Running Your First Half Marathon: 4 Tips to Get You to the Finish Line 

Have you committed to running your first half marathon?  Well, congratulations!  You are in for quite an accomplishment.  It will be an uphill battle (pun intended).  With the right approach, you can set yourself up for a very positive experience on race day.

running your first half marathonI remember the day I completed my first half marathon in August 2014.  It was a little over a month after I committed and began training to run my first half marathon in July 2014.  My wife was kind enough to join me.

We decided to run and walk it as it gave me a chance to prove I could make the distance.  I was a few weeks into training for my first “official” half, which I was set to run in November.

It was an amazing bonding experience for us.  We got to do something challenging together.  She was working as a real estate agent at the time and finished the half marathon working out a deal on her phone.  I had decided to run the last mile.

We got much-deserved ice cream afterwards, drove the hour home, showered and promptly collapsed into bed I think in our robes.  It’s a great thing we weren’t parents yet.

Ok, so why do I tell you all this?  Well, because running your first half marathon is an experience.  And it’s most enjoyed with others who can encourage, motivate, and pick you up (sometimes literally) when you fall.

Runners have an amazing sense of community.  And that concept is especially crucial in distance running.  No runner is an island out there.  It’s best to learn that concept now before you embark on running your first half marathon.

So, you want to get started training for your first half marathon?  Fantastic!  Good for you!  Check out the resources below to get started.  Best of luck to you and contact us with any questions!

Running your first half marathon is a great milestone.

Running your first half marathon will change your life.  I know because it certainly changed mine.  I can honestly say that.  It gave me a purpose at a time when I needed a personal accomplishment.  Training for the half marathon and completing the race gave me a newfound confidence I never experienced before.  Perhaps even more importantly, it gave me a running.  I became a runner as I trained for my first half marathon.  It’s incredible what you can do when you commit yourself to something.

Here’s how you can start yourself down the path of commitment and accomplishment:

Start with Why

If you spend enough time on this site, you’re going to learn something about me.  I believe we all need to start with WHY we’re doing something.  We need to understand our purpose behind desiring to achieve this goal.  So, whether it’s sticking to a budget or running your first half marathon, you need to understand and be firmly grounded in your “why” behind it.

For example, your may decide to embark on running your first half marathon to get in shape.  Or maybe you want to raise money for a cause they believe in.  You may also be a parent trying to set an example of how to live a healthy lifestyle for your children.  Still, it could be that you’re being challenged by a friend or co-worker to run a half marathon together.  Whatever it is, make it your mantra.  Make it your modus operandi.  Do I need to keep going with the cliches?

Start with “why” and you will have a constant reminder when things get tough.  Believe me, they will get tough.  If you’re thinking of your kids when it’s 90+ degrees in the middle of summer and you’re only 1.7 miles in to a training run, you will find it in yourself to keep on going.  Trust me, it helps.

Set a Goal and Mark Your Calendar

There is nothing more motivating than putting something on the calendar and setting that goal.  Then, you go out and tell people to hold you accountable.  If your goal is to run a 10K, you better not let yourself or anybody else down.  That’s not to put any pressure on you, but it should pump you up.  You’re doing something.

Set the date and put it on your calendar.  Then, track your runs.  As I mention in this post, use the Seinfeld method.  What’s the Seinfeld method you ask?  As the story goes, comedian Jerry Seinfeld created a habit of writing at least one joke per day.  Every day he wrote a joke, he got to cross that day off in red marker on a big year-long calendar.  The point was to string as many of those red X’s together without breaking the chain.

How does that relate to your goal of running your first half marathon?  Well, however you set your schedule (and we will address that below), mark off your calendar or do something to acknowledge it.  You’re one step closer and, yes, that is definitely a reason for celebration.

Get a Baseline

How fit are you?  Do you workout often or not at all?  Do you play pick-up basketball with the guys or sit on the couch?  You need to know and be honest about where you’re starting from.  Where ever that is, it’s OK.  I don’t care how out of shape you are.  It’s not about that.  It’s about knowing yourself and your body.  Knowing where you are now will make it easier to get where you want to go.

Hydration

Understand that what you do off the road, track, or trail is just as important (maybe more) that when your feet are pounding the terrain.  In my opinion, the most important things is being properly hydrated.  When attempting to run a half marathon, or partaking in any physical activity for that matter, making sure you have enough water or Gatorade is so crucial.  The worst thing you can do is get sick during or after a run with dehydration problems.  It can be scary and kill your motivation.

