Strategies for Success in a Half Marathon

Running is the worst.

OK, I realize that’s not really the best way to kick off a post about advice for running a half marathon, aka 13.1 miles.

But growing up, I dreaded…loathed…and even avoided running as best I could. As the overweight kid in class, I became the master of excuses to get out of running — whether it was escaping “the mile test” in gym class or choosing to be the catcher of the softball team because…well, it required the least amount of running.

When I started my running journey, the thought of running one mile was simply daunting — let alone 13 of them…in a row!

Following back surgery in 2011, my doctor said I wouldn’t run again, but I had other plans. I had my sights set on running the Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon seven months after surgery.

So I took the path to running one step…one run…one mile at a time!

Strategies Half Marathon

Making the decision to train for a half marathon was daunting, so it was time to break it down to make it seem less overwhelming.

Here are a few of my tricks to get through my first — and the following 50 — half marathons I’ve completed:

First: Set a mantra.

Strategies Half Marathon

My mantra is: “Live in the mile you are in.” I still live by this mantra today — both in life and races.

After hours of research and countless races, I’ve found ZERO benefit to worrying about how many miles you have run so far in the race or how many you have to go.

This lends itself to the fun mind game (I know I’m not the only one who plays these while running) of telling myself that I only have to run one mile. No matter how many I really need to run for the race, I know in my mind I can run one mile. Now I just need to do that 13 times. Simple, right?

Second: Treat the start line like the finish line.

One of the best pieces of running advice came from Tedy Bruschi (former New England Patriot). Before the Boston Marathon in 2013, he told the team:

“The start line is the finish line, and the race itself is the after-party — so go out and enjoy every second of it.”

Brooklyn Half Marathon Start LIne

Holy lightbulb moment Batman!

What an amazing way to look at a 13.1-mile journey. From that moment on, I vowed to take each race as if it could be my last. Forget worrying about pace. Forget worrying about weather. I was going to be the person on the course enjoying every second of the journey.

Third: Appreciate that bling.

Now I know not everyone runs a half for the bling, but I do. I hang each medal I earn on my wall as motivation for days when I don’t feel like training or when I doubt my abilities to run another race.

Brooklyn Half Marathon Medal

Each medal shares a story and reminds us that we can do it!

Fourth: Focus on the post-race snacks.

Strategies Half Marathon

On average, a person will burn between 1,500-2,000 calories during a half marathon (depends on finish time and weight).

Let’s break that down, shall we?

After the Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans half marathon, I enjoyed a beignet (240 calories), low-fat chocolate milk (200 calories) and a mimosa (150 calories).

Total Calories Enjoyed: 590
Total Calories Burned: 1,536

Well, I could’ve had a couple more rounds with those numbers. 😉

New Orleans Half Marathon Medal

Strategies Half Marathon

Let’s see what else is around:

Michelob Ultra (12oz): 95 calories
Beer, regular (pint, 16oz): 180 calories
Slice of plain pizza: 285 calories
Slice of deep dish pizza (for those running Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago): 310 calories
Philadelphia cheesesteak (7in): 520 calories
Poutine (for those running Rock ‘n’ Roll Montréal): 740 calories
Burrito (beef and cheese): 790 calories
Full slab of ribs: 1,230 calories

During your next run, distract yourself by adding up what you will enjoy post-race. That should keep you occupied you for a few miles.

Fifth: Grab your best running friends (BRF) for support.

While not all of my friends use social media to share their running experiences, I have found an amazing support system for this little addiction of mine. Whether it is a friend from home or college or a Twitter friend, grab your best pal and lace up together.

Finding your tribe is just as important as putting in the training miles leading up to the race.

Embarking on your first half? See if a friend wants to do the same and enjoy the ups and downs of training together.

Looking to enjoy a new city? Coerce some friends to join you for a racecation getaway! Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville and Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego are two of my favorite racecation weekends ever!

Strategies Half Marathon

Sixth: Think of your steps.

During my 51st career half marathon, I collected 22,671 steps over those 13.1 miles. On average, I aim for 12-13K steps a day. My daily count will vary during different parts of a training cycle, but at minimum I work for 10K steps a day.

Just think of the competitions you will run away with as you start logging those longer miles. Your friends will be pacing in their living rooms to keep up with you.

When there isn’t bling during training, a challenge win could be a consolation prize.

Finally, if all else fails when trying to dig deep during a run, take advice from this guy:

Strategies Half Marathon

Trust me…it works!