Before running my first half-marathon earlier this month, I sought the advice of my cousin, a very experienced runner who has run over six marathons. When I told him that my training for it had only consisted of one long run 8-mile run, he laughed and warned that if I didn’t start slow I might not finish.
Now, 13.1 miles later, I've learned how to prepare for the race and I have some advice for some of you other aspiring half-marathoners.
1. Go to the expo beforehand.
A lot of large races host an expo beforehand to pick up your race bib. It’s easy to blow this off and tell yourself that you’ll pick up your racing bib at the starting line. Picking up a day in advance not only reduces your stress on the morning of the race, it allows you to get a little bit of extra sleep. Going to the expo also gives you a chance to shop for on-sale running clothes, try samples at different nutrition stations, and get a map of the course.
2. Start slow.
My cousin was right: starting slow made the race much easier. I was even able to negative split the race and enjoy the finish because I started at a pace much slower than I had been training at.
3. Run with a pacing group.
The excitement and adrenaline that comes with big races is hard to ignore, especially when it’s your first time running one. Starting the run with a pacing group made sure that I started slow, and it was nice to have some camaraderie at the beginning.
4. The first three miles will suck.
For the first 30 minutes of the race, I strongly contemplated giving up! At the very beginning, you might be tight from not warming up properly or from just being overly nervous. But once you get past the first three miles, you are fully warmed up and the effectiveness of your training sets in. The endorphins start to really kick in, so just keep going!
5. Pick it up when you think you can.
It is important to start slow, but it’s just as important to speed up when you know you can. If you are 6 miles out and think you can easily increase your pace without getting too worn out, then go for it. At about half way, I knew I had more than a half tank of energy left so I increased my speed to catch up to the faster pacing group.
6. HAVE FUN!
Running 13.1 miles is intimidating. But you shouldn’t be doing it to torture yourself! Ultimately, running is huge stress relief and great exercise. If you monitor your pace and run a smart race, you’ll finish strong and happier than when you started.