13.1 Things To Know For Your First Half-Marathon

May 6, 2014


So, as some of you may know, I love running. I just genuinely love it. I’m no expert at it, or champion, or anything but I really like it. And now my good friend Jules over at Go Jules Go is a couple weeks away form embarking on her first half-marathon. And though I’m no authority, I thought I’d offer 13.1 things everyone should know for their first half marathon!  According to me.  Who knows very little.  So… you know…

1. If you wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, you waited too long.

2. Go for a pre-race jog.  I know, that’s insane. But a 5-minute, slow jog will warm up the muscles and tendons, and help burn off a tiny bit of adrenaline which will help you to…

3. Go slow to go fast. At the staring line, you’re excited, there’s a ton of energy in the air – and so when they fire the starting gun you launch out and blast through the first mile 2-minutes under your target pace! And then you’re exhausted. Make yourself go slow the first mile. A good 30 seconds under your target pace is perfect.

4. Drink a lot of water the day before.

I sets a new best time, cuz I eats Gu at mile 9...!

I sets a new best time, cuz I eats Gu at mile 9…!

5. Habit is your friend. Regular water. Planned pep talks. Scheduling events throughout a longer run give you milestones, but also train your body for distances. I, for example, eat a Gu power gel at mile 5 and mile 9, no matter what. I also then sing the Popeye theme as if the power gel is going to suddenly launch me forward, but I’m fairly sure that’s not a necessity.

6. Not the time to show off that new running ensemble.

7. Avoid the marathoners. Usually halfs are paired with full marathons. Then someone asks if you’re running the marathon and – after your months of training and prepping and being proud of yourself – you have to reply that, no, you’re “just doing the half.”

8. You will get passed by someone much, much older than you.

9. You don’t really have to go to the bathroom. Well, unless you do. But it’s likely just adrenaline, and mid-race bathroom breaks take a long time.

What?  I gotta fuel up, don't I?

What? I gotta fuel up, don’t I?

10. Stranger Danger! Avoid new things on race day. Power gels or electrolyte drink you haven’t had before. You might hate it or – worse – it could upset your stomach/make you belch a lot. And for God’s sake don’t go out for “special” breakfast beforehand.

11. Bring food, just in case. Might be an awesome post-race spread. Might be trail mix and bananas cut in half. You just conquered something impressive. Feast as such. In an ideal world you’d drink your post-race beer from a human skull.

12. Thank the volunteers. No one’s paying them to stand there for 3 hours saying “Water! Water! Water!” and pouring Dixie cups for you. Want to really make their day? Ask them to douse you with a cup of water. Oh, but if you’re going to pour water on your own head? Make sure it’s water and not electrolyte drink. Trust me.

13. You paid for a shirt, right? Sometimes they’re cheap, or ugly, or don’t fit right… but otherwise you have to just announce your accomplishment everywhere you go, and that can be socially gauche.

See?  Look how happy I look.  I don't?  Oh.  Well, I am.

See? Look how happy I look. I don’t? Oh. Well, I am.

13.1  You do it because it’s fun. You may be asking yourself what you were thinking at some point. But remember that it may be a very weird kind of fun, but that’s what you’re doing out there.

13.2  THERE’S MORE.   Why? Because, it’s never, ever really 13.1 miles. Oh, sure, it probably was when they measured it, but that’s cutting every corner and not having to veer across the trail to get around clusters of people. It’s usually 13.2 or 13.22 or something. You might think “Psh, that’s like a 40, maybe 45, second difference.” But when you’re supposed to be done? When you’ve reached down in to the reserves to get through that final mile? Every added step angers you.


About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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42 Comments on “13.1 Things To Know For Your First Half-Marathon”

  1. Trails and Ultras Says:

    I knew it! I knew I wasn’t the only one being overtaken by old people! (And children…and the infirm…and people who look too overweight to be faster than me…)


  2. carrythemessage Says:

    Thanks for this – just ran my first half-marathon this past Sunday, and luckily I was able to navigate the things you mentinoed. I had many runner buddies do the service to me what you just did here. No new things or foods. Carb up the night (or even two nights before). Get rest. Start slow, run your race.

    And yeah, number 8 there happened a LOT of times. Yikes…ha ha. Ego blow.

    I also made sure to hit the first few water / Gatorade stations, even though I wasn’t thirsty – just enough to keep my hydrated for later. And yeah, those mid-race breaks can be long!

    Anyway, great tips. I am hoping to run a full in October. I just have to wait for my legs to gain their sense of feeling back!



  3. Go Jules Go Says:

    Wait. I don’t get to drunk GU out of a human skull at the finish line? I knew this wouldn’t be worth it.


  4. The Philosophunculist Says:

    My sister and I ran a marathon last year, and when it was finally all over, we got to walk another two miles back to the car. Fun stuff.


  5. climbingthecrazytree Says:

    I hate that extra 0.1 mile… gets me every time. Never so happy in all my life when the Niagara Women’s Half was 0.1 UNDER.
    I would also like to add that cheering continuously FOR the crowd because they’re cheering for you is probably a waste of your precious oxygen.


  6. Deborah the Closet Monster Says:

    This is a perfectly timed read as I get ready for my can-I-run-again appointment. After a year, I am yearning to run. It will be a little while before I get up to a half-marathon or marathon again, but . . . at this point, ten minutes sounds like jubilation. (Please, doctor, say YES! And speaking of “yes”? So right about that “every extra step angers you” bit.)