If 9 to 13 cups is the directive from places like the Mayo Clinic, you then need to be drinking more because you’re sweating all of that out during your training runs.  Drink before your runs, during your runs, and after your runs.  Keep hydrated throughout the day and especially make sure you’re re-hydrating yourself after training.  It will help keep you healthy and happy.

Meals

You’re going to want to eat well as you train.  Don’t fall into the trap that some runners do (like yours truly) who think they can eat anything because they’re running a lot now.  You need to fuel your body with proper food filled with nutrients, vitamins, and protein.  Things like eggs, whole wheat pasta, mixed green salad, chicken, salmon, berries, and nuts are a great start.  Plus, all of this food will keep you healthy, thin, and provide plenty of energy as you increase your mileage totals.

Stretching

Many people skip this step before they run and after they run.  I’m better at it before I run because I tend to get shin splints.  I usually do a warm-up quarter mile to full mile and stretch.  Here is a list of the 3 key stretches I do:

  • Calf stretch: Place one hand on a wall for support and bend over with your right foot pointed upward.  Use your right to gently pull your foot toward you and you should feel the stretch in your calf muscle.  Hold this for 10 to 20 seconds and perform the same stretch for the left calf.  Do this stretch 2 or 3 times before your run and at least once after your run.
  • Quad stretch: Place one hand on a wall for support and bend your right knee up toward your butt.  Use your right hand to pull your leg tighter toward your back.  You should feel this stretching out your quad muscles.  Hold for 20 seconds and perform the same stretch on your left quad.  Do this stretch at least once before your run and once afterward.
  • Groin stretch: Sit on the ground and place the bottoms of your feet together.  Point your toes up and pull them toward you as you lean forward.  Hold this for 20 seconds.  Do this one also at least once before and after your run.

Don’t underestimate the importance of a solid training plan when running your first half marathon.

The schedule I want you to start with will actually allow you to run 13.1 miles once times before race day.  You will see you have walk days and rest days each sprinkled in each week as you increase your run time and mileage.  This will give your body the rest it needs as you begin your journey to run your first half marathon.  You will be able to recover and ease into your training.

If you need to adjust the days, that is just fine.  Re-create the schedule as you need to.  This schedule is a guide.  As I trained for half marathons and my first marathon, I adjusted the training program to work for me.  It is more than OK.  But, you need to make sure you get the runs in.  If you need to miss a day, make sure you make it up or else you will be behind.  You want to go into to race day at your best.

If you have any questions, please email me.

Download Run The Money’s Half Marathon Training Program!

You need to plan where you want to be running your first half marathon.

Congratulations!  You’ve decided to run in an actual race.  You should be proud of yourself for making this commitment and embarking on a rewarding path.  Now, it’s time to choose the race.

You may be able to find a race in your area.  There are always charity or community 5Ks and 1-mile fun runs, 10Ks, and half marathons being put on.  But, in case you don’t learn about one or you can’t find one that works with your schedule, here are a few places you can find a local run:

When running your first half marathon, you need to have the right gear.

If you’re running your first half marathon, you have to have the proper attire.  No, I’m not suggesting you go out and spend hundreds of dollars on running gear.  After all, this is also a personal finance site and that would be dishonest.

However, I do believe you should make a small investment in a good pair of running shoes and socks.  I know it sounds crazy, but making sure you have socks that don’t lose their tightness and shape is very important.  The last thing you want are blisters to derail your training progress.

I put together a list of the best gear for running your first half marathon based on my own knowledge, Amazon rankings, and other running blogs.  Check them out, read reviews, and find the items that fit you best.  (I do want to add that the following links are affiliate links).

Shoes

Best Men’s Running Shoe for Beginners: ASICS Venture 5

So, I picked these ASICS shoes as a recommendation because they are a top seller on Amazon.  I have not personally used them, but they do have 4.5/5 stars with over 4,800 reviews.  Of those reviews, 60% are 5 stars.  Seems like a solid shoe all in all.  Price is pretty reasonable too and starts at around $40.  Pros are that people use it for a variety of reasons and it holds up — from logging the running miles to using them as a delivery man to using them for yard work.  So, the shoe holds up for most people and one gentleman mentioned how it helped his plantar fasciitis.

However, for the cons, some people have found that the shoe wasn’t quite as durable.  It may not be a great trail running shoe it appears.  That said, at 4.5 stars and $40, it is a reasonably-priced beginner’s running shoe.  Even one guy who complained about the durability was happy with the comfort.  Overall, 89% of the reviews the shoe received gave it a 4 and up.  So, it looks to me like a good bet and a great shoe for running your first half marathon.

