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11 Half Marathon Tips: Training Advice for Your First Half Marathon

Taking the time to learn some half marathon tips, especially before your first half marathon, can be incredibly beneficial. Learning from the experience of others will not only help you feel more confident on race day, but will help you avoid some mistakes.

Half marathon training tips vary from the practical advice, such as how far to run during a long run, to unique strategies to avoid bathroom emergencies or run the tangents of the course.

If you’re training to run your first half marathon or have an upcoming goal race, these half marathon tips will help set you up for success. Check out some of the most common half marathon questions.

What is a good first half marathon time?

The true, honest answer is this: any finish time is a good one for your first half marathon. Whether you walked, ran or did a combination of the two, the ultimate goal for your first half marathon is simply to finish.

You might encounter a few surprises along the way that cause you to slow down more than expected, or you might feel exceptionally good and finish in much less time than planned. Either way – you finished! Once you’ve completed a half marathon, you’ll be able to more accurately create a goal for your next.

Related: Average Half Marathon Finish Time By Age and Gender

Is 10 miles enough before a half marathon?

For most runners, completing a long run of 10 miles is enough when training for a half marathon. However, in order to be adequately trained, beginners will need to spend time working their way up in long run distance each weekend. Start with a 5 or 6 mile long run and continue to add mileage each week.

Seasoned and more experienced runners often don’t need to complete much (or any) formal training before a half marathon. In these cases, runners have a good enough base that they can run 13 miles on any given weekend.

What are some training tips for my first half marathon?

Training for your first half marathon requires commitment and dedication. Running 13.1 miles is no easy task – especially for the first time. Regardless of whether you choose a 6 month or 6 week training plan, the key to success is committing to it.

Stick to the plan, complete the workouts and designate time for rest and cross training. Soon your body will adapt to the activity by gaining the strength and fitness needed for race day.

Here are some half marathon tips you’ll want to know before your first half marathon or upcoming goal race.

These 11 half marathon tips will set you up for success on race day -- whether you're training for your first half marathon or a new goal!

11 First Half Marathon Tips

Oftentimes, the best way to learn about a new skill or activity is by checking in with those who are experienced. These first half marathon tips will help you avoid some common mistakes, as well as give you a few strategies to get your mind and body in the best condition for race day.

Give yourself enough time to train

The biggest mistake a runner can make when training for a half marathon is to not give themselves enough time to train. Be honest about your current fitness level, and give yourself more time than you think is necessary to train for the distance.

Running 13.1 miles is no easy task, especially if your body is not yet conditioned for long distance running. Plan to have more time than necessary to complete the training you think you’ll need – which will allow for time if anything unexpected occurs.

Don’t try anything new on race day

No doubt you’ve heard this before, but for good reason. Perhaps the most universal rule in the running community is to not try anything new on race day.

Regardless of how tempted you may be, don’t wear any new shoes, a new outfit, try any new fueling or gear on race day. In most cases, it won’t turn out as expected and has the potential to create additional obstacles during the race.

Start slower than you need

Hardly anything compares to the excitement in the corrals at the start of a half marathon. Second to adequate training, perhaps the most important half marathon tip to take away is to start slower than you need.

That race day excitement is bound to leave you feeling fresh and excited those first few miles. Try your hardest to hold back and avoid letting it get the best of you. The worst thing you could do is spend your time passing people and running at a pace faster than usual. Plan to start by running slower than your goal pace, and then pick up the pace if you’re still feeling good after the first few miles.

Fuel before you get hungry

Waiting until your stomach begins to growl to take in that gel or energy block is a recipe for disaster – but a very common half marathon mistake. To avoid this, aim to take in small bits of fuel before you ever feel hungry.

Start taking in small portions of fuel about 60 minutes into the race, and continue to do so every 20 to 30 minutes thereafter.

Don’t obsess about pace

During your first half marathon, the goal should be simply to finish. Completing the distance is a brand-new experience – one that might bring unexpected issues or struggles.

Rather than setting yourself up to be stressed throughout the race, decide ahead of time that you aren’t going to worry about pace. It’s okay to check in with your watch once and a while, but the primary focus should be to listen to the body and adjust based on the signals it is sending.

Wear your gear ahead of time

Another variation of the “don’t try anything new” rule is to make sure you wear your gear ahead of time. Saving an outfit or brand-new pair of running shoes for race day seems like a good way to stay motivated, but you won’t know if those clothes will rub in unexpected places or the shoes will give you blisters.

Test out your race day outfit and any extra gear at least one time during training. Then, you can put it away so it is fresh and exciting on race morning.

Have a mental strategy

So much of long distance running is mental, not just physical. Running a half marathon requires great mental strength in order to persevere and continue running as the mileage piles on.

Plan and practice your mental strategy throughout training during long runs. Come up with a few mantras to recite when the going gets tough, a plan to walk for certain intervals, or simply a meaningful reason to remind you why you should keep going.

Allow yourself some walk breaks

If the stars don’t align on race day and things get tougher than you expect, allow yourself some walk breaks when you need them. Regardless of whether you hoped to finish in a certain time or wanted to run the entire distance without walking – if you feel you need it, just walk.

Taking a few short, quick walk breaks is sometimes all you need to get your mojo back and feel refreshed. Remind yourself that 13.1 miles is still 13.1 miles, whether you walked, ran or did something in between.

Try running with a pace group

One of the best half marathon tips that I wish I’d learned before running my first is to run with a pace group. Completing all the training alone is one thing, but sometimes the course and chaos can feel really overwhelming on race day.

If you’re nervous about your ability to finish or stay accountable, try following one of the pacers. Pick a pacer that is a bit slower than your expected time, and see if you can stick with them throughout the course. If you prefer to run alone, try running a short distance behind the group that forms so you are able to see the sign throughout the run, but don’t have to be social.

…Or try running solo

Many new half marathon runners can feel intimidated by the excitement at the start and throughout the course. If you’re nervous about all the other runners, remember that many of them are doing their own thing and that it’s okay for you to as well.

Running solo can be an incredibly rewarding experience, especially for your first half marathon. Completing the distance on your own, without anyone else there to keep you accountable when things get tough is certainly something to be proud of.

Enjoy the experience

Above all, it’s important to enjoy the experience. Many first half marathons don’t go as planned – and that’s okay. However race day unfolds, make a point to be present and really soak it all in. Embrace all the excitement, chaos and new scenery that you experience.

These half marathon tips will set you up for success during your very first half marathon! Completing a half marathon is something that all runners will remember forever, even if it ends up being there only one.

In most cases, one race is enough to get you hooked and keep you coming back for more. Use these training and race day half marathon tips to start off in the best way possible, and continue to improve from there.

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