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10 Things No One Tells You About Your First Half Marathon

By HERWriter
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10 Things No One Tells You About That First Half Marathon Steve Lovegrove/PhotoSpin

One day I woke up and just thought, "Why not? I'm running a half marathon." Crazy, I know.

Naturally, the first thing I did was hop on my computer and read every article about the grueling 13.1 miles I could get my hands on.

In many circumstances, I'd prefer to live by the classic motto that ignorance is bliss. This was not one of those circumstances.

I respected the miles, hard work and time commitment training would demand and knew that if I stepped up to the starting line anything less than prepared, I'd be hurting (even more) the next day.

Through all my Googling, Pinterest-pinning and blog-stalking, I found out A LOT about half marathons.

Did I necessarily want to hear my toe nails might fall off? Absolutely not, but alas I found that out. (And no, none of my toenails fell off, you can relax).

Coming from the before and after aspect of an official half marathon trainer and now finisher, there's some points that are left out in many guides to running your first half marathon.

I'm here to tell you the good news, ugly truth and everything in between.

1) You won't want to eat the morning of the big day.

The morning of my race, the nerves took away my appetite completely. I had to shove two pieces of peanut butter toast down my throat. Every tip said how important breakfast was and not to stray from normal routine, but no one noted how your body will just not be hungry at 6 a.m. when you're wired with nerves.

2) This will take a toll on your body.

I ran up to 12 miles in training before the race. I was tired after my final training run, but nowhere near as exhausted, nauseous, and achy as I felt post-race. You will be sore for a few days, you will feel the toll of 13 miles, but just give your body time to relax and get back to normal.

3) It's not hard to keep your pace.

Whether your goal is not to walk or you're pushing for a certain time, pacing yourself isn't that difficult if you take yourself out of the competitive mindset with runners around you. There are runners called “pace keepers” that keep you on track. Even more, phones and iPods can help you keep track of your miles throughout the race.

4) Anyone can do it.

Running 13.1 miles is intimidating, to say the least. Before the race, I imagined six-pack, Olympic level athletes smoking me in the dust as I crawled my way to the finish line. I couldn't have bene more wrong.

I saw participants of all different fitness levels, ages and reasons for racing. Everyone respects you just for stepping foot on the course, whether you finish first or last.

5) It's entertaining.

Seriously, having a runner alongside you in a squirrel costume definitely lightens your eighth mile. I strongly advise to do a fun half marathon. I ran the Philadelphia Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon last September. There were bands every mile, fans lining the course and runners dancing through their 13 miles.

6) Bathroom breaks are normal.

They happen to everyone. I remember telling myself I wouldn't stop under any circumstances, but the reality is that after hydrating properly, it's almost impossible to not stop. Honestly, what is a few seconds off your time? Finishing is a success in itself.

7) Recovery time might take longer than you expect.

Physically, it took me about a week to run again, but mentally I didn't get back into running until a few months after the race. I was mentally exhausted after training for four months, and that’s normal. Don’t think something’s wrong if you’re not ready to hit the pavement right away. Take time to try other types of fitness like a spin or kickboxing class.

8) Runners get hurt during the race.

It's heartbreaking to see a runner go down when they're less than a mile from the finish line. Unfortunately, the reality is that people often get hurt.

Emergency teams are always in place to help the wounded, but don't let this be you. After months of training, I can't imagine not being able to finish. Train right and be smart during the race and you should be fine!

9) Prep for the paparazzi.

Large scale races tend to hire professional photographers to snap shots of runners (and sell the photos post-race). Even if you don't buy any, it's fun to look online and see how you were looking at mile 4 vs. mile 12. And don't worry — I looked horrible and sweaty in all my shots, too.

10) Smile for your big finish.

The second you cross the finish line, the first thing you'll want to do is sign up for another race. Actually, the first thing you'll want is to find a water or Gatorade — but the second thing will definitely be to sign up for a race! All your hard work, training and planning finally paid off and the high of satisfaction and success is amazing.

Oh, and one more tip, feel free to crack a victory smile or throw your arms up as you cross the finish line. Running 13.1 miles is a big deal and something to be proud of! And also, they snap some finish line shots and don’t you want to be smiling when you post that picture on Instagram?

Did I miss anything? What are some of your tips or experiences at your first half marathon?

Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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