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Half Marathon For Beginners

A half marathon for beginners should not be a race filled with pre-race stress.

Are you a total novice at the distance? Have no idea where to start, what to think or how far to run?

You have a lot to offer to our great sport and being new can teach advanced level runners such as myself and the RDA readers a lot as well.

I encourage you to leave a comment and tell me about how you have been feeling in training and what your plans are.

What I absolutely love about beginners is their thirst for knowledge.

That is not to say that experienced veterans like myself and other runners who have been competing for a couple decades or more aren’t focused or want to learn.

It simply means a beginner is brand new to the running scene and can make so many improvements so drastically, it almost unbelievable.

I have a guy I coach who just started running marathons and has went from a personal best of 4.40 to 3.27 and earned a Boston Marathon qualifier in a matter of a few months.

This is only one of many other examples that could be said about how much a beginner can teach us.

Below are 13.1 half marathon tips for beginners that can not only take your running to a new level but add to the wealth you already possess.

1. Stay relaxed. The most common thing you will see at races is tense, up-tight and far too many runners not relaxed.

Be different, be you, but be different. You have done the work leading into the race.

Why waste mental energy thinking about the ‘what if’s’. Get caught up in the moment of the race, not analyzing about the outcome. That goes for us veterans as well.

If you walked into a room full of light bulbs and one was flickering or burned out, which one would you notice first?

The thousands doing the same thing or the one that looks different and is doing something unlike the others?

Easy answer right.

This is why advanced runners like myself and others can learn from beginners. A half marathon for beginners or really any other race distance should be one that is run relaxed, calm and confident.

Follow that advice and you will get the most out of yourself on race day. It is as simple as that. A relaxed athlete will get the most out of his or her body. He or she can be focused and still relaxed.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.- Bruce Lee

2. Stay motivated.

Motivation cannot be taught. Athletes can have coaches and I coach a few runners here on rundreamachieve.com and those who purchase my training products also get this same philosophy from me.

The key difference between successful beginners and advanced level runners is their motivation lasts. It surely is challenged but successful people in all areas love what they do too much not to be a success.

They persist.

Ultimately, it is up to you. It is like a reading a book on a subject and then never applying anything you learn in it.

The coach can be there for the athlete, provide suggestions and be that motivation to keep the athlete on course but the coach cannot make the athlete get out the door.

It is up to you. The truth is everyone has a high level of motivation. Everyone can do something well and perhaps something exceptional and that is completely up to the enthusiasm you bring to the task.

3. Make goals and follow through.

This goes back to persistence. The half marathon takes a combination of both speed and endurance and to have a great race takes you making a goal and following through with it.

What is your goal? Is it to run this distance to lose weight or just to give a half marathon a try? Do you have a specific time goal in mind?

Making goals makes the hard training worth it. It holds you accountable because in this sport, it truly is up to the athlete.

I had coaches over the years and many of them I still continue to learn from, but even these world renowned distance running experts could not make me train.

It was up to me.

If I would have read the training plans they sent me or talked over with me and then chose to do something different or worse, nothing at all, the outcome would have been dismal.

The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen – Lee Iacocaa

4. Wear the proper shoes.

There are many runners training without the proper training shoe on their feet. Are you a pronator or a supinator? Ensure you know what is the proper shoe you should have on your feet.

One of the best pieces I received early in my career is this. It isn’t just about the workouts.

What are you doing in the other hours of your 24 hour day? Are you making wise choices that will only magnify your hard work?

Visiting your local running store and just talking with someone who knows biomechanics better then you is a great plan for success.

5. Run fast.

…but don’t overdo it either. Too much fast training will not make you successful if it isn’t balanced with a focused eye on recovery. You don’t win a race in practice.

You can have the greatest workouts but what counts is the race.

Test your limits in training and by that I mean practice how your body responds to faster running and if your patient, you will see drastic changes in pace and with that comes great racing and fitness.

6. Don’t neglect hydration

One of the biggest mistakes I have made in my marathon career has been not drinking enough during the race.

There are usually aid stations every 2-3 miles in the half marathon distance and you don’t want to neglect the chances you will have to drink.

Don’t just grab a cup and sip. Sipping is certainly better then bypassing the drinks altogether, but if you grab a cup drink the entire contents as best you can.



If possible grab more then one.

I also encourage you read the importance of hydration. You have worked too hard in training to ruin your race over not drinking and this goes back to what we discussed earlier, what are you doing the other parts of your day to be successful.

Running is only part of it. You can practice taking in fluids on your long runs. If you have a track workout planned, take a water bottle with you. Easy access and win-win situation to stay hydrated while working hard.

7. Guard yourself against injuries

Don’t wait to start taking care of an ache that you noticed days or weeks ago. If you feel a tightness or ache, address the problem.

Icing is always a good first step. I have had many injuries over my 21-year running career thus far and could have had far more had I not took action quickly when I noticed it.