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Good luck with getting back to it. It seems like doctors are less & less likely any more to just categorically say, “You’re done,” which is good. Instead, hopefully, it’s about finding what will work.


      • Deborah the Closet Monster Says:

        I got the go-ahead just moments before this reply popped up. I am seriously tempted to buy some running shoes and run in a dress right now … but if I can tough out the hour drive home, much better to wait.

        It’s all glory in my head, but I’m pretty sure I have 5 minutes in me after a year away. Still, those 5 minutes will rock.


  7. Jessica | Defining Wonderland Says:

    Great tips, Byronic Man! I’m in the middle of a New Year’s resolution that forces me to run a 5K every month and I can appreciate your tried-and-true methods of success. But the tip that stands out the most to me is #8. At my very first 5K of the year, I was passed by a woman in her nineties. Yes, NINETIES. If that’s not enough to humble my almost 29-year-old ass I don’t know what is.


  8. BrainRants Says:

    I think, at this point well beyond my younger gazelle days, I’ll stick to my favorite: pay an Ethiopian to run it for me. Barefoot.


  9. mistyslaws Says:

    What is the “running” that you speak of? Is it anything like walking? Oh, wait. I don’t really know what that is anymore either. I’m just going to assume it means “eat your weight in pasta and bulk up with a nice extra layer of fat over the eternally long winter.” So, yeah . . . I run. A lot.


  10. silkpurseproductions Says:

    I think the Popeye theme song should be mandatory. It can only bring good.


  11. Don't Quote Lily Says:

    So wait…how is 13.1 miles not enough to qualify as a FULL marathon? On TV, a marathon can consist of as few as 4 hour-long episodes, so by that standard, 13.1 is INTENSE. I say 13 miles should be the full marathon, and 26 miles should be the “above and beyond/boy are you crazy” marathon. Just saying. 😉


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Well, obviously, these same rules apply to marathons of TV shows, too.

      And as for races? Then there are the ultra-marathoners. Fifty and even hundred mile races. That’s insane.


  12. Jackie Cangro Says:

    Regarding #8: I was passed during the Brooklyn Half Marathon by a guy wearing a rhinoceros costume and then a guy running barefoot.* True story!

    *Note: not the same guy as far as I could tell.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Ugh, the costumes. I don’t know what people are thinking. I was in a 10k and a guy was dressed as Captain America, which basically meant he was wearing a ski mask. It didn’t go well for him.


  13. jbw0123 Says:

    At the staring line is about it for me. Running makes my brain rattle around in my head. Not that I didn’t try for years. Still it was a wonderful thing, finishing a run, and you can’t beat a sport that requires nothing but tennis shoes, burns calories like nobody’s business and bumps up endorphins for dessert. Happy running! Cheering you on from the e-sidelines.


  14. just another s-a-h-mother Says:

    I don’t run much, except if I really have to, like when a friend’s baby is about to fall down the stairs, or a pack of 4 and 5 year olds is out to get me in the school yard, but I think about doing it. I really do. Not right now, though, I just had my knee scoped and torn meniscus cleaned up 3.5 weeks ago. I think I’ll wait a bit before thinking about it again. I did quite enjoy these tips. I think if we all tell Jules that there will be bacon waiting for her at the finish line she’ll do just fine.


  15. pjsarecomfyn Says:

    Awesome list and hey, nice Brookes.


  16. becomingcliche Says:

    Great tips! My husband is a runner, and he agrees with all of these!


  17. Lorna's Voice Says:

    If you care at all about your time, don’t stop to chat with the people who hand out water along the race path. They are nice and often love to talk to you (I know), but it kind of slows you down…


  18. tlehmann Says:

    As a marathon runner, I approve of these tips as I definitely followed most of these while training. I remember at the start line it was an odd mixture of conversations. Half-marathoners are trying to find other half-marathoners to psyche themselves up while full marathon runners are trying to talk to just about anybody to build accountability by telling them that they are running a full marathon.

    For my part, I tried to remind Half-Marathoners that everyone running the Full marathon started out running less than a half, but I can definitely see how discouraging it can be.

    If their is one thing I would add and it is often the subject of my own blog, it is that being able to run 13.1 miles comes in handy during day-to-day problems that require you cover vast distances when say, your car fails to start and you have a job interview 5 miles away…hypothetically speaking of course.

    An excellent article and I encourage you to keep up the great work!


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      That’s a good point about marathoners wanting to let people know what they’re doing. I’d probably run a stop sign just so I’d get pulled over. “Do you know why I stopped you?” “Is it because I’m running a marathon today? Because I am. Running a marathon.”

      And thanks for the feedback. It’s so much a humor site that I was reluctant to get in to this other area.


  19. Surya Bhattacharya Says:

    I’ve done two and most of these ring true. Not number 7 though, In my city we just have a half marathon, and smaller runs. So I’m the cool one 😀
    I’ve thankfully never tried pouring Electrolyte drinks on myself. Phew.


  20. Jillian Says:

    This was great! i just ran my first half in mid-May and I can definitely relate / vouch for a lot of your advice. Happy Running!


  21. FitsofWit Says:

    I’ve been running half marathons the last few years. Last October I ran my first and ONLY full marathon. 26.2 miles is crazy. It felt good to complete but it also felt like an elephant crushed my body. Half marathons are where it’s at. Perfect distance.
    Great tips!


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Two friends of mine have just done full marathons, so now I’m grudgingly moving towards that for next summer. My biggest goal is to not regret doing it… which isn’t terribly inspiring.


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