Half Marathon First Timer: My Honest Experience & Training Tips

I want to preface by saying I never considered myself a runner. Before training for the half marathon, I honestly felt like  an imposter when I would go out and run. Truthfully, I didn’t even enjoy running much before running this race. I leaned into running as a way to get a quick workout, and ran because it’s what “healthy people do,” right? 

You’re probably wondering why I signed up willingly to run 13.1 miles if I’m not a runner nor did I really enjoy it. I really don’t have a straight answer for you. In the end it came down to a mix of these reasons:

  • I needed a challenge – feeling stagnant in my workout routines and just going through the motions of the day to day…I needed something more
  • Bucket List – sounds crazy that a girl who didn’t like running would have this on her bucket list but here it is
  • Commitment – it hasn’t been since High School sports that I have had to commit to something related to physical activity. Sure, I can start a new workout routine every year as a resolution, but let’s be real by March (ok, February…maybe) that routine is toast. I wanted to push myself and commit to something.

If you are considering signing yourself up for a half marathon but something is holding you back, let me say I’ve been there. Because that same thing held me back…fear. Fear of people seeing me as an imposter, fear that I wasn’t “good enough,” to run this race, fear I would pass out and not be able to finish. The list of fears goes on.  I’m here to tell you first hand that those fears are false. You can do this. Anyone can do this. One of the most amazing things about running a half marathon was all the different types of people who ran. I’m talking all different ages (I ran next to a 77 year old husband and wife  duo for a small portion of this race), body types and shapes of all kind, all skill levels, anyone. 

Okay, pep talk is over for now. You want to know how a “normal,” person trains for such a feat, right? I am no expert, and there are things I could have done differently or better. What I am is a real life gal, with mediocre athletic ability, a full time job and other commitments fueled by fear and determination that I would get this done. If you can relate – here are some training pointers. 

Pointers for how to train for a half marathon if you are "not a runner"

  1. Find a training program – This seems obvious, but it’s important. There are tons of articles, suggestions, and apps out there for how you should go about half marathon training. Do your research and select a program within your skill level. I used the app 13.1 Half Marathon Trainer 

I had used the couch to 5K app in the past, and liked how it gradually built up endurance. This app uses a similar technique. Most of your training will be a walk/run method building up to race day. The app tells you what days to run and for how long, prompts you during your run, and has cross training days built in to take time off from running but still build strength. 

2. Get the right shoes – Again, maybe an obvious tip but this is CRUCIAL. Running the wrong shoes can cause such discomfort and lead to serious injuries extending beyond the foot (we’re talking ankle, back, hip problems, oh my). 

Truthfully, I began my training in my NewBalance sneaks I hand on hand. These were fine for tooting around the yard, or even a short walk with my pup, but once I started going a few miles in these shoes I was noticing very sore feet and ankles, and worried that the tightness in my lower back might have been attributed to poor footwear. I got myself to a running store ASAP and was properly fitted for a pair of running shoes. Professionals at a specialized footwear shop should be able to assess how you walk and help you find a pair of running shoes that is more tailored to your needs and comfort.

3. STICK WITH IT. You got your training program, you’re lookin’ fresh to the maxy max in your new kicks, what next? Make like our friend Forest Gump, and for no particular reason go out and run. Run to the end of the road, and when you get there run to the end of town. And when you’e gotten that far, figure you might as turn back and keep on going. 

All jokes aside, keep running. One area I could have improved on is staying more consistent with my training. I followed the program pretty closely but there are times I slacked. Something came up and I shoved my run to the side. If I could do it over I would make my training time a non-negotiable in my priorities. Meaning, instead of being the first thing I give up or reschedule, my run time is a MUST. 

Honest feelings during and after the race

The weeks and even minutes leading up to the half marathon I had a serious case of imposter syndrome. I felt like I was trying to do something I “shouldn’t,” or I wasn’t qualified to even attempt this. I tend to doubt myself more than I should if you haven’t noticed! After some pep talks from my supportive husband, a good nights rest and a dose of courage, I was ready to go. 

The morning of the race I of course had butterflies, but that was replaced with excitement when we reached the course. The environment at events like this is so encouraging. Everyone is gathered at the same place about to embark on the same journey. I am not kidding when I say there were ALL DIFFERENT walks of life showing up that morning to run. It was empowering to realize I was one of many who had worked hard for this. 

My thoughts by the mile...

  • Miles 1-3 I was still riding that wave of excitement. Everyone around me was happy, excited, and cheering as we ran past spectators. 
  • Miles 4-7: It got a little more real. Ok, so this isn’t a 5k…I found myself thinking. I was faced with a set of unexpected hills (note to self, CHECK COURSE MAP for elevation gains in the future). 
  • Miles 8-9: Okay, I’m over this playlist and over these hills. I am starting to get tired…the excitement has worn off. Thank goodness for the kind volunteers who offered up Gatorade, water, and welcome encouragement during these miles.
  • Miles 10-13.1: Holy shit. I am doing this. This is almost done. More hills…(curses under breath). Okay, I can hear the finish line…push. I can see the finish line…chills. Hey! It’s my fam! *all the feels* as I cross the finish line. 

I’m sharing this to tell you, that you can do it. Whatever your “it” is, you can. Maybe you’re not a runner (I wasn’t), but you’re feeling a push to knock yourself out of your comfort zone. I encourage you to start somewhere! Start with training to run a mile, work up to a 5K and so on. Who cares what you look like, let go of that fear of “what other people might think,” do this for you. 

Maybe your “it” has nothing to do with running. Maybe it’s a career change or trying a new hobby. Do it! Take baby steps today to put your goal into view. It’s not going to happen overnight, but if you put your mind to something, it will happen. Things may not play out exactly how you envisioned, but guess what? It’s all part of the journey. You won’t know what you are capable of until you try.

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