10 Things NOT to Do When You Train For a Half Marathon

Whether you are training for your first half marathon or your 100th, each half teaches you something. There are plenty of lessons I’ve personally learned the hard way.

A half marathon is a great distance to train for because it’s a manageable distance and you can recover much quicker than longer distances. Plus, you can do more than one or two a year.

But as runners and humans, we’ve all made mistakes. We’ve trained when we shouldn’t have. We have found an excuse to get out of a rest day, or we’ve been out late only to race or run long the next morning. Like anything in life, we’ve all made mistakes. It’s important to take time and learn from those mistakes.

Here’s ten things NOT to do when you’re training for a half, so you can learn from my mistakes:

1) Forget to set a goal

One of the most important aspects of training is having a goal. Whether your goal is to finish your first half marathon, PR or beat your neighbor, you should always have a goal. Goals allow you to stay focused for your race and keep you mentally tough during training.

2) Keep your goals secret

Having goals and letting people know you are training keeps training more interesting and fun. When you are accountable, you are more likely to train for your goal race. Goals are nothing to hide, and it’s always more fun when you are sharing your training with other runners.

3) Forget to prepare yourself mentally

Over half of running is mental and if you don’t believe that you are going to succeed, then no one else will believe you either. Never forget to believe in yourself. Mentally prepare yourself by visualizing yourself running and staying confident in your own abilities.

4) Forget to fuel

You can’t make it through half marathon training and the race without fueling. During training experiment with different food ideas. Also, experiment with different gels, Gatorade and fueling options for the race. You never know what the best fuel is for you, unless you try different options.

5) Forget to take rest days

Rest days are as important as the workout days and long runs. We often think that more running is better, but if we forget about rest days, our body breaks down. The rest is what allows your body to build muscle and get stronger.

6) Ignore pain

Believe me, it’s hard to take a few extra rest days. Ignoring a small pain can cause a serious injury that could set you back months. I learned that lesson the hard way when I ignored the pain in my shin. Ignoring the pain for a week led to my first serious running injury, a tibial stress fracture. Don’t let a small ache or pain becomes a serious injury.

7) Start the race out too fast

My college coach told me, “Make the first mile your slowest.” The last thing you want in a half marathon is to take the first mile out too fast and realize: “I still have 12.1 miles to go” because believe me, the race becomes a lonely and painful 12.1 miles.

8) Forget to plan your post-race victory meal

Let’s face it, sometimes the best part of finishing a half marathon is having a treat meal. For me, it’s the biggest piece of New Jersey diner cake I can find.

9) Forget to have fun

Remember you PAID to train for this race: running is a life-long and enjoyable hobby. Having fun should always be the priority! Even if something doesn’t go according to plan, having fun is always the top priority!

10) Forget to sign up for another half

After you finish this half marathon, figure out what’s next. The best way to get better for a half marathon is run another right? You can’t PR in the distance without running another one!

Hollie Sick is an avid runner who’s completed more than 40 half marathons. Read her blog, or follow her on Facebook.

13 comments… add one
  • Laura April 28, 2020, 9:51 pm

    I ran one half marathon, in 2017, and lost a few toe nails. Haven’t raced one again, but looking to. Is this avoidable during long runs?

  • Susan October 1, 2017, 10:19 pm

    Do you have port a potties along the route.? Also, how will one get back to their car?

  • Dale K August 2, 2017, 7:26 pm

    I am in training for a half marathon (my 2nd 🙂 ) and also plan to do a 3rd one 2 weeks after the 2nd one is that enough time to recover and still be ready for the 3rd one?

    • Lucy Burgos January 30, 2019, 3:40 pm

      I ran my first half marathon in March of 2017 and it was great and horrible at the same time. I didn’t hydrate enough because I wanted nothing to do with the port-o-potties :(. I only consumed some gummies, which I realize now pretty much were not doing too much for me. Around mile 10 I just ran out of gas pretty much and went on fumes alone (and pain in my legs). When it was all said and done, my running buddy had already signed us up for another half which was 30 days away. I couldn’t believe she did that, but I was up for the challenge anyhow. Needless to say, it was an awesome run the second time around. I have since participated in 13 of those and ran my first 26.2 event just 2 weeks ago……what an amazing experience. Listen to your body…..that will be the only thing that tells you if you are ready for the next running event. Keep training, keep running, rest days are a must……but make the next goal bigger and better!!!!!!

  • Kevin June 5, 2017, 2:24 pm

    Don’t drink anything you haven’t consumed while training. I can’t touch nuun or gu because it tears my stomach up. I had some nuun at a half and spit that out right away.

  • Michelle November 28, 2016, 4:21 pm

    Don’t wear new shoes on race day!!!

    • Lynn November 4, 2017, 3:28 pm

      I politely disagree. I always wear brand new out of the Box shoes for every race! Never had any problems. Feature brand socks and brand new one size larger Asics gel nimbus –

      • Greg April 4, 2018, 7:16 pm

        Never wear brand new gear not worn before on race day……..period!

  • Joe Garland October 22, 2016, 9:17 pm

    Why did you have to use such a stupid photo for this article? Running with traffic on a street in Manhattan.

  • Thabo August 2, 2016, 10:16 am

    I ran a half-marathon two weeks ago but I had overtrained. My training programme was going so well until I did some squats and overdoing it. I thought I would recover three days before the race but I didn’t. I knew I was going to struggle to finish the race. I ran well until 13km then my muscles and hamstring refused to cooperate. I ran walk for the rest of the race. Amazingly, my time was around my average. But I haven’t recovered yet from my folly because I knew about overtraining.

  • Ravinder Singh Bhatia July 29, 2016, 8:52 am

    Thanks for training shedule , will help me to improve my timing in next half marathon

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