I thought I knew what to expect on my first half marathon (13.1 miles), but quickly realized that I was wrong. In training for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, I had finally reached the half way mark: 13 miles. I decided to celebrate this milestone by running an official half marathon, and signed up for the Fort Worth Cowtown. The good news is the race turned out to be a far better experience than I expected, but I definitely learned some things that I feel are worth sharing.
Here are some before, during and after tips for making the most of your 13.1 half marathon.
Before the race
- Get there early: I got to the race early and was glad. I didn’t stress about parking, had plenty of time to use the restroom and enjoy the atmosphere.
- Go to the bathroom: Using the restroom before the race is a must.
- Do what is routine: As per my usual morning runs, I drank a little but didn’t eat before the race. I was glad I didn’t, butterflies were enough for my stomach.
- Plan ahead or bring a buddy: Depending on weather, having someone to hand your clothes off to before the race starts is a nice bonus. Otherwise, you are either cold while you’re waiting in the corals (because you don’t have them) or you are warm but then have to leave them at the start, and go on a crusade to find them after the race.
During the race
- Let ‘er rip: My adrenaline must have been way up, because my split times were about the same as my 5K and I held steady the whole race. I was cautious the whole race about that, but next time I won’t be, and I will be more willing to push my times.
Practice makes perfect: Running and drinking are an art. I would try that before the race. How you get the water in your mouth without showering you and everyone around you, and then how you get it down without coughing…well, it took a little practice. I am sure I provided a laugh or two for those on the sidelines!
- Find flat surfaces: Looking for flat parts of the road are a must if you are prone to shin splints. It took me about 1 mile to realize that an extra step or two to the left or right to get off an angle in the road was worth it. The crown of the road or closest to the edges seemed to work the best. 13.1 miles at an angle could be problematic.
- Send some thanks: There are so many incredible people volunteering and encouraging runners during races, I wish I would have thanked more of them along the way. If you have the breath, thank them.
- Snack smart: Energy gels really seem to work. I like Gu and Cliff products because they taste good and go down easy. Also, find a product that doesn’t produce large fluctuations in your energy; big highs then deep lows.
After the race
- Enjoy the moment: Give yourself time to take it all in, don’t rush out to leave so you can enjoy the moment. I had to high tail it out of there for life’s next event, but wish I could have just hung out a few more minutes to enjoy the post race food and activities, and to let the accomplishment sink in.
- Run for fun: I ran the race just to finish and I am glad that I did. I think it is great to measure your time, but if you aren’t enjoying the people, the scenery and the accomplishment, then it won’t last very long and won’t be much fun.
- Bring along recovery tools: If you have a roller, make sure you have it because you will surely need it. Once you are stagnant your muscles will begin to tighten up. Having tools at the race (in your car, etc) to help stretch and loosen your muscles will help decrease future soreness. I of course am a RangeRoller guy, a must for any post race recovery.
That was my race experience. Hope these tips help to prepare you for your next race. Let us know if there are any race tips that you swear by, leave us a comment. I hope you enjoy your 13.1!