. Aim­ing to fin­ish in one piece is a total­ly respectable goal. If you want to try to match your 10k pace, that’s a good one, too.

Make a Plan
Plan­ning out a train­ing pro­gram takes the guess­work out of train­ing for a half marathon. With the 10k dis­tance, a lot of run­ners just kind of wing it—they run often enough that tack­ling the dis­tance isn’t too big of a deal. For most run­ners, though, the half marathon requires sig­nif­i­cant­ly more train­ing, at least if you want to fin­ish with­out an injury. Spend an evening com­par­ing dif­fer­ent half marathon train­ing plans that align with your goals, and find one that you think will work for you. Next, pull out your cal­en­dar (or cal­en­dar app) and sched­ule in your train­ing runs. Don’t for­get about nutri­tion: what you’re putting into your body matters!

Stick­ing to itSmoothie
Mak­ing a plan is great, but it’s use­less unless you actu­al­ly stick to it. You might find it help­ful to mix up your run­ning envi­ron­ment. Maybe you tack­le one run a week with a local run club, anoth­er with your run­ning friend, and the rest solo. Per­haps you hit the trails twice a week to mix up the views. You can stray from your train­ing pro­gram once or twice with­out feel­ing too guilty (e.g., skip­ping a run on one of those days) but try not to make a habit of it!

Going Beyond the Long Run
Long runs are a real­ly impor­tant train­ing component—but your half marathon train­ing pro­gram should include more than just day after day of long, slow runs (how bor­ing would that be!). Your work­out reg­i­men should include a vari­ety of exer­cis­es: tem­po runs, hill runs, cross-train­ing and strength days, and the under­rat­ed (but high­ly need­ed) rest day.

Own Your First Half
When race day final­ly comes, think of it as a cel­e­bra­tion of all the hard work you’ve done. You’ve trained for months. Your body is ready for this. Your mind is ready for this. You’re ready for this!


As with any race, don’t try any­thing too funky—just stick with what you know. Eat the same thing you nor­mal­ly do for break­fast on a run­ning day, wear your usu­al run­ning shoes, etc. And that’s it—you’re offi­cial­ly a half marathoner!