It only took a few to notice what I was doing wrong and that was not acting as fast as I could.

Always address an ache or soreness when it arises, don’t continue to run through an injury and not take some form of rehab for it.

If you have knee soreness a great trick I use is I fill up styrofoam cups and put them in the freezer.

Once frozen I just massage my knees with them. You can peel off the sides and massage your knee rather then just sit a bag of ice on your knee, still good but better is best:)

8. Seek a mentor

Do you have a specific time you want to run in the half marathon distance? Do you see someone doing something in the sport you would like to do?

This sport isn’t JUST about elite running. I truly enjoy talking about running, fitness, goal setting and lifestyle change via distance running here at rundreamachieve.com and I always encourage my readers to share their stories.

It could be by way of a comment on my posts, visiting the forums or just stopping by the facebook ‘family’ page.

I don’t want ‘fans’, I want genuine people who come here who can learn something that will change their life and also share advice and thoughts that will change mine.

I prefer ‘family’. I’m not in the sport for myself but helping others do the things I dream about and want to achieve.

Having someone in your life, could be a spouse, co-worker or friends of yours who are heavily involved in the sport, as a mentor can make your next half marathon a success, as well as your future racing.

9. Find a professional, well-thought-out half marathon training plan.

This is crucial.

Try going to a major city you have never been to without a GPS in your car. Pretty difficult to get around cause you have no idea where you are going, how to get there and to boot, your stressed out trying to get to your destination.

How much easier to get where you want to go with a tool that will get you there quicker and with less stress.

A half marathon training schedule should be one that not only tells you where you are going (motivation) but shows you how to get there (the plan) will ensure you are achieving the success you deserve.

We all want success, having an action plan can help hold you accountable and add motivation to an already demanding sport

10. Have fun.

If you can’t have fun in this distance or any other distance for that matter, you are missing out.

I have failed at this in the past. Fortunately, I started running my best races when I simply let go of stress.

I just do the work, put in the training and have faith in what I do.

It takes time, especially the more experience you get. You start to have goals for yourself that involve time.

Don’t let the goals, the event, get in the way of your joy and happiness.

Always remember if you have failed on a half marathon time goal in the past, keep in mind the people who don’t even have the luxury to run or walk for that matter, will never experience what you just attempted.

You are a success. You could not have tried at all, just wondered about it. How many are out there trying?

Those that are are creating waves.

Your worst day is still a blessing because you have health.

You have loved ones around you that care about you. If you have a running team or club you are a part of I am sure you have someone you can lean on if a bad race, or missed goal has you down.

You also have the same people to rejoice with you when things go right. Always remember with friends and family things are always ‘right’ because they love and care for you whether to win or lose.

11. Practice your race pace if you have a time goal in mind

Just because you are a beginner doesn’t mean you can’t train like the champions. You may just want to run this distance for fitness or simply to test yourself. if you have run 5K’s and never run any farther in a race, a half marathon is challenge.

You can spice up your training but practicing running at faster paces. Too much easy jogging may bore you. Faster running will rejuvenate you and will remind your body that you are not going to accept staying in your comfort zone.

12. Be patient

If you have never run a half marathon before don’t lose hope if you get to the middle of the race and have to walk.

This happens to even the best runners in the world. There is a reason for this and if interested you can read more about it but the key is to finish if you have never run one before.

If you are more experienced at the distance, have run a few I am assuming you have certain times in mind and that is really where patience comes in. There will be days when you are trying to hit specific splits and your legs just aren’t doing the job.

Don’t let it ruin your day. If you have to slow down and run the rest of a planned hard workout jogging, do so. Your body will never lie to you and if it needs more recovery you will do more for it by listening then by ignoring what it is telling you.

Runners give up, get frustrated and move on with their lives and that is fine but the key is not look back and regret that you didn’t give yourself a chance due to being impatient.

A patient runner is dangerous and I am sure if you have read this far you clearly dedicated to success. Be patient, stay focused and keep moving.

13. Want it more.

Want success more for your sake, not to prove other people wrong who may have hurt you or said something derogatory. Never give energy to something that is useless to you anyway.

Our lives are already far too short. Don’t waste your precious energy on anything that is not going to move you forward to your goal.

Go after your goals, want it, dream about it, then work to achieve it.

.1  Be thankful

You get to do something, even if you fail, that many people around the world do not have the luxury to do.

Reminding yourself of how fortunate you are to do what you do will keep you motivated, focused and will provide the endless energy you will need to keep going when you want to quit.

A thankful athlete is happier, more in-tune with their body and relaxed. These characteristics will help you stand out come race day.

If this post has helped you in anyway or you would like to share some of your experience as a beginner in the half marathon or even if you are advanced level half marathon specialist, I would love to hear your thoughts.


  • http://www.facebook.com/jettageorge.featherston Jetta Featherston

    I am learning your thoughts right now. Thank u so much. You are a great motivator and teacher! Wow! I need to shut up and listen. So, that is what I am doing.

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