So you wanna train to run a half marathon race? Training for and running a half marathon is one of the most grueling yet rewarding goals you can undertake, but in order to succeed, you have to have an intentional plan to cross that finish line! Follow these 17 tips for half marathon running and training, and you’ll be crossing the finish line of your own half marathon race before you know it!
17 Tips for Running a Half Marathon:
- Wear the Right Clothes
- Stay Hydrated
- Treat Your Feet
- Positive Mental Talk
- Practice with a Shorter Distance
- Find a Similar Practice Course
- Have a Dress Rehearsal Run
- Carb Load Healthily
- Rest Intentionally
- Don’t Try Anything New on Race Day
- Detox Your Mind
- Eat Breakfast
- Warm Up
- Slow and Steady Start
- Don’t Get Cocky
- Set Small Mental Goals
- Save Gas for the End
Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used! Enjoy these 17 half marathon running tips!
Table of Contents
17 Half Marathon Tips for Running and Training
Running a half marathon takes a mind and body commitment. These 17 training tips for running a half marathon address the mental, physical, and environmental aspects of half marathon tips that lead to success!
#1: Wear the Right Clothes
You can be in peak physical shape with all the training knowledge in the world, but a lack of investment in the right running clothes can quickly bring you down, especially in the more challenging seasons of summer and winter.
No matter whether you are layering for winter running, or prepping for summer sweat, it all starts with the right fabrics. AVOID COTTON! There’s never a good time to run in cotton. Cotton clings to perspiration and holds onto moisture, which is detrimental no matter what season.
So what should you wear running? Fabrics that are moisture wicking, breathable, and quick drying. In my personal experience, WOOL is hands down the best option, because it does all three of these jobs exceptionally well without fail. Shirts, socks, leggings – you are guaranteed to have an improved running experience if they are made from wool.
That is because you won’t get blisters in wool socks because they are moisture wicking and quick drying. You won’t have perspiration building up on your skin in a wool shirt, and in the winter, a pair of wool leggings will keep sweat off your skin, while still keeping you warm and insulated. Another awesome bonus of wool is that this fabric is naturally odor resistant as well!
#2: Stay Hydrated Before, During, and After Running
Whether you are completing a training run for your half marathon race, or it’s the real thing on race day, it is important that you follow one of the most important half marathon tips: hydrate consistently.
It’s tempting to forget to hydrate consistently leading up to a run, and then gorge on water 5 minutes before taking off. Improved performance and proper hydration come from consistency though. Drink water throughout the day, before you run, during your run (even in winter you will still sweat), and finally, after your run for recovery. Every day, even on rest and cross training days.
There’s a couple different ways you can hydrate along your course during your training runs. If you have a designated loop course with a spot to leave water, then you could use a insulated water bottle like this one that is hands down the best in the business at keeping water ice cold!
If you prefer a hydration method that you can transport with you on your person, opt for one of these convenient hydration packs made just for thirsty long distance runners!
#3: Treat Your Feet
Your feet are going to take the brunt of the work when you are training for and running a half marathon. Do not skimp on taking care of them. Mostly, that means invest in a superb, reliable, pair of running shoes. If you are going to spend big bucks on one item of running gear, please, please, please spend it on a pair of respected and proven running shoes.
Runners love to talk about running shoes. And most runners have a brand they swear by that they will remain loyal to until death. There is no one holy grail of running shoe for every runner, because ultimately each shoe works different for each person. Start by trusting some of those recommended brands and sworn by recommendations, but ultimately know that you need to try them out and see what works for you long term.
And of course, I do have my own brand I am fiercely and un-waveringly loyal to. It’s a brand I have run every single 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon race in my entire running career, and they have never let me down.
Is your half marathon race a trail course?
Also, an often overlooked tip for training is to replace your running shoe when you see that it is starting to get worn down and you are loosing the grooves in your tread. A recommended mileage for retirement is around 500 miles.
If you are wanting to get a new pair of running shoes for race day, just make sure to give yourself enough time to break them in before your half marathon race, preferably a couple weeks. Never break in a brand new pair of running shoes on race day!
