Nathan Pennington Running in The Distance

Half Marathon Race Day Tips For Beginners

Are you seeking a few half marathon race day tips to help you run with less stress on race day?

I've created this post with you in mind. It is totally normal to be a little nervous the morning of any race but it should never cause you grief. The best runners have learned over time to relax on race day.

half marathon race day tips

In addition to this post, I created a youtube video where I touch on a few of these half marathon race day tips as well. I've included it at the conclusion of this post.

How To Run Great On Half Marathon Race Day

  1. Focus on what you can control

The runners around you will be nervous, far too uptight and you will hear a lot of them complaining about something. Your job is to do the opposite. You cannot control what the weather will be like the morning of a race. What you can control is not staying out late partying with others that chose to do that the night before the race.

Of course, having a great time is a must. It is important to unwind and enjoy yourself. You can still do both but don't overdo it the night before the race. Focus on the areas of your preparation prior to and the morning of that you do have control over. Disregard the rest.

2. Get a great night of sleep the night before

In addition to that and to add to it, focus on getting great sleep the week leading into the race. This is so important. It is natural to not get much sleep the night before races. Nerves and thinking about the race is common in all runners regardless if they are beginners or not.

You have worked hard leading into your half marathon. That being said, make sure you are getting good sleep so your body is recovering from those workouts.

3. Sit your gear out there night before

This will ensure you have everything in place the morning of the race. Additionally, it will take your mind off wondering if you have everything you need. If you are going to wear your heart rate monitor or sport watch make sure it is fully charged.

The more advanced you get in your running career the less you will rely on a watch. I didn't wear a watch when I ran my half marathon PR (1:07:06).

Need proof?

That is me in that picture below with that Army camouflage singlet on.

half marathon race day tips
en route to my half marathon PR wearing no watch

All I was focused on was keeping up with those guys you see in front, beside and behind me. That being said, I am very adamant about heart rate training and make very good use of my Garmin 620 on a regular basis.

Focus On “Feel”

4. Focus on your body and feel rather than the watch

Sometimes, not always, but sometimes runners get too worried about mile and kilometer splits. As a beginner, your goal is to compete. Get out there and see what you can do for starters. Advanced-level runners have a bit more pressure on them due to the fact they are focusing so much on splits.

Your job is to do the work in training and make that a priority. The race itself should be the fun part of it all. This isn't always the case for the more senior athletes. We tend to forget that we were once beginners and novices in the sport of running. I think that tends to hurt advanced-level athletes.

The fundamentals are to keep it fun but also don't focus when you need to. I didn't wear a watch when I ran my PR for the marathon (2:19:35). All I was focused on was “feel” and staying with the group of runners in the lead back. You can most certainly wear a watch. The most important thing to keep in mind is do what works best for you.

5. Tie your shoelaces prior to the start of the race

I would love to say that I always have adhered to this golden rule of all half marathon race day tips but I haven't.

What I don't want for you is to experience getting half way through your race only to have a flat tire. That is bad news and a great way to have to think about something unnecessary the remainder of your race.

So, make sure those laces are tied reasonably tight so that you will be set up for success once the guns goes off.

Wake Up Early

6. Get up at least 2 hours prior to the start of the race

There is a lot of excitement on race day and it is not uncommon to hear runners say they didn't sleep at all the night before. The key is sleeping well the week leading into the race. You may not sleep well the night before and still run an outstanding race.

Getting up early the morning of the race does wonders. It will provide you ample time to get up, eat breakfast and get some fluids in you. Additionally, it will also give your body time to digest your breakfast prior to the start of the race.

Pace Yourself

7. Watch those first few miles

It is natural to want to take off the first mile of any race distance. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake made by runners all over the world.

If your goal is to hold sub 2 hour half marathon pace you might not want to go out the first three miles at 6:45 pace. Your goal is 9:09 per mile and to do that you have to be somewhat conservative in the early stage of the race.

