So You Want to Run a Half Marathon?

By Holly / January 18, 2016

This article was kindly contributed by Christine Suter, (formerly was featured in our list of the Top Running Bloggers to Follow and we’re greatful to have Christine share her tips for beginners looking to get into distance running!


What was it exactly? The turn of the calendar? A looming milestone birthday? The desire to get healthy? Or maybe you lost a bet with friends? Whatever your reason, when you make the decision to set out to complete your first half marathon (or 5k, 10k, or marathon for that matter), it’s exciting! And it can also be terrifying to commit to try something new.

I remember begging my mom and aunt to run a half marathon with me in February 2011 when I was planning to complete a half marathon before I turned 30. I had no idea what running 13.1 miles would feel like or what the training would be like. I’m here to share some tips that will help you through the training cycle and help you cross the finish line of your first half marathon!

Let’s take a little journey back in time to the fall of 2010 when I started training for this race. I didn’t really know anything about running. I had a few coworkers who ran and I asked them for advice. They sent me some links to basic training plans available online. I found one that was 16 weeks and printed it out and taped it to my fridge. I went to the running store and bought sneakers. And next, I started running.

Each week, I was putting in more miles than the previous week. I remember running on a weekend morning in January after the roads had iced over. I had to wait until mid-day after most of the ice had melted to get in my run. I think I was wearing every running garment I owned, looking much like the Michelin man.

Fast forward to the end of February, I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon with my mom. It was a pretty awesome accomplishment for me. At the time it was supposed to be a “one and done” event for me. After completing 18 half marathons and 4 marathons, I guess you can say I was wrong with that initial plan.

En route to crossing many finish lines, I’ve learned a few things about training for a race consistently, and successfully. When you’re a new runner, the distance, the time, and the gear can be overwhelming. So let’s simplify things and talk about what makes for a successful training cycle for your first half marathon.

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  1. Find a training plan. There are many reputable sources for training plans that are FREE! Check online websites like Runner’s World, Competitor, and Hal Higdon. You’ll find some great resources with reputable sites where certified running coaches have developed basic training plans.
  2. Schedule workouts like any other appointment. If you have a 4 mile run on your training plan, put it on your calendar like you would a doctor’s appointment or meeting with your boss. If you treat it this way, you’re more likely to get it done.
  3. Pay attention to your body. As you build up your mileage, you may feel some aches and pains. Make sure you are stretching to loosen up tight muscles. There may be times when you feel particularly run down. Maybe that’s the day to cut a workout short or take an extra rest day. There’s nothing worse than pushing yourself too much and ending up injured, jeopardizing your finish line.
  4. Find a buddy. Maybe you have a local friend or a coworker who is running the same race and you can put in some miles together. Or perhaps you have a friend across the country who is also a runner. Regardless of who it is, find someone to help you be accountable with your training and to help encourage you through rough spots. When I was training for my first half, my mom and aunt were a great support system and we were virtual cheerleaders for each other throughout the training cycle.
  5. Treat yourself. During this process, you’ll probably challenge yourself and there will be days when you ask yourself “what was I thinking?” That’s ok! Training for a half marathon isn’t easy. Find ways to reward yourself for a good training run or running farther than you ever have before. Download some new music for your playlist, pick out a new running shirt, or get a pedicure. I used to drop money in a jar after each workout and I used this to buy some fun things at the expo for my first race. It was a great way to reward myself for working hard to cross the finish line of my first half marathon.

When the going gets rough, just remember the feeling of crossing that finish line will make the difficult training runs worthwhile. Good luck with your training!

About the author


Thank you for reading my article! I am Holly Nunan, a mother of three daughters aged four, six and eight. I'm an Exercise Physiologist with a passion for exercise, fitness, raising healthy children and natural and alternative remedies. I have a simple mission to help each reader that comes to our website to take away one new piece of healthy information that they can immediately apply to their life. If I've helped you find that today, it's mission accomplished!


I’m getting ready for my first half marathon! Thank you for this article!!

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