But moving up to 13.1 miles from single-digit runs can be intimidating for even the most confident runners. Fears pop up from every angle the first time you commit to a half marathon. Whether these fears are legitimate or not, they can have a major negative effect on your race day experience—if you even get there in the first place.
From a DNF to the IR list, these common worries must be pushed out of your mind if want to have the race of your life.
Getting Injured2 of 7
A half marathon is stressful on your body. Not only are you running THIRTEEN FREAKING MILES, but you're also training multiple times a week, with tough tempos and speedwork thrown in for good measure.
So, let's be honest, the chances of getting injured are going to increase.
Practicing proper rest and recovery can make avoiding injury pretty easy. For example, when your training plan says to rest, make sure to actually follow instructions!
Strength training will also decrease your chances of injury during hard runs and on race day. Strong muscles are able to deal with the stress of running better than weaker ones.
Remember to listen to your body as your training progresses. Just because you have a 10-mile run scheduled, doesn't mean you have to push through pain. There's a difference between sore muscles and a serious injury.
Stomach Issues3 of 7
Stopping to hit the Porta Potty mid-race isn't very conducive to hitting your goal time or that next PR. But tummy troubles on a run are a common ailment that can easily plague any runner, seasoned or newbie.
Start with making smart nutrition choices in the 24 to 48 hours leading up to the big day. With only a day or two before your race, the food you take in should be familiar to your body. Adding something new to your diet is like skydiving without a parachute—there's no going back. Instead, test out ahead of time what you plan to eat during race week, especially before your longest training run. This is the best opportunity to mimic race day conditions, including how your stomach will handle the foods you've been eating.
The same can be said for in-race nutrition like gels, chews, liquids or bars. Find out what brands or products the race will be offering at aid stations and purchase those products to train with. If you know those will upset your stomach, carry your own tummy-approved nutrition in a waistpack or FuelBelt.
Finally, take care of your bathroom business before the race even begins. On race morning, make sure to wake up with plenty of time to eat, drink some coffee, let the digestion process begin and then, of course, hit the commode. A safe timeframe is at least three hours before the starting gun. You might even need to go more than once.
Bad Weather4 of 7
Less than perfect weather is tough on all runners, but there are ways to at least make it less annoying.
The good news is a little rain won't hurt you—and it can actually cool you down. A visor or hat will keep the water out of your eyes, and a lightweight, breathable rain slicker is the perfect thing to throw on to stay dry.
Beware of overdressing, however. Many runners forget how quickly their body temperature can rise, and they end up carrying an extra layer for 90 percent of the race. Hint: You need less clothing than you think. A good rule of thumb is dressing as if it's 20 degrees warmer (and you weren't running).
If you have a friend or family member at the starting line with you, wear your outer layers up until the very last minute, when you can hand them off to your loved ones. If you don't have that luxury, consider wearing an old sweatshirt or jacket that you don't mind giving up, and leave it by the starting line.
Terrain/Hills5 of 7
Most races will provide an elevation map in addition to the course map to show runners where they can expect to encounter hills on the course. If you notice some intimidating sections, switch up your training to incorporate more hill work. If you live in the same area as the course, find the exact hill(s) and try to fit them into a training run. When you reach it on race day, you will have already been there, done that.
Furthermore, know that if you encounter a particularly difficult hill, there's no shame in slowing way down—or even walking. You'll find most people around you doing the same thing.
Not Finishing6 of 7
Sometimes, a race comes down to the finish line and you. Forget the other runners. Forget the crowd. Forget the clock. The last runner across the finish line is no less a finisher than the first one.
Calm your fear by realizing you've already accomplished the hardest task of all: starting. A fear of not finishing is simply a fear of failure, and a fear of failure should never hold you back from your dreams.
But let's say that you do decide to drop out for one reason or another. A DNF is not the end of the world, and there's always another race to redeem yourself after your body—and pride—properly heals.