6 things that will happen when you run your first half marathon

Greetings from the couch, where I’m resting up from my sixth half marathon. I ran the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Half this morning–congrats to any other runners for completing a tough and sweaty race!

Running is a funny thing. Most (all?) runners have a love/hate relationship with the sport–myself very much included. I forced my way through plenty of treadmill slogs in college with the vague goal of “getting in shape” and hated every second of it. Something flipped for me a few years ago, though, and I actually started enjoying running. The fresh air and sunshine, the endorphin high, the increased endurance and overall fitness–I was hooked. Pretty soon, I had a couple of short races under my belt and I was ready to take the plunge and sign up for my first half marathon.

My first Boston Athletic Association half marathon--still smiling at mile 7!
My first Boston Athletic Association half marathon–still smiling at mile 7!

For all you running newbies (and veterans), here is my very unscientific list top six list of things that might happen to you while you’re training for your first half.

1. Spit, sweat, and snot: Let’s get the gross stuff out of the way right at the beginning. Running is a gnarly sport. Moving your body pretty quickly, especially in the extreme heat and cold, will lead to spitting, sweating, and nose blowing galore. Just be prepared for this and make sure you look behind you before you hawk a loogie. Welcome to the glamorous world of running!

Spitting like a lady, always.

Source: Buzzfeed

2. Second (and last, I promise) gross one: chafing, blisters, and missing toenails. This stuff just happens when you engage in repetitive, pounding motion for a couple of hours at a stretch. The bright side here is that once you get the right gear and especially the right sneakers, you’ll be able to mostly avoid these problems. Be sure to buy your sneakers at least a half a size larger than you normally would to avoid ugly black and blue toenails and even uglier toes sans toenails. Also, invest in proper running clothing (no cotton) and bodyglide.

3. Money, honey: Running is awesome because it’s free, right? Strap on your sneaks and hit the open road! Or… not. Start factoring in race registration fees, running shoes, insoles, techwick shirts/shorts, high viz/awesome neon layers, compression gear, fancy bras (well-endowed ladies, you feel me), foam rollers, fuel belts, GPS watches, running apps, etc. and you’re going to be out a pretty penny. Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on my must-have gear for new runners!

4. Unflattering photos: Heads up–there are generally several photographers stationed along racecourses who will be snapping pictures of you as you run. If you happen to get a flattering photo like this guy, it’s an awesome souvenir. But most of these photos are horribly unflattering and may make you look like you are about to pass out on the pavement even though you were actually feeling awesome. My advice is to be prepared! Keep an eye out for photographers, and when you see them, stand up straight, smile (if you can), and even flash em a quick thumbs up or fist pump.

Left side: typical race photo. Right side: lookin' like a runner!
Left side: typical race photo. Right side: lookin’ like a runner!

5. Eating all of the things: Running is serious business cardio, and with cardio comes a monster appetite. I’m pretty much always hungry all of the time anyway, but even more so when I’m training for a half. Keep this in mind and plan accordingly. I tend to get ravenous about 45 minutes after I finish a run, so I have a meal ready to roll by then. Also, I won’t eat less than an hour before I run (cramps are the pits) but if you can, try to eat something with carbs and protein (like toast and peanut butter) at least an hour before a long run to fuel up. Click here for much more in-depth advice from the pros.

Gluten free post-race crepe at Paris Creperie in Brookline
Gluten free post-race crepe at Paris Creperie in Brookline

6. You’re going to want to do it again: My biggest and most important tip is this–you might actually learn to love running. It’s possible you’ll want to keep on doing it, and maybe even doing more of it. You may find that running clears your mind and makes you feel powerful and strong and free. You might lose a few pounds and gain a few friends. You might be counting down the days until your next race 🙂

All smiles at the Disney Princess Half Marathon
All smiles at the Disney Princess Half Marathon

I want to hear from you: do you have a love/hate relationship with running? What surprised you most when you first started running? Any other tips for first time half marathoners?

Happy running!


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