How to rock your 1st half marathon

zooma texas half marathon 2013
Oh yes I DID go outside that orange cone.

In case you haven’t been keeping up with my obnoxious running updates, I completed my first half marathon in March. Then I turned around and ran a 10k the first week of April. So obviously I’m an expert now in all the running things.

Or I learned a lot by trial and error and wanted to pass on my new found wisdom.

Or I’m a self absorbed boob. You pick.

So here are my tips on ROCKING your first half marathon. Or your second. Or third. Or a 10k. Jog around the block. Whatever.

Uh…Register for the race

This is a given, right? Well…The whole story is that when I was asked to participate in ZOOMA as a blog ambassador, they said they would register us closer to the race (benefits of being an ambassador: free entry!). Then I somehow completely missed the email that had minor details like pre race parties and OH YEAH NOW IS THE TIME TO REGISTER HERE’S YOUR COMP CODE.

So whether you’re an ambassador or not, make sure you get yourself signed up for the race you intend to run. Because you may not have folks as nice as Erika or the dude in the blue hat to squeeze you in at the last minute with no (audible) complaints.


Few are the people who can show up at a race and just knock out 13 miles without training for weeks. I used the Hal Higdon Novice 1 training plan because it was the first one someone suggested to me, and I short circuit when given too many choices. It worked out great but they’re all pretty much the same give or take. It’s hard, monotonous, but worth it.

If there was one thing I would do differently, I would have incorporated more cross training. It was in my plan, but I usually blew it off. Training for a race is about more than just running, it’s about all around fitness. But seriously, I had a hard enough time working my runs in, so when it came to cross training, I embraced my inner Sweet Brown. “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

And with training comes rest. Getting up to run at 6:30ish really sucks when you went to bed at midnight or later. Trust me.

Zooma texas half marathon 2013
A fuzzy little pre-dawn, pre-race photo with my friend and fellow ambassador Missy, from Wonder Friend.

Get support

I could not have done this without the help of my husband, but it took us a long time to find a groove, especially for the early morning weekday runs. My guy, he is not a morning person. If he had to get up and feed the kids breakfast in my absence, he was grumpy. If I fed them and then tried to go once he got up, he was grumpy because he had to get ready for work. As supportive of he was of me running this race, we had to come to a compromise. We finally found the perfect solution: Sesame Street. They would watch, I would run. They were learning, I was dreaming of the delicious breakfast that would await me when I returned. That last part never happened. But he got his last minutes of sleep in, I didn’t feel as guilty, and no one felt the need to kill anyone.

Training for a half marathon is a commitment, and it takes a lot of time. Your other half has to be on board. I joke about our morning situation, but on the flip side, when my long runs came up on the weekends, I was all, “See ya!” and enjoyed my two hours of alone time.

Get in with other runners

Find a running buddy who runs at your pace even if it’s only for a few runs. I have always run alone, but this Runners World article advises that it’s good to mix it up.

If you can find an online running support group, join it, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Seasoned runners love helping newbies. Having the other Zooma ambassadors and Muscle Milk Light Half Marathon Challenge girls to turn to when I needed advice or just a kick in the pants really kept me going. I also love to take part in #runchat on Twitter when I can.

Get the gear

running gear

Buying new stuff is fun when you don’t get sticker shock that is. Running can be expensive! I honestly wasn’t banking on having to get a whole new wardrobe for this gig, but you have to invest in a few quality things.

  • Shoes — I  bought a new pair of shoes, nothing fancy, when I first started training in November. Come February I had plum worn out the inside soles of them from my overpronation and was experiencing a lot of pain. So I forked over about $100 for my Asics DS Trainers that I got fitted for at Luke’s Locker. That part hurt too, but at least the pain in my feet went away.
  • Clothes — Compression capris, running shorts, tech shirts, NO COTTON, headbands, hats…soon enough instead of perusing the women’s clothes at Target, you’ll head straight for the running clothes.
  • GPS tools — I use Runkeeper on my phone, but a Garmin is on my wish list. Ahem.
  • Earbuds — Never underestimate the value of a good pair of headphones. I’ve tried all kinds, but these Sony Sweet Little Buds are the best fit for my ears.

Embrace your pace

10 minute mile? Go you! 12 minute mile? Fantastic! 8 minute mile? Holy shit! I’ll see you at the finish line, after you’ve had plenty of time to recover and get a massage and maybe a pedicure while you wait.