Bottom Line: Do not skimp in investing in the proper pair of running shoes. You may save money if you do, but you run the risk of dealing with subsequent knee or leg pain and/or injuries, and diminished performance. And doctor visits or the following treatments can quickly add up to more than a good pair of running shoes.
One additional thing you can do to treat your feet is to make sure you stretch them properly. Stretching the arches of your feet and toes can go a long way to help keep them comfortable after miles of grueling work.
Which performance sock should you use to protect those hard working feet?
#4: Positive Mental Talk
One of the most important tips for training for and running a half marathon is keeping positive mental talk going. Your body is naturally going to want to try to talk you out of running long distances, and that’s because it is not easy! Your mind will start coming up with all kinds of reasons to delay going, or all sorts of excuses to stop running.
It’s important to know how to shut that out and close it off. Instead, know what you will tell yourself in response, and know what kind of mental “script” you want to play in your head when the temptation to quit sets in. I tell myself I can do anything for an hour. Or that I will allow myself to take a short break, but only after I make it to the crest of that next hill. Or remind myself why I am training, and what my final goal is. My favorite way to motivate myself and keep the negative talk out is to plan my next destination “runcation”!
CHECK OUT: Some of my favorite destination races!
- The Great Wall Half Marathon and Marathon
- The Polar Circle Half Marathon and Marathon
- The Yellowstone Half Marathon and 5K
- The Grand Teton Half Marathon and 5k
#5: Practice with a Shorter Distance
Before running a half marathon in its entirety, practice with an organized shorter distance, like a 5k or 10k. Not only is this an important step in increasing your weekly mileage in increments (grab my FREE half marathon training calendar to see what this looks like), but it is important to practice a mock half marathon race day scenario.
Practicing with an organized shorter distance like a 5k or 10k allows you to experience a race morning schedule, course etiquette, and practice executing a half marathon race day checklist.
#6: Find a Similar Practice Course
If you have a half marathon race selected and registered for, then you can start preparing for the course. It is always a good idea to become knowledgeable on your half marathon course, in order to know where the hills, straightaways, and aid stations are for planning purposes.
Once you know what to expect from your race day course, find a similar practice course for your half marathon training, if you can. If your race day course has hills, find a practice course with hills. Allow yourself a chance to see how your body performs on a mock run, and make adjustments before race day if necessary.
#7: Have a Dress Rehearsal Run
Again, allow yourself as much practice for running your half marathon race as possible. Your mileage does not need to be the same (you should only be running the full 13 miles on race day, not when training), but at some point near the end of your half marathon training, do a dress rehearsal run.
If your half marathon race starts at 7 am, then recreate your dress rehearsal run to mimic that start time. Wear what you will wear on race day. Make sure all your gear performs the way you want it to, and that you are comfortable. Monitor how much time you need to get ready for your “start time”, and keep that in mind for creating a race day morning schedule for the real deal.
Eat what you will eat on race day. Pace yourself, stop for breaks, and hydrate on your mock course the way you intend to on race day. Make sure there are no adjustments you want to make now. Race day is NEVER the time to wing things or try anything new!
#8: Carb Load Healthily
When you are running as much as you will be during half marathon training, your body will begin to tell you that it is craving certain things. If you are like me, those things will most likely be carbs, and for justifiable reasons!
What is important here is not to deny your body the carbs it needs to fuel those training runs, but to invest in healthy carbs, and to give your body the most beneficial fuels. Carbs are all around us, and it’s about knowing how to swap a bad one out for a more beneficial one.
For a full breakdown of healthy carbs to invest in, pay a visit to my post on the absolute best foods for runners!
CHECK OUT: The Truth About Peanut Butter for Runners
#9: Rest Intentionally
Once you really get rolling with your weekly running routine, you may find that it is hard to make time for rest. You may feel that getting in another training run would be more beneficial. That is why one of the most important half marathon training tips is to rest. Your training is about QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY! Your body depends on rest. It is the single best thing you can do to offset injuries.
Remember, over training or pushing yourself past what your body is ready for significantly increases your risk of leg and/or knee injuries, both small and big. And it is not always a quick process or easy to come back from an over-use injury. It is much more beneficial to your short term and long term running goals to stick to your rest plan, and stick to your scheduled rest days.
