My First Half Marathon
2016 Pittsburgh Half- 2:12:57
For those of you embarking on your first 13.1, allow me to share some tips and tricks to help you prepare for that day. The best advice I got for this race was “Just finish the run.” Running this distance is an accomplishment on its own, don’t worry about what time you finish in.
Which brings me to my first point:
- Be realistic. When you sign up for a time online think about what is comfortable for you. At the time of my first race I was running about a 10min mile. So I signed up to be right on pace with that time, 2:10:00.
- Talk to others who have been in your shoes. (Hopefully cute running ones.) This will help you feel at ease for so much of your preparation. One of the greatest things about this race is the unbelievable amount of support you get from total strangers. Reach out! I was lucky enough to be accompanied by a family member who was well decorated in his marathon achievements. If you don’t have this advantage, follow the Pittsburgh Marathon social media pages and read up on as much as you want/can.
- Shoes. You knew this was coming. Go to the running store and get professionally fitted for shoes that match your running style. For months I ran on a treadmill in a pair of old Nike shoes that had basically ZERO support. When I got my first pair of running shoes I couldn’t believe what torture I was putting my feet through. Compared to any other sport running is cheap. Spend the money, and get nice shoes. Oh, and break them in. (About 40 to 50 miles before race day.)
- Train outside. The event does not take place on a treadmill, so get off of it. Training on the track will also mislead you. Pittsburgh has hills my friends. I made this mistake for most of my training in 2016. The treadmill also doesn’t prepare you for the under 50 degree weather that both years I have ran has provided. You will be cold, at least try to be exposed to running in that temperature.
- Don’t OVER train. This is probably the biggest piece of advice I can give to someone running their first half marathon. I was so worried about knowing that I could run 13.1 miles that I over ran. The closer the event got the more I ran which in a sense hindered my performance. You are doing yourself a much bigger favor than you think by taking a week off. Try incorporating some lifting, spinning or Yoga into your life during the days you’re not running.
- Spend time at the Runner’s expo. This will get you excited for the next morning and you’ll meet a lot of cool people. The first year I ran happened to be the year that Nev from the MTV show Catfish was running the full marathon. To this day I don’t know what I’m happier about: finishing the race or getting a pic. with Nev.
- Don’t do anything out of the ordinary. This means try some things before the day of the race. Caffeine chewable are my favorite item to have on me during the event. However, the first year I ran I made myself sick around mile 10 because I never used them before. Test these things out to see how your body reacts during your runs, and buy some according to your preference.
- Know where you’re staying. I’m not exactly sure if it’s even an option to drive into Pittsburgh in the morning, but my suggestion is don’t even try it. Roads are blocked off and you’ll cause yourself more stress than anything. Stay in a hotel. Book it months in advance and have as peaceful of a walk to the starting line as possible.
- Have a plan for the morning of race day. (1) Have options for what to wear. Don’t limit yourself to one outfit because you want to look cute. You will be much happier you brought the extra shirt that doesn’t match when you wake up that day to find the weather has changed. (2) Know exactly what you’re going to eat. Oatmeal is always my breakfast. It’s easy to heat up in the morning, I know it doesn’t upset my stomach and it does not need refrigerated. (3) Give yourself plenty of extra time. I wake up at 5am knowing I’m going to be walking to the starting line by 6:30. I like to shower (don’t wash my hair) in the morning and stretch a lot before getting down there. (4) You’re either going to use the bathroom 100 times that morning, or you’re not. Just go with the flow.
- Have fun my friends! The energy that you will experience on this day is like nothing else. You are surrounded by people just like yourself. The crowd will be filled with families regardless of how cold, wet and miserable it will be. You will laugh multiple times at signs people have made. (“Remember you paid for this.” is always a classic.) The overall experience will change your life and you will be proud to be a part of the colorful sea of runners.
I’d love to hear what works best for you in preparation for race day.