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So you want to run a half marathon...

Healthy U

By Lauren Cardarelli
On April 20, 2012

Being a runner doesn't have to coincide with the daunting 13.1 marker but if you're interested in getting there, I learned a few things along my journey after completing my first half marathon this past weekend in Central Park that I would love to share.

It isn't an easy thing to tackle, but anyone can succeed if they set their mind to it. Here are my top 10 tips for first-time half marathoners.

10. Set a "why." Maybe you're looking to lose weight or simply need a purpose to haul yourself to the gym after a long day of class. Whatever it may be, let the reasoning behind your madness fuel you through the pavement that lies ahead.

9. Hydrate and fuel up, before the race, during the race and after. Do I need to explain why? I didn't think so.

8. Be prepared. Remember back in the day when you laid out your first day of school outfit and gear in anticipation for the day ahead? Relive this notion the night before your race, except setting your race ensemble, bib number, sneakers, iPod, etc. out so nothing important is left behind. Keep tissues or toilet paper on you because portable bathroom will not stay stocked!

7. Listen to your body. It's only natural to feel a tweak here or pull there along the way, especially if this is the first time you've dedicated yourself to such a strenuous regiment. Ice your injured areas, stretch, take a few pain relievers and continue training with caution. Don't be ashamed of a rest day. Sometimes pain doesn't mean gain and instead means setback. If there is a reoccurring issue, see a professional for further evaluation.

6. Get there both the expo and race early. The sooner you get to the expo, the better the freebies and shorter the lines. Showing up to the race bright and early will alleviate unneeded stress too.

5. Slow and steady wins the race. Pace yourself. The finish line isn't going anywhere anytime soon and you can always turn on the speed to make up time. Wear a watch to track your splits or keep a running buddy by your side who keeps your same speed.

4. Have faith in yourself. At first, the mental math of 13.1 miles looks (and sounds!) next to impossible. Don't second -guess your ability or strength. Break down the course into small, easy segments that won't be intimidating and count down along the way to celebrate each milestone.

3. Sport your race shirt after you cross the finish line. In my mind, the shirt has just as much meaning as the metal. Have one of your "cheerleaders" hold on to it so you can shed your sweat-dripping top for the well-deserved, celebratory tee. You earned it!

2. Go with what you know. If you haven't been training with energy beans, gels, etc. don't try it the day of the race. Yummy protein bars or other products in your freebie bag might taunt you but wait to try it once you have the 13.1 under your belt. You never know how your body is going to react, so keep everything from nutrition, caffeine consumption and sleep balanced and normal to your standards the week leading up to the race.

1. Have fun and don't get down on yourself. You came so far, putting in an exuberant amount time and effort. Be proud, regardless of your time or overall performance. You did it! Oh, and don't forget to invest in that professional finish line photo. Hot mess or not, it's a keeper. 

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