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The 13 Stages of Your First Half-Marathon

Mile 1: Well, that was anti-climactic...

Just because the shot went off doesn't mean you'll be moving fast. (Thanks, crowds.) Consider it forced pacing: "You'll do more damage than good by going out too fast anyway," says Gallagher-Mohler. "Plus, there's plenty of time to make up for any lost ground in the first mile if you do find yourself a little behind your goal pace."

Mile 2: I'm flying! Seriously, have I always been this fast? I'm definitely going to PR!

Your adrenaline will inspire you to move quickly, but save your energy! Gallagher-Mohler finds that new runners often go out fast because they know they won't have the energy later in the race, but it's because they go out too fast that they don't have energy at the end. "Proper pacing on race day is just as important as proper training."

Mile 3: Oh look, we're already at a hydration station, and I don't feel tired at all! No stopping for me!

"Don't wait until fatigue sets in to start ingesting carbs, like gels or Gatorade" explains Pfaffenbach. "Once you hit a wall, it can be hard to come back, so stay ahead of it. Bottom line recommendation: consume 6 to 8 ounces of Gatorade or one gel every 3 miles, starting at the 3-mile mark."

Mile 4: Legs are feeling good. You got this!

This is a good time to focus on form. Keeping your shoulders low and relaxed and landing softly on your feet will save your body from unnecessary wear, tear, and fatigue.

Mile 5: Oh no, is my bra starting to chafe? No that can't be...I knew it was all going too well!

As with pacing and nutrition, it is crucial that you also "practice" your race day gear in advance. A half-marathon is a long time to suffer with a poorly fitted shoe or sports bra. Chafing and blisters often come from gear with an improper fit, or from cotton or other irritating fabrics next to your skin. Go beyond sweat-wicking shorts and shirt: "Choose moisture-wicking athletic gear, including socks, sports bras, and even underwear," says Gallagher-Mohler. "Compression shorts or leggings also can help you avoid inner thigh chaffing."

Mile 6: I really don't like all these uphills. Or downhills. Or flat surfaces.

Hills can change a half-marathon entirely. Solution: "Hill train once a week," says Gallagher-Mohler.

Mile 7: My legs aren't feeling so fresh anymore.

Before your race, pick out a pump-up song, whether that's a motivation-booster like "Eye of the Tiger" or a #girlpower jam like "Run the World." Bring on the second wind.

Mile 8: I could be at brunch right now. I could be drinking mimosas. I could be asleep!

Even though it's tempting, don't let your mind wander to negative thoughts! As Gallagher-Mohler explains, "This begins with proper training well before race day, to make sure your body and mind are prepared for the task at hand on race day."

Mile 9: It's OK if I don't hit my goal today. Really. I just have to finish. Eyes on the prize.

Between mile 9 and 10 of a half-marathon is typically the time when your body has run out of its glycogen stores. If you begin to feel the effects of "the wall," our pros suggest taking in external sources through a sports drink or chews helps to replenish these stores.

Mile 10: Must. Not. Walk.

Avoid stopping whenever possible, since stopping and starting can make it more likely that your body will need to stop repeatedly during the remainder of the race.

Mile 11: Just finish, please let me finish! If I finish, I swear I'll never run another half-marathon again!

Everyone gets tired, but it's important to remember that you've trained for this. When you're the most tired, begin by reminding yourself that it's normal to be tired during a race. Sometimes the worst fatigue simply comes from the anxiety of feeling it. Just take it one step at a time. "Focus on the person in front of you and let them mentally carry you through the next mile," says Gallagher-Mohler. "Every person out there offers you an opportunity to run your best."

Mile 12: My watch must be wrong. There's no way this is one mile. The longest mile in HISTORY.

Remember, mind over matter. You can do this.

Mile 13: You can do it! Come on, it's only one mile. You could do this in your sleep. Oh sleep...

That last mile is the perfect opportunity to take out those headphones and let the crowds bring you to the end. Read the signs, reach out for high-fives, and absorb as much energy as you can for that final push.

Mile 13.1: THERE'S THE FINISH LINE!! Oh sweet victory, you did it!! Where do I sign up for the next one?! I've never felt so good!

Although you may just want to sit back and celebrate post-race, it's important to replenish and take care of your body. Gallagher-Mohler suggests "fueling within the first 20 minutes post-race with quick-access carbohydrates and a little bit of protein along with electrolytes such as a banana and almond butter—or raisins and mixed nuts along with coconut water—is a great way to replenish those depleted stores so that you're ready for your next training day. It's also important to perform a full circuit stretch—one that specifically addresses your hips, quads, and hamstrings—which will help to stave off unnecessary tightness in the days following your big race."