I ran my first half marathon over winter break this year and I had a great time. I loved the scenery of the race and how long the race was. It was challenging and I made some mistakes but I learned how to prepare and run my next half marathon.
Here are some tips for your first half marathon:
- Pay attention to the weather:
This was one of the mistakes that I made. It was chilly before the start of the race, around 40°, so I wore a tank top, shorts, and a long sleeve on top. I then pinned my bib number onto my long sleeve, which was a mistake. I did not realize how quickly it would warm up and I was hot by mile 3 of the 13.1-mile race. I spent the rest of the race trying to cool myself down. At water stations I would take a small sip of water and then dump the rest on my head. It is better to be a little cold before the race than to be hot the majority of the race.
- Scope out the race website for water stations:
While I was overheating during the race, I was wondering where the water and Gatorade stations were. I did not look that up on the website but it would have been helpful to tell myself that a water station was coming up.
- Test out different gels:
I did most of my training for my half marathon through my cross country training. I had around four weeks after cross country ended until my half marathon. I only tested out one gel and that did not agree with me. I decided to try a different type of energy “gel” but in chewable form. I had previously used these in high school cross country and track before my races so I thought they would be perfect for the half marathon. However, it took a long time to chew them and then I ended up eating only three out of the twelve. I then “hit-the-wall” around mile 11 so I would suggest testing out different energy gels and find one that you like to take during the race.
- Be aware of post-race drinks and snacks:
The half marathon I ran was small and did not have many post-race drinks or snacks. I was looking for Gatorade but I could not find any anywhere. Make sure your race provides drinks and snacks or bring your own Gatorade and snacks. I did not re-fuel (expect for water) until an hour and half after my race. I definitely should have had something to eat/drink earlier because my legs were extremely sore after the race.
- Make sure you cool-down/stretch:
I planned on taking my few weeks of break from running after the half marathon. I then decided that I did not need to do a cool down, stretch, or roll. These actions and under-fueling after the race led me to be sore for many days after the race when I usually recover fairly quickly. My family and I then went to Downtown Disney (Disney Springs) the afternoon after the race and it was a little painful to walk. We then went to Magic Kingdom the next day and my legs were extremely sore. Make sure you cool down and stretch, especially if you have plans to do a lot of walking after the race.
- Make sure you celebrate!
After you finish your half marathon make sure you celebrate, you just ran 13.1 miles! My family and I celebrated in Disney Springs. I celebrated by looking at different shops and by having a large chocolate-covered Mickey cookie from Goofy’s Candy Company—it was delicious!