How to Train for Your First Half Marathon

Practice makes perfect.

Every long training run or walk is an opportunity to practice for race day.  Consider it a dress rehearsal and dial in hydration on the run, the timing of your pre-run nutrition and fueling on the fly. Think of apparel, shoes and anything and everything related to race day.

Keep a log and track what works and what doesn't. From chafing apparel to your favorite gel flavor, you'll create your personal training recipe for success along the way and it will serve as a means of validation when the race nerves set in the week before the event. 

More: 10 Natural Race Food Alternatives

Beat taper madness.

Speaking of nerves, a funny thing happens on the way to the start line. A tiny gremlin I call taper madness sits promptly on your shoulder about seven days out from the event with a goal to break you down mentally and emotionally. His presence can make you second-guess everything from what to eat race week to which foot to start on. This is happening as the training volume is tapering down to allow recovery from the demands of the season so you can toe the line strong, fresh and ready to rumble. 

The gremlin is fueled by your nerves but can be easily knocked off by keeping faith in your program.  Review your log and remind yourself how far you've come. This is the time to breathe, keep the mind stimulated and the body rested. Adding mileage to soothe the mind can hurt the body on race day. 

More: Tapering Is Crucial for Optimum Performance

Go with what you know.

If you're going to be a half marathoner, you need to know the number one rule. That is, don't try anything new on race day. Refer back to your log and stick to what is tried and true. Avoid the temptation to buy that cute, new top from the expo to wear on race day. Eat familiar foods, gels and avoid making drastic changes in your life. 

Pace yourself.

The number one thing you can control on race day is your pace. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of the race and go out too fast, only to find yourself crawling across the finish line. Think tortoise, not hare, and hold back the reins for the first half of the race by keeping the effort at a pace where you can talk. 

More: When Do I Run at Race Pace?

If you can hear your breathing, you're running too hard. At the halfway point, begin to slowly dial up the effort and count down the miles. In the final 3 miles, go fishing. That is, focus on a runner ahead and reel them in. There is nothing in the world like having the strength to pass people (nicely) in the final miles of a race. Besides, it makes for a much cuter finish line photo. 

Celebrate your accomplishment.

There are very few people that will ever cross a half marathon finish line. Take the time to fully celebrate your accomplishment. Whether you choose to run another half marathon or not, you only run your first half marathon once. Take it all in and give yourself a high five. You've earned it.  

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