3 Common Half Marathon Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

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Training for a half marathon can be both tough and rewarding. The distance of 13.1 miles is a long way to go, and it’s definitely not something you can fake training for.

Don’t let these mistakes ruin your chances at a PR because believe me, I’ve been there, and it stinks!

1) Not having a realistic goal pace

We all have a dream goal pace. When training for a race, it can be hard to determine what the most realistic pace to target is. Many athletes choose a pace that is too fast or slow for their training.

Early into your training, it’s important to find a shorter race or do a time trial. The best time is about a month before your race. By that time, most runners have a good training base, and it can give an accurate idea of paces for a longer race.


One of the best things you can do for your training is to get an accurate measurement of where you are. Heck, you might even surprise yourself!

How do you find the appropriate goal race pace for you?

For a half marathon, try running a race or time trial between the distances of 5K and 10K. Give yourself a month before the goal race so your body can recover!

The time trial is a guide. Do what you would plan for your goal race: eat the same foods, taper the same way and wear the same outfit (better to chafe now than later!). There is no need to be nervous! After you complete your race, you’ll have more of an idea of where your fitness is.

A great tool for race time prediction is the McMillian Training Calculator. It allows you to input race times to help predict other distances. Of course, you must also appropriately train for the distance.

2) Taking out the race too fast

Going out too fast in any race from a 5K to a marathon brings consequences. Most runners have taken a distance event out too fast and paid the price.

I remember during the Philadelphia half marathon in 2015, I took out a half at my 5k pace. Like anyone, I just got caught up in the racing scene. I ignored my plan to go out easy and ran with much faster people around me.

While I nearly PR’ed in the 5k, it was a very long 10 miles home. The earlier miles in a half marathon are the most important. I always recommend taking the race out a few seconds slower than your goal pace and build from there.

Even running the early miles 5 seconds per mile too quickly can be devastating to your overall race result. It feels a lot better to finish the race strong, then to crawl to the finish line. Although, I would still take a PR either way.

3) Not running the course

Sometimes we fall victim to the GPS watch. We race for the splits versus the actual course. Every race course is different, and it’s important to adjust your pacing to the course. Is there a huge uphill at mile 5? Prepare for that and don’t expect to run your fastest mile there.

As runners, we can be pace-stubborn, regardless of the course elevation charts or even the weather. A few half marathon ago, I ran an out and back half. Going out was a 20 MPH headwind.

For the first half of the race, I was in a negative mindset. How could I be “so slow”? I tried to run faster but couldn’t. When we did the U-turn and headed home, I realized how silly I had been! I was running much faster with the tailwind at the same effort level.

Sometimes the best thing you can do is silence your watch and run based on feel.

Don’t let these mistakes ruin your chances at a PR this year.

Hollie Sick is an avid runner who’s completed more than 30 half marathons. Read her blog, or follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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