What It Really Feels Like to Run a Half Marathon


You can read countless articles about how to prepare for a half marathon. But how does it feel?

Every runner goes through similar thoughts during a half marathon. We sign up for the race, we train but then we get to the race. Inevitably something goes wrong, from long lines at the porta-potties or a gel exploding in our face.

Yet, we sign up for another and another and another. At the end of the day, running a half marathon is an exciting and rewarding experience.

But what on earth do you think about before, during and after those 13.1 miles?

Before the race

  • I’m so nervous.
  • I’m so excited.
  • OMG why is the bathroom line so long?
  • I really have to use the restroom!
  • Ugh, finally made it through the line and now I need to hustle to my corral!

At the start

  • Oomph, into the carol we go. Just how many people are in this race?
  • OMG we are like sardines packed into this carol.
  • The elites are off. When are we off? Are we off now? I just want to be off now!

Mile 1

  • I feel great!
  • The energy is great!
  • Everything is great. I could do this all day, every day.
  • Look down at your watch: OMG, this is too fast. Reel it in before I crash!

Mile 2

  • I’m getting into the groove!
  • We are already 15 minutes into the race. Are we there yet?

Mile 3

  • Why didn’t I sign up for a 5K, I would be done?

Mile 4

  • Less than 10 miles to go. This is where it gets hard!
  • OMG so thirsty.
  • I need water.

Water station

  • Time to stop staring the water station.
  • How do people not stop at these stations?
  • Just grab the cup, grab the cup. Don’t trip and don’t hurt the volunteer.
  • At the water handoff: OMG, so sorry I spilled the water.
  • I need to stop and drink this.
  • How did this water end up on my face and body? I got maybe 5% in my mouth.

Mile 5

  • Are we there yet? Are we halfway?
  • Just got to make it halfway…

Mile 6

  • Almost halfway.
  • I can do this!
  • Seriously, how am I not half way? I’ve been out here for days!

Mile 7

  • Already halfway done. I’m practically crossing the line.
  • Better take this gel.
  • I’ve practiced running and taking a gel.
  • And yet, this gel still lands my face and I only digest 10%.

Mile 8

  • My legs are getting heavy.
  • Come on gel, kick in.
  • I just need this gel to kick in.
  • Speaking of gels and food, what should I have for lunch? I am going to have the biggest and best brunch around. As long as it’s within 5 feet of the finish line.
  • Great, now I’m just thinking of food.

Mile 9

  • Ugh we still have 4 more miles.
  • This is boring.
  • Where are the spectators?
  • Come on spectators, I need your good vibes!

Mile 10

  • Only 3.1 miles to go. I’ve run 5ks, I can do this.
  • Just think of it as a 5K… with a long warmup.

Mile 11

  • All aboard the pain train.
  • Just two more miles…just two more miles.
  • This is what pain feels like.
  • Why did I do this?
  • I thought it was a good idea 5 months ago.
  • I’ll get some water. Wow, 50% in my mouth…nailed it!

Mile 12

  • Why did I sign up for this?
  • Whose idea was that?
  • Oh right, it was my idea. It seemed like a good one at the time.
  • My feet hurt. My legs hurt. Why do my shoulders hurt? What are these muscles hurting?

Mile 13

  • The final countdown…
  • Why is that song playing in my head?
  • This is the longest mile of my life.

Mile 13.1

  • Why is the finish line so far?
  • OMG this is way more than .1!
  • No race photographer, I must look natural.
  • Look happy…push yeah rare photographer, I’ve been sprinting like this the entire race. He believed it…that $50 race photo will totally be worth it.

The finish. I made it!

  • Must pause the Garmin, all of those extra seconds count.

Post race

  • I want bagels. I want beer. I want food.
  • I want to take a photo with my medal on social media.
  • Omg my legs so badly.
  • Must lay in bed for the rest of the day.

Later in the day

  • When can I run another?
  • Seriously that was so much fun. I could do that everyday.

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

20 comments… add one
  • Katy V June 22, 2017, 12:39 pm

    It’s an awesome routine as I have run 56 half marathons. Everyday is a new mile of training and definitely worth each dollar spent.