Best Woman’s Running Shoe for Beginners: ASICS Venture 5


The women’s version of these ASICS shoes received similar reviews as the men’s.  Overall, we still see a 4.5/5 stars with over 2,500 reviews.  Of those reviews, 66% are 5 star reviews.  One woman praised the shoe for help with her plantar fasciitis, citing the shoe’s support and beautiful design.  Another loved the toe space, comfort, and the fact that it doesn’t cake in mud/dirt.  All very positive features as she uses these ASICS to run trails.

However, not everyone had a remarkable experience.  Cons include one woman who actually believed these shoes are not for running.  She explained that the arch support was subpar and caused her to have shin splints.  Others didn’t believe the shoes were very comfortable, specifically the toe box and the shoe being too narrow.  That said, 85% of the rating for this shoe come in at 4 stars or more and it starts at $40.  As you train for running your first half marathon, they could be worth a try.

What I Wear: Men’s Brooks Transcend

I can’t tell you how much I love these shoes by Brooks.  I used these shoes to train and run for the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon.  Since I logged hundreds of miles training for that race, I actually purchased a second pair of these as race day drew closer.  I wanted to make sure I had enough support.  These shoes are incredibly durable.  From what I remember, they were immediately comfortable and helped alleviate much of my pain from shin splints.  They have 4.2/5 stars on Amazon.  The reason I didn’t have them as the top running shoe for men despite my love for them is because they start at $110.

Personally, if you’re running your first half marathon, I don’t want you spending a lot of money on shoes.  These are affiliate links, so I do make a portion on the sale if you buy from them.  But, I am not telling you to drop a ton of money on your first pair of running shoes.  Since this is also a personal finance blog, I would be irresponsible to tell you to do so.  That said, Brooks really does make quality running shoes for men and women and is a solid choice for running your first half marathon.


Socks

Best Pair of Running Socks for Men & Women: Feetures! High Performance Socks

These socks by Feetures! are incredible.  First off, when running, the last thing you want are socks that lose their integrity / shape and become too loose.  When that happens, the sock becomes uncomfortable, especially when you tighten your shoes.  Plus, the sock will oftentimes fall down in the shoe and that’s the last thing you want when you’re trying to concentrate on your mileage.  The Feetures! socks are very comfortable and fit tightly against your foot.  But, not in an uncomfortable way, more like “form fitting”.  This makes it so you don’t have to worry about the sock stretching out and losing its integrity.

Furthermore, they wick away moisture to keep you feet cool and dry.  My wife and I love them so much that we wear them even when we’re not working out.  They are comfortable enough for every day use.  I highly recommend Feetures! socks.  You will not be sorry.  After all, running your first half marathon can take some time.  So, be sure your feet are happy!


Headphones

Best Selling Headphones: TaoTronics Bluetooth Wireless Earphones

Ok, seriously, these TaoTronics headphones are a great deal.  They are only $26.  And, yes, they are marketed as the Top Seller for Bike Headsets, but runners can use them as well.  One reviewer explained how he runs between 3 and 10 miles per week, 3 times per week.  He cites how the blades fit in his ears and don’t move around.  Trust me, the last thing you want as a runner is to have the headphones constantly popping out.

Overall, 87% of the reviews for these TaoTronics headphones come in at 4 stars or more.  But, of course, not everyone loves them.  In fact, for what the runner above says are a plus, another person cited how the headphones don’t fit in the ear well.  Go figure.  To be honest, with a lot of running gear as with anything, it comes down to the person.  It comes down to individual preferences.  What works for me or for you, will not work for other runners.  You have to find what works best for you.

What I Wear: Mailiya Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

I purchased my Mailiya headphones after another pair of Bluetooth headphones suddenly stopped working.  So far, I have little to complain about when these.  They fit fairly comfortably in my ear with great sound.  However, the loop part that goes over my ear can get annoying.  I sometimes find that the ear buds fall out and I’m constantly re-adjusting them.

But, overall, I do like the Mailiya headphones.  I’m not the type to drop $100 to $250 on incredibly expensive pairs of sunglasses or headphones.  That’s just not my style.  Plus, I think Anna would kill me.  After all, this is a personal finance site too!  I really like the fact that these headphones are water resistant.  It helps me because I sweat a lot!  These are fine for beginners too and have a good volume range to go with great sound quality.

I did want to mention one thing.  When running your first half marathon, be sure the race allows the use of headphones.  Some don’t, so just check the race information.


