Thinking about running a half-marathon? I decided to run my first half-marathon about a year ago. Since then, I have raced four half-marathons and managed to win three of them. I learned many lessons the hard way from these races. So, from one runner to another, here are five tips that may help you get to the finish line of your first half-marathon just a little faster and a little happier:
- Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. And I’m not just talking about the day of your race. Hydrate the day before as well. Most half-marathons begin before 9am, and it can be difficult to get hydrated in time for your race if you wake up thirsty. Particularly focus on staying hydrated when the weather is hot and humid! To avoid being over-hydrated, switch from chugging to sipping water one hour before the start of your race. This will allow time for extra water to exit your body before the gun goes off. Check with your doctor or coach for specific hydration advice.
- Have a mantra! You’ve probably heard it said that running is a “mental sport”. Beat your negative thoughts by preparing a positive mantra in advance. That way when you’re climbing a steep hill around mile 11 you can run to the beat of “I can and I will, I can and I will” instead of negative thoughts. Two of my other favorite mantras are “This is for my family,” and “I am strong and I am fast”.
- Don’t eat the energy gel unless you’ve practiced with it! When overly enthusiastic race volunteers attempt to shove Gu or other running fuel into your hand around mile 8, it can be tempting to take the little treat. However, if you have never tried eating these types of foods in the middle of a workout or have never sampled a specific brand or flavor of energy gel, don’t take it during a race! It is better to be safe and go with your normal refueling habits with the foods you are used to, then to have your stomach complaining a mile down the road.
- Choose your socks and shoes carefully. Investing in quality shoes is a obvious choice. I wear the Adrenlaine GTS and also own a host of racing flats. However, don’t forget about the other essential gear for your feet–socks. My preference is to race in a thicker style, like the Brooks Wool/Bamboo Infiniti sock. Choose a pair that work best for you. Your feet will thank you!
- Dedicate the race to a person or cause. At some point during every race I ask myself “Why am I doing this!? This is not natural!” Dedicating the race to a person (a parent, spouse, or teammate) or cause (the fight against breast cancer) can be extremely motivating. After all, it’s a lot harder to give up when you’re running for someone or something you love.