Top 10 Tips for Running a Marathon/Half Marathon

These tips helped me, as a new runner with almost no experience, reach my running goals.   In this article I share the top 5 tips that helped me succeed and the top 5 tips I wished I had done before I started training for my half marathon.

I did a lot of things right as my training went according to plan and I did accomplish my goal, but I could have had an even better experience.  You may already be aware of many of the tips below, but I’m sure there is at least one you may not have prioritized that can improve your running journey. 

5 Tips I’m Glad I did

  • Invest in good pair of shoes – The older you are, the more important a good pair of running shoes are.  Running in regular sneakers, especially for any length of time can not only be uncomfortable but can cause injury.  Choosing the right shoe for you is worth the effort and money.  I recommend going to a reputable running store and having a foot analysis.  A knowledgeable salesperson will be able to help you choose a solid shoe to start your running journey. 
  • Find a good training plan – There are a variety of training plans for your running goals online for free.  Do your research and choose a plan from a reputable source with lots of experience.  There are different plans based on your experience and levels but don’t be too ambitious.  If you are new to running or haven’t run for some time, a beginner plan will be the best option to avoid injury and burnout.
  • Keep a training journal – You will really be glad you kept a training journal from day one.  Not only does the journal allow you to track your progress (which a lot of apps can do for you now too), but you can record other important information.  Besides your time, mileage, and average pace, you may also want to note the weather (including temperature, humidity, wind, etc.).  You can also note how your run went, how you felt, if your clothes bother you, or any things you may forget in the future that affected your running.  
  • Find scenic routes for your long run – The long run (the longest run of your week) can be mentally and physically challenging.  Planning to run a scenic route can help you look forward to the run and enjoy it.  You can plan to explore different parts of your neighborhood or arrange to go to a park or other scenic area for you run.   If time constraints keep you running a familiar route, then plan to listen to a podcast or book you’ve been wanting to hear or read.  The point is to look forward to the long run and enjoy it as much as possible.
  • Use a Running Belt or Running Vest – You will need a way to carry your phone, keys, lip balm, tissues, and other items you may need.  Don’t wait for your long run to start using a belt or vest as it is best to get used to wearing it on every run.  You will want to test these out as the movement of running makes the additional belt or vest a bit uncomfortable (thus the reason to wear it on shorter runs first).  For women, running with a vest can be very challenging, especially depending on your chest size.

5 Tips I Wish I had Done

  • Do glute and hip strengthening exercises – If you are a woman and/or sit a lot, you REALLY need to strengthen the glutes and hips.  I realized this mistake on my first long run that was 8 miles.   After researching my issue online, it seemed my IT band that was the culprit.  I rested an extra day and started doing clam shell exercises at least twice a week.  After adding this exercise and doing some other light strength training, I did not have any more issues.  I recommend watching a YouTube video on how to do them properly and make them part of your training.
  • Download & Use Strava – During my half marathon training I simply used a map app to track my mileage and time.  Over time I became familiar with the name Strava but didn’t really understand it is THE running app.  I wish I had downloaded Strava and used it for my training.  I’m by no means a gadget person, but this app is worth downloading and it’s FREE!  An additional feature is that you can easily share your runs with others and follow others.  If you have any friends that are runners, they likely are using Strava.
  • Get a Running Coach – Believe it or not, running is a skill and most of us need a bit of help to run with correct form.  It’s worth investing in a few sessions with a running coach to reinforce good form and address your individual weaknesses.  Poor running form will usually lead to injury sooner or later.  To prevent injury and give yourself the best chance of success for future miles, learn to run properly and know where your weak points are.
  • Buy Compression sleeves for your lower legs – I recently discovered these gems and wish I had them when during my half marathon training.  I find my legs recover so much faster and they make my legs feel better while I’m wearing them.  You will find these very helpful for soreness and cramping especially if you end up sitting a lot during the day either at a desk or driving.  They are very affordable but be warned, they are very tight. 
  • Implement Run/Walk/Run Method for some of your runs – There is no shame in taking short walking breaks.  In fact, purposely scheduling short walking breaks (30 seconds for maximum benefits) as part of the run can improve your running and enjoyment.  Like many new runners I avoided walking at all costs, but I was missing out on serious benefits.  I recently discovered that adding in short 30 second walk breaks during my runs is improving my speed and weekly mileage as I can run more without soreness, pain, or injury.

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