That being said, if you are confident in your training and have done the work then go for it. I hit the first half-marathon point in my marathon PR in 1:07:09 with 13.1 mile to go. My best time for the half-marathon is 1:07:06. Sometimes you have to take some risks but be wise about it.

I would never advise a beginner half marathon athlete to run so aggressive so early in a race. You have to learn to crawl before you can walk. That goes for us all. Running takes time which brings me to my next tip.

Keep It Light-Hearted

8. Have Fun

This is has to be one of the top half marathon race day tips I share with runners. Don't lose the joy for the sport on account of being too tense. Watch a few youtube videos of Haile Gebresalassie.

Haile is the former world-record holder for numerous running events. I was able to hang out with Haile in the Netherlands in 2006. I set a personal best for 20K. Haile? He broke the world-record for 25K the day after the below picture was taken of us together.

He held the world record for the marathon. In addition to that, he held the world-records for the 5K and 10K on the track. Haile was also the first man to break the 2:04:00 marathon barrier.

You will never see Haile tense before a race. He is always smiling, happy and talking with people prior to the gun going off. It is a whole different story when the race starts though. The point in me writing you that is to still have fun out there in the race.

Haile taught me that and continues to remind me to help other athletes to work hard but also have fun out there.

Find A Group To Run With

If you are searching for half marathon race day tips this is a good one to keep in mind. Aim to talk with some runners the day before or the morning of on what time they plan on running.

Why is this important?

Well, if they are focused on a time that is near where you want to run you'll have a few runners to run with in the race. It is always easier to run in a group than by yourself. You'll also find that the miles or kilometers seem to fly by.

Below is a picture of me with the leaders of the 2007 California International Marathon. I ran with these guys up until mile 21. They are the reason I broke the sub-2:20:00 marathon barrier that day.

half marathon race day tip

I don't think I would have done it had I not been with them. It is hard enough to run a marathon let alone holding 5:19 mile pace for 26.2 miles. The group is key. If you have a specific time goal in mind this is a great half marathon race day tip to keep in mind.

Learn From What Went Right & Wrong

9. Fail Fast

What do I mean by that? If, for whatever reason, the race doesn't go as planned get over it fast. Failure is part of success. It is definitely not as fun or as glamorous as its big brother but learn from what went wrong and move on.

The best runners know how to overcome adversity. Do you know where I see this best exemplified? Beginners and newbies to the sport of running. These men and women are just excited to be out there competing. They may just want to run their first marathon and complete with with friends.

There are half marathoners out there dressed up in costumes, running for charities and have a great time. They are not caught up with what mile splits they need to run in order to qualify for a specific race. They love what they are doing and won't lose sleep over a bad race.

That being said, there are many runners that will let a bad race dictate the rest of their day. Failing fast isn't easy to do but the faster you can find out what went right and learn from what went wrong, the better.

Get A Massage After The Race

A great way to loosen up tight muscles is to get a massage after your race. It can be a very light massage but is a great way to recover after a hard 13.1 mile race.

I would also take in as many fluids as you can after the race. Hopefully you didn't “sip” in the race and actually drank plenty of fluids. Why? This will help in your recovery and your overall performance.

A common mistake beginner ( as well as advanced-level half marathoners) is they don't take in enough calories in the race. They second guess themselves after the race when all it was was not taking in sufficient fuel during the race.

One of the best half marathon race day tips I can share is to find ways to recover once your race is over with. A massage or taking an epsom salt bath are great ways to do that. I would try to steer clear of taking a hot bath directly after the race.

The day after? Yes. The day of? No. Take a shower or an ice bath if possible. An ice bath will not be comfortable but works to help your legs recover as opposed to taking a hot bath. Below is a video I made earlier today that I hope will add to this post.

If you are seeking a new half marathon strategy and are looking for a half marathon training plan be sure to stop by the RunDreamAchieve Shop. There are a wide variety of training plans from the 5K to marathon distances available.

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