  • Yolanda Delahaya February 19, 2017, 1:35 am

    Nothing like running! This article nailed us crazies, wouldn’t want it to be any other way. Have done at least 20 half marathons, love the training runs and eating after wards. I too, am proud to be part of baby boomers 60+. Yes, I also still run with a double running stroller . My grandkids!!!

  • Lynn Vecchio February 1, 2017, 12:24 pm

    “I hadn’t trained. I may have jogged about two miles about three weeks before the race. It was a beautiful day. I lived two-tenths of a mile down the street from the starting point on Robinson Lane. I had no plans for that Sunday–nothing else to do, so I signed up.

    I figured I would just go very, very slow. For the first four miles, I kept up with two other women who were a about 20 to 25 years younger than me. After that, one fell behind and the other (who was training for a marathon) left us in the dust. When I was 32, I had run a four mile race–even ran one of those miles in six-and-a-half- minutes. I was much older now though.

    I tried stopping at the first water station, but couldn’t. Every time I slowed down, my throat would close up. I couldn’t breathe! I was afraid to stop my slow-but-sure jog. I had nine more miles before the finish to convince myself that this was all mind over matter. Needless to say, I didn’t hydrate, but I did finish! My toenails fell off weeks afterwards, but other than that, I felt fine. Even great! And I didn’t finish last. That was about 6 or 7 years ago. I am now 66 years young. My time was somewhere around 2 hours, 52 minutes and 22 seconds. I will never do that again. There is no need to. I have proven I can be whatever I want to be. Lynn Vecchio.

  • Karen January 31, 2017, 2:25 pm

    LOL, that pretty much nailed it!

  • Stanley R Czyzewski January 27, 2017, 11:07 am

    Very encouraging. I’m doing my first 1/2 in April at Athens ohio. Age 75 been race walking 3 years.

  • Ray Moclair January 21, 2017, 1:20 am

    Whatre the prizes

  • Warren walter January 15, 2017, 8:32 am

    I am going to try my first 1/2 at age 70 in about 6 months. Very encouraging.

  • Tammy B January 2, 2017, 11:08 am

    I thought so many of these same thoughts. By mile 11, I couldn’t believe I was putting myself through that. BUT I’m now looking for another to run in 2017! Bring it on!!

  • Rocky December 29, 2016, 4:56 pm

    Mile 11- “all aboard the pain train”, sounds about right, especially if you’ve pushed beyond your pace for a few miles out of adrenaline and excitement.

  • Richard November 3, 2016, 11:53 pm

    You nailed it, that is exactly what it feels like! But sometimes I think about stopping in a bar on the way and having a beer. (But I don’t.)

  • Rowena September 10, 2016, 3:31 pm

    I’m walking my first marathon in about a month. I’m excited and scared at the same time….Lol

  • Shannon Guan August 24, 2016, 2:03 pm

    I am preparing for my first half and full marathon by the end of the year. Thanks for the article, it mirrors what I had experienced during the long runs. Well done!

  • katie August 24, 2016, 9:15 am

    hahahahaha!!! THIS WAS SPOT ON!!!!! all I think about is ; the faster you run, the faster you’re done!!! oh and ALL the food I’m eating after & uploads pics of me flexing with my awesome medal on social media. I LOVE 2 run!!!!! #runeveryday

  • Albert Ferretti August 6, 2016, 4:56 pm

    Dead on! I’ve run 25 halves and finished near last in all of them. At 60 years young, wouldn’t change it for anything. Next stop, emerald bay half Lake Tahoe in October

  • Michael Schau July 19, 2016, 7:42 am

    Thanks for the laugh. I am running my first half marathon at 65 in 5 months!

    • James Mathesius February 14, 2019, 12:09 pm

      How is it going Mike? I am about your age and run half’s also. I know you will be successful!

  • Bo Rodriguez June 19, 2016, 11:04 am

    Looking forward to running my first , I’m already nervous. But excited at the same time

  • Sheri Michel June 15, 2016, 10:03 pm

    That article was great!!!!! Nailed it every mile of the way!!!!!! That is exactly what I think at each interval!!!!!!! So much fun to read and relate to!!!!!!
    Awesome author!!!

  • Shelby June 15, 2016, 1:28 pm

    How on point! I was laughing the entire read!

  • Ed Jackson June 15, 2016, 8:18 am

    Talk about a shared experience. Why is it, no matter how fast or slow our final time is, this is the experience.

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