Quick Tips for a Half Marathon Beginner

To say that I learned a lot during my first Half Marathon is an understatement. [You can read about my experience here.] Luckily, with some common sense and good advice from regular half marathoners, I did a few things right. But, being my first half marathon, I made a few mistakes along the way as well. Here’s some of what I learned:

Read the directions! I’m usually a chronic directions-reader. It’s usually the first order of any business for me: read the directions all the way through, and then proceed. This time, I let my pre-race excitement get the better of me. I skimmed through the directions and laced my timing chip through my shoelaces. It wasn’t until after I passed through the finish line, and all of the volunteers were cutting the chips off of people’s shoes, that I realized I had done something wrong. When I returned home after the race, I reread the directions which went something like this: “DO NOT LACE THE CHIP THROUGH YOUR SHOELACES. USE THE PLASTIC TIES PROVIDED.” D’oh!

Pin your bib on the front. I mistakenly put my bib on the back of my shirt. Huge mistake. Here’s why: when the event photographer/service is tagging photos, they tag them by your bib number. And if your bib number isn’t on the front (because, duh, they don’t catch pics of people’s backs) you won’t get tagged in photos. Which means that all of your pictures are in the “lost and found” section of the website. And you will inevitably spend hours sorting through photos, hoping you find a few of yourself.

Wear comfortable clothing, preferably something that also distinguishes you from the crowd. As an ancillary point to the previous one, make sure you wear an item of clothing that distinguishes you. I recommend bright, fun colors like neon yellows and pinks as opposed to light grays, blues, and blacks. Your supporters will have an easier time spotting you from the sidelines. And it won’t take so long to find photos of yourself after the race! But be sure that whatever you are wearing is comfortable. You will be going a long ways and you don’t want to be distracted by your clothing – you want to focus on the challenge ahead!

Pack a post-race bag. Some races let you check bags as the beginning of the race so you can have your bag available to you after you finish. Or you could ask a friend of family member to hang on to your bag while they cheer you on. Make sure to include a change of dry clothes as well as water, energy drinks, fruits, and snacks. This guarantees that you will have things to eat and drink between the time you finish your race and the time you get home.

Determine a meeting spot for after the race. If you are walking/running with a group, it’s important to have a predetermined meeting spot after the finish. If it’s a large race, chances are that you will get separated from your group. Having a designated meeting spot means that you will have one less thing to worry about after you finish!

Have your transportation to and from the race prearranged. When you finish, you will probably be excited, but also exhausted. The last thing you want to have to worry about are the small details.

Don’t eat/wear/do anything on the day of the race that you haven’t been doing in training. Eating, drinking, doing anything that differentiates from your training schedule could cause injury or sickness the day of the race.

It is easy to get excited on the day of the race. It is the moment that you have been training for. It is normal to feel exhilarated – and use that to your advantage to step up your pace a little. You should be enjoying yourself! Try not to go overboard though, you could seriously injure yourself.

Please feel free to add any tips of your own!

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