#10: Don’t Try Anything New on Race Day
On race day, you are inevitably going to mingle with other runners who are showing off new gear, unfamiliar supplements, or toting their perfect regimens. Race day is NOT the time to try something new, no matter how cool it sounds. Wear what your wore during training, eat what you have eaten before all your runs, pace the way you have been pacing, etc.
Embrace the camaraderie of race day morning and the morale boost of accomplishing this amazing feat with other runners! But wait until after the race to try their recommendations.
#11: Detox Your Mind
You are going to battle your mind and the negative mental talk, even on a good day. Your brain is going to want to tell you not to run, to stop, that it’s too cold or you are too tired. Both during training and when running a half marathon race, find ways to detox your mind before. Maybe that’s reading a book, or listening to music.
Running is largely a mental game, so take care of your mind as much as you can before embarking on a big run. Don’t let anything eat at your mind while you are focusing on a worthy goal. That can manifest into self talk that tries to get you to quit.
#12: Eat Breakfast
Fueling is a vitally important half marathon tip for training. Don’t skip any meals, and especially start your day off right by eating a hearty, healthy, breakfast. Whether you are a morning, day, or evening runner, eating breakfast will give you the fueling foundation you need for those runs!
#13: Warm Up
Always make sure to do some stretches and light warming up before a run, and even more so when running a half marathon on race day! Do the same stretches and warm up routines on race day that you have used during your half marathon training.
#14: Slow and Steady Start
It is easy to let adrenaline get ahold of you when you begin your run, both when training and at the starting line of running a half marathon race. For a long distance run, remember to intentionally pace and conserve energy for the long haul. It is best to start slow and steady, and to mimic a start during race day much as a start during a regular training run.
During your half marathon race start, do not worry about how other runners are starting. Get off to a slow, steady, and consistent start, and do not over-exert or over-deplete yourself right off the bat. At this point you know your course, so keep in mind why you are pacing yourself – for those long straightaway stretches, or those intense uphills climbs, or that last bit of energy to push yourself across that finish line!
#15: Don’t Get Cocky and Overachieve
This goes hand in hand with maintaining a steady, consistent pace, and not letting adrenaline or over-confidence get the best of you. You may have had 16 weeks of flawless training for your half marathon race, but that does not make you invincible! Keep a clear mind, have your eye on the end goal, and mimic what has worked during your training.
#16: Set Small Mental Goals, NOT the Full Run
Both during your half marathon training runs and half marathon race, try not to mentally take on the whole course or whole race all at once. It can be overwhelming to think of your feat as a whole 10 or whole 13 miles when you’re just starting off. It helps to break down your run into small mental goals. Figure out during training what those small mental goals are that work best for you.
It’s ok to need breaks, figure out how to use those to motivate yourself. Maybe tell yourself you’ll stop for a water break after that next hill, or after the next song on your playlist ends. On race day, maybe you will tell yourself that after mile 7, you’ll take your “snack break”, and then you’ll be good to go to mile 10! Some people find it helpful to break a run into halves, and then telling themselves they are over half way done! Find ways to embrace small steps towards your goal!
#17: Save Gas for the End
This half marathon tip for training and race day is important for your long run days and your half marathon race itself. It is why a slow, steady start, and a resistance to getting cocky are important. Because you have to save something for the end.
You won’t know what this means until you are on mile 12 of your first half marathon race and the dreaded “wall” hits, but when it inevitably does, you will be eternally grateful for having maintained a steady, consistent pace, and saving one last burst of energy to the end. Do not unnecessarily over-exert yourself in ways you have not trained for prior.
So now that you know all 17 half marathon tips, are you ready to start training for a half marathon race? You can find a complete foundation for success with this 16 week half marathon training plan, and also grab yourself a FREE 16 week half marathon training calendar HERE!
Want More Half Marathon Running Tips? Check out these Related Articles:
- 16 Week Half Marathon Training Plan for Beginners
- Do I Need to Fuel During a Half Marathon?
- What to Eat the Night Before a Long Run
- The 25 Best U.S. Half Marathons
- Morning of Half Marathon Race Day Checklist
- Week Before Half Marathon Checklist
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