Skip to content (Press Enter)

5 Things to Know Before Your First Half Marathon

Runners line up at the start of a race

So, you’ve signed up for your first half marathon. Congrats! You’ve got your calendar marked, your training plan mapped out and you’re ready to race.

Sure, logging miles is an integral piece of the training puzzle, but there is a lot more to consider before your first 13.1. Here are five things I wish I knew before running my first half marathon.

1. Your pacing might be off

No matter how meticulously you planned your mile splits, it’s not always easy to stay on pace. Most runners go out too hard in the first mile because—let’s face it—they’re excited!

Your pace will most likely quicken in the first part of the race, which can crush your dreams of that negative split. How can you prevent this? Bring a GPS watch and focus on staying on your goal pace. Practice this pace during training runs.

With all of the race day excitement, there’s a good chance you’ll be a few seconds faster, but try not to get too ahead of yourself. It’s great to have a certain time goal, but if this if your first half marathon, the most important thing is crossing that finish line!

A woman stops for to get a drink of water during a race

2. Consider logistics

There’s more to race day than simply putting one foot in front of the other. Unless you’re in the elite pack, you’ll need to think about transportation, bag storage, directions to the start line and other logistical concerns. Hopefully your race day packet is detailed, so read it thoroughly, then read it again.

What kind of parking is available? Do you need to bring money? How close is the parking lot to the start line? These are all questions to answer before the morning of the race.

Another tip? Stop at a convenience store to use the bathroom before you get to the course. That Port-A-Potty line is never short!

3. Bring your own nutrition and hydration

The course will most likely include hydration and nutrition stops, but if you’ve never trained with the energy gels or bars those generous volunteers are handing out, it’s probably not a good idea to try them for the first time at mile 10. Pack the nutrition you’ve been using during your training runs, and your stomach will thank you.

Can you find out ahead of time what products the race will provide? If so, try to train with them for a few weeks and see how your body reacts. Remember the old adage: Nothing new on race day. (Yes, that goes for everything: nutrition, hydration, shoes and clothes.)

4. Don’t stress over sleep

Tossing and turning the night before the race? Of course you are! Not many runners can snooze peacefully before their first (or second, or third, or fourth) half marathon. The good news? The sleep you get (or don’t get) before the event doesn’t affect your performance too much. Just make sure to log some quality zzz’s the week leading up to the race – those are the nights that matter.

5. This is not the end all, be all

Yes, this half marathon is important, but the truth is, not everything will go as planned. And that’s OK. You might not hit your pacing goals, the weather could turn bad, there might be elevation you didn’t account for or your body could just be off.

No matter what goes wrong, though, you’re going to get out there and run the best you can on that particular day. You’re going to cross that finish line, earn your well-deserved medal and enjoy the post-race party, even if your race wasn’t perfect.

Running 13.1 miles is a huge accomplishment, so celebrate your victories and show off that medal.


By Theresa Gaither. Theresa Gaither has been obsessed with running since joining her high school cross country team. From solo training runs to pushing her daughter in the stroller, she takes every opportunity to lace up.

Keep Reading