Running Watches & Wearable Tech

Top Running Watches: Casio W800H-1AV Classic Sport 

This particular Casio watch is #1 in Men’s Sports Watches on Amazon.  It comes in at 4.5/5 stars with over 2,000 reviews.  Now, I used to wear a Nike watch when I ran.  But, after it died, I went the cell phone and armband route.  It’s worked for me ever since.  I ran the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon and 3 half marathons between 2015-2016 that way.  So, I didn’t miss the watch.  That said, if don’t want all that stuff on your arm, go with a cheap watch to start.  This one is less than $13.  You can’t really beat that.  Let’s be honest, though, cheaper things have a tendency to be made, well, cheaply.  So, people do mention that in the reviews.  But, 74% of the reviews for this watch are 5 star and 16% are 4 star.  That’s a lot of happy people.  If you want to go with a watch and you’re a beginning runner, start here.  Save yourself some money.

Handheld GPS Unit: Garmin vívoactive Black

So, this thing seems pretty cool and it’s the top seller on Amazon in the Handheld GPS Unit category.  It has 4/5 stars and over 1,900 reviews.  Garmin vívoactive comes with Sports apps for Running, Biking, Swimming, Golfing, and Walking.  Many people seem to love it and gave it some pretty good reviews.  However, it’s $136.  Certainly a lot to lay out for a watch.  So, it’s unfortunate to see that people had issues with the technology, particularly sync problems, screen dimness, charging failures, and not being able to use when swimming.  How can you track swimming but not submerge it in water?  Overall, the Garmin vívoactive received 55% 5-star ratings and 18% 4-star ratings.  Not bad, but not overwhelmingly great either.

Cell Phone Armbands

Best Selling Armband: Tribe AB37 Water Resistant Sports Armband


I’ll be honest with you.  I wouldn’t worry too much about cell phone armbands.  Find one that fits the phone you have and be done.  They are all pretty much the same.  This one here is a Best Seller on Amazon.  It has 4.5/5 stars and over 10,500 reviews.  Plus, it’s on sale right now for under $10.

One person complained about the armband sliding up and down their and the plastic getting foggy.  Honestly, the same thing happens with mine.  Many of the newer phones are water resistant anyway.  So, it shouldn’t be a problem.  Another person said this armband didn’t fit iPhone 6S despite it being advertised.  Overall, the armband got reviews of 4 or above 85% of the time.

What I Wear: Iwotou Armband for Samsung Galaxy

Yes, I still have a Samsung Galaxy S5.  As I said above, I do run into the armband slipping down my arm and the plastic fogging up.  But, you just need to tighten it a bit more.  It’s usually no big deal.  As for the moisture on the inside of the plastic, it’s from me sweating.  It doesn’t hurt the phone as the phone is more or less water resistant.  I’ll say that it’s a good product.

T-Shirts

If you run long enough, you will get a ton of t-shirts and swag from races.  Don’t toss them.  Use the heck out of those shirts.  As runners, we go through lots of shirts.  Have mostly cheap ones, but invest in a few nice sweat resistant ones.  You will be glad you did!



Shorts

I don’t get too fancy with running shorts.  Hell, I even get stuff at Walmart.  I could care less.  Plus, I ran track and cross country in high school.  I will never be caught dead in that underwear they call running shorts.  No thank you.  Nobody needs to see my milky white thighs.  OK, TMI.  Sorry for that.



Winter Gear

I personally own Nike and Under Armor winter gear, particular wind breakers, running pants, sweat pants, and gloves.  You could always start out and go “Rocky” style in the beginning.  Nothing wrong with a cheap hoodie and sweat pants combo.



Please don’t feel like you need to purchase everything on this page to begin your running career.  In fact, I am telling you right now not to break the bank as a beginning runner.  I truly don’t want you to do that.  Get the essentials.  To me, for running your first half marathon, that’s a good pair of running shoes and good socks.  You want your feet to be comfortable during these runs and you don’t want cheap socks that slide around and don’t absorb sweat.  That’s how you get blisters.  So, take my advice and get out there!  Happy trails!

As you get to the day of your half marathon

Running your first half marathon — all 13.1 miles of it — is no joke.  You’re running over five 5K races and two 10K races in a single race.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  It’s also nothing to sneeze at.  Yes, there will likely be lots of runners (hundreds or even thousands depending on the race you choose), but 13.1 miles is not something the majority of the population can do.

So, forget the naysayers and the people who think “it’s not that hard,” and go dominate on race day.  End the race strong, get your medal, and then have a pretzel and some chocolate milk (races usually have some great goodies).  Then, put your feet up — and grab the foam roller because you will need it!

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