10 ultimate tips for your first half-marathon​

So you just registered for your first half-marathon (or even a full marathon) event and now you are nervous and scared shit less?

I know this feeling. I felt like this when I signed up for my first half-marathon and my first and even my second full marathon 😀

Thoughts like: “OMG why did I pay money to run 21/42 km?”, “Why did I think I can do this..” , “I am not good enough”…etc. etc… These thoughts are common if you are about to step out of your comfort zone, trying something new and extreme.

But despite the fear before my first ones, I just finished my 6th half-marathon and I successfully ran 3 full marathons too.

So I thought I like to share my top 10 tips that helped me to finish my first half-marathon successfully.

1. the right half-marathon training plan

A training plan that is made for your individual daily life is very important. If you only have time for training 3 days a week but a training plan says you need to go 4-5 times, then this is the way to lose the game. Why? It does not fit your needs. You will be stressed, you might just quit training because you cannot meet this goal. You would need a plan that tells you to train 3x a week.

If this is your first running event, first half-marathon, you would like to train a little longer than someone who’s already running regularly since many years. So if you started running just a couple months or a year ago, you would like to plan a 10 or even 14 week training plans (make it 16-24 weeks for a marathon). You don’t want to fail on the day of the competition due to overloading of the joints or an injury.

If you run on a regular basis since a couple of years, a 10-week plan can be enough for you.

(If you are a running beginner, you can check my running tips for beginners.)

2. The right running gear: shoes and socks​

If you already have an older pair of running shoes you should think about buying new ones. Do this early enough so you can train in your competition shoes. You wouldn’t like to start with completely new shoes. Your feet will be strained enough during the 21k. But you don´t want to use very old and torn apart shoes either.

Be sure to pay attention to the socks. It is important that they sit well and have no coarse seams, otherwise it could be a bloody surprise a la Cinderella….

You can find some inspirations and recommendations for running gear in my article: running gear for women.

3. Shorter competitions

5 and 10k competitions are great to train how it is to run in a crowd. Even though you might know your right pace, it is harder to run your own pace when you run in between others.

So 5-10k competitions are great to train how to hold your pace and how to optimally use your strength. Like: run slower in the beginning so you can run quicker for the last miles. In case you run too quick from the beginning you might not have enough power to make it without breaks.

In every city there might be some events so just research for 5-10k runs when the outdoor season is starting.

4. Don't forget to take some days off

I know a lot of runners are afraid of taking breaks from running. They fear to lose strength. But breaks are important to give your body a break and time to “heal”.

So please don’t always train 5-6 times every week, give your body, muscles and bones time to recover.

1 day before the half-marathon in Zadar/Croatia
getting ready for a 10k run in Tallinn/Estonia

5. Train outdoors​

In case you train mostly indoors on a treadmill it is very important to start running outdoors before a competition. It is such a different feeling to run on a treadmill than to run outside on concrete or sandy paths. Your body and bones need to get used to run outside and the best would be to train on exactly the material your competition will take part on. So, if you know the half-marathon is happening in a city you want to train on asphalt.

And rain is not an excuse not to run 😉 you get warm anyway when you run, and with the right gear it is no problem at all…

6. Strength training​

Targeted strength training is important to help your muscles and joints withstand the strain. Training for legs, abdomen and your back can help you to maintain a healthy and efficient running style until the end. It is totally up to you if you do this at home (best home work-out) or in a fitness studio.

7. Running group as motivation​

Not everybody is good in motivate themselves to train regularly. If you have trouble motivating yourself to go running, then go try to find a running partner or training group to meet regularly. Check meetup or look on social media for running groups/meetups in your area.

8. Position family and friends along the running route​

If you are fortunate enough to have friends and family wanting to cheer you up and live nearby, then this is great for the motivational kick along the way, as well as for a drink or a snack. (Plastic-wrapper-free of course;) The catering stations on big events are often overcrowded and the runners jostle so that they quickly can reach the water. It is mostly not a pleasant part of the run. You can also see all the single use plastic cups lying around everywhere (makes you aware about the extreme trash amounts these events create) and you have to be careful so you do won’t slip.

So if you have private support on the track it is so much better, then you can avoid the mass catering stations and to have a few private cheerleaders is a great motivation if you get tired after one half of the run.

During the marathons I ran, my dad always followed the route by bike, and we met on a few spots along the last 20k and I had the chance to get water, soda and some banana bites.

If you don’t have friends around, a foldable cup or a camel back for water is my GREEN RUNNING EVENT TIP.

Happy after the half marathon in Plovdiv/Bulgaria
Very happy after my first full marathon in Berlin

9. Prepare what you need one day before the event

You will definitely be nervous and excited on the day of the event, so I would recommend packing your running bag and clothing the day before. This way you won’t forget anything important and you can fully concentrate on yourself and the run.

You might want to make a list so there is no chance you can forget anything (shoes;), socks, jacket (depending on the weather), starting kit, snacks, reusable water bottle, clothes to change after the run, running belt, etc…)

10. What to eat before a running event

This is very individual. The best would be to train this too, before the event.
This way you will know what kind of food your body tolerates before a run. Normally you will have to get up early and a few hours before the start.

My perfect food is always something light, a small portion porridge (with water and a mashed banana), or some toast with honey, a home-made energy bar. Or just a banana. It really depends on your body. I avoid heavy to digest food before a run. And I mostly don’t need any extra food during a run. Water is mostly enough for me. But it can be different for you. You will know after your longer training runs.

Also make sure to wake up early enough so you do have enough time for your “private toilet time” in the morning. You don’t want to need a toilet during your run….

My Ultimate Extra Tip!!

Everybody needs to pee before the run! And normally there are looooong lines in front of the public toilets during an event. Not only the runners but also family and visitors are standing in line for forever.

While I was waiting for the start on my first half-marathon (it was in Berlin so the crowd was huge) I decided to go pee after the actual start.

And hell yeah, there were no lines 😀 Because everybody was afraid to miss the start.

But on a huge event it will take a while until your starting block actually reaches the starting line, so no stress. On some events it took about 20 minutes until my starting block actually started the run 😉 And the race time will start when you cross the starting line, so no need to be afraid of losing time.

Last but not least: Don´t stress and have fun!​

Don’t let the other runners rush yourself and run faster than you actually can. During every event I always had a lot of people over haling, pacing in the beginning and then I saw them again after a while. Exhausted, more walking than running because they started too fast.

You did your training, so you know how fast you should go in the beginning and just try to stick to it! You are running for yourself and for no one else 🙂 Have fun and you can always train for a better time after you finished your first one!

Happy running.