I’m mostly a 10 minute miler, give or take, but at Zooma I averaged an 11 minute mile. The crowds at the starting line will sometimes slow you down. I fell into a comfortable pace behind various packs of runners, and a little over halfway through I realized I was behind the 2:30 pacers. I knew I definitely wanted to finish under that time, so I picked it up a little. And then slowed down again when I hit that damn golf course. *shakes fist at the heavens*

You’ve trained hard for this race. If you don’t have a buddy that runs your pace, then fly solo and enjoy the company of strangers. Running faster or slower than you have trained for will either overexert you or make you wonder if you could pushed it a little harder.

My friend Lisa wrote a fantastic post about embracing your pace on the Zooma blog. Must read.

Race without GPS

On race day, turn off your GPS tracking device. I usually use Runkeeper, but opted to rely solely on the mile markers along the route. I was afraid I would get discouraged if the Runkeeper lady told me I was going slower than my normal pace, and I needed to have a good run.

Dress your best

Wear something that’s comfortable that you love and feel good in, that you know works for a long run. You’ll be getting your photo taken a lot. Shallow, but true.

And go commando!  One word: chafing. In places that were not meant to be chafed. Embrace the panty free lifestyle! At least for the run. Please put them back on later when we meet for lunch.

Have good roommates

This is only for those traveling gigs, but having good roommates is key.

You know, the ones who will inevitably keep you up too late chatting, and especially ones with whom you are perfectly comfortable saying,

“Okay, guys. Just letting you know…I’m headed in for my pre-race poop.”

But most of all….

Have fun!

This is your first half marathon.  You’ve trained hard. You’re ready. But don’t forget to enjoy it. Take some pictures. Jam to your music. Have a good race.

zooma texas half marathon 2013 bluebonnets

Thanks to Lisa, Angela, Missy, and she who shall not be named for all the input! Now when’s your next race?


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Join the Conversation


  1. You’re the first person to advice going commando for a race, heh.
    Makes sense though!
    Okay, I really want to run a race sometime next year (I initially said 2013 but hey it’s April and I’ve not run at all so let’s be realistic), so these are really good tips. Thank you!

    1. Alison, if I hadn’t been an ambassador for this race, I’m sure I’d still be sitting around saying “I want to” as well. I actually have to commit to something to get me to do it. So sign up! Or have your husband just sign you up for one!

  2. I love your running posts. I cannot run and will never will be able to due to physical limitations but I can walk. Makes me want to get out there and do something. Such an inspiration. Thank you for these.

    1. Don’t sell yourself short — getting out and walking is better than nothing. I’m glad you found a little inspiration. 🙂

  3. I was just about to say the same thing Amanda did! I love reading about your running and am so inspired. I too, cannot run since having kids, a kidney stone and stent, but I really enjoyed my walking before I had to stop due to the crazy nut attacking our neighborhood. Now that he’s been caught, I can’t wait to get back out there!! You may think that you are boring everyone with your running posts, but you are doing a great thing and inspiring me and I’m sure many other people by posting about it!! Keep it up. I am so proud of you!! 🙂

  4. This is all fantastic advice. (Except for the commando part. Not sure I could do it & never had an issue with chafing.)

    Totally agree on the cross training. I didn’t initially think it would make a difference, but it did for me.

    And embrace your pace – yes! I do better and have more fun if I don’t worry about it and just focus on my own goals and feeling good during the run.

  5. I agree the running gear is important along with good shoes. And like you said enjoy the other runners. That’s what I love about going to races big and small — the unspoken camaraderie that goes along with being a part of something. Looks like you had a great race.

  6. I find this recap inspiring to be honest. It makes me want to run a marathon! I’m frustrated at my weight being a limiting factor but it would be too hard on my knees. it seems like as soon as I make some headway in the right direction, I fall back in the mud because of stress.

    PS I keep meaning to tell you how much I like your tagline.

  7. Hilarious and true recap! Though I’m not sure I can get aboard the no panties train. I need something to attach my Poise pad too.

    P.S. I’m running a half I pretty much forgot to train for this weekend. I’m really hoping the “overall” fitness thing kicks in. If not, I’m screwed.

    1. Oh man. When I thought of Poise pads (and of course I can see the use) all I could think of was MORE CHAFING. Can you imagine running that many miles with chafing???

  8. This almost makes me think that I could do it someday! But again (I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before) I should probably try a 10K first.

  9. At this rate I am just hoping to do our local 10K in November again. I missed it last year due to my damn Achilles issues but I’m taking it slow and hoping the hubs and I can run it together this year!

    And I laughed when you said it could get expensive because I thought I could just grab some shoes, throw on some shorts and a t-shirt and RUN when I first started. BOY was I wrong! HA!

    Love your advice/tips and that you are a runner too!

    1. You should start running again, then you can come to Texas and run a race with us! Whenever we decide to run a race again, that is. We had to give up ambassador spots this year for the Erma Bombeck workshop.

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