After completing my second half marathon on Sunday, I feel a bit more qualified to give out advice if you’re looking to sign up for a half. I enjoyed the Chicago Half Marathon way more than my first half, probably because it was in September instead of July. I also went into my second half knowing what to expect and how to train better.
- Be prepared for the weather that day. Running in September was a huge difference from running in July. It was cooler but still warm, and I ended up wearing basically the same thing for both races, a tank top and loose running shorts. Keep in mind that even when it’ll be cooler, you’ll still probably get hot after a few miles.
- Make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes. If you’re racing in the summer, arm yourself with electrolytes before running. The heat will literally suck away your energy, and you’re going to need to bring either salt packets with you or some form of electrolytes. My favorite is Clif Bloks Energy Chews. They come in a ton of different flavors, and some have extra sodium or caffeine to help keep you going. It’s easy to bring a few of them along with you on long runs.
- Stop to drink water. Don’t skip water stations because you’re trying to keep an eye on time, especially if you feel like you need it. Just stop for the water. Your body needs water more than a fast time.
- If you start to feel dizzy or sick, stop. There are medical tents scattered throughout the race. If you feel like there’s something seriously wrong, you need to stop at one of these tents, especially if you’re dizzy or having chest pain. If you’re feeling sick, walk for a little bit and see how you feel.
- Stop to use the bathroom if you have to. If you have to go to the bathroom around mile two, you’ll still have to go to the bathroom around mile nine. Just pee fast. It’s not worth feeling held back because you refuse to stop at the bathroom.
- Have a playlist already set for race day. You don’t want to be constantly looking at your phone while running to find a good song.
- Be prepared the night before. My mom and I had to wake up a little after four in the morning to allow time to get to Chicago, which takes about 45 minutes for us, and to find a parking spot. Parking on streets is obviously free, so it’s worth it to wake up earlier to find a spot on the side of the road than to pay $30 for parking. Have all your things ready to go the night before, like your bib, snacks for before and after the race, water and running clothes. Also, go to bed early. I went to bed at 10 the night before and I woke up feeling great. How much sleep you get is a big factor in how your body is going to feeling during the race.
- Don’t worry about how fast the people are going around you. Go at your own pace. If you feel like speeding up, speed up. If you feel like slowing down, slow down. If you need to stop and walk for a few minutes, then do it. No one around you cares.
- Make sure you’re wearing the right shoes and that your shoes aren’t completely rundown. A good pair of running shoes is vital in preventing injuries. I know that firsthand. Make sure your shoes aren’t completely torn up either because that won’t feel good around mile 11.
- You should be running somewhat long distances before racing. Getting your muscles used to long, tough runs will be crucial once you get to race day. Challenge yourself to go a little longer on every long run. Don’t just run, either. Go to the gym and focus on strength instead of cardio every now and then.
If you’re kind of crazy like I am and love long distance running, then you’ll probably enjoy doing a half marathon more than you think. If you’re doing it to reach a goal, then just hang in there because getting that medal and feeling of pride at the end is worth it.
One of my favorite things about running is that nearly everyone can do it. You don’t need a specific skill set or special equipment, and it has a ton of benefits that have lasting effects. Once you make running a part of your routine, it becomes a fixture in your life.
Running has taught me that no matter what, I’ll end up okay and that all things are possible. Except for maybe a full marathon, that just seems too painful.