Lessons I Learned from my First Half Marathon

May 22, 2015

Lessons for Half Marathon First TimersI signed up for my first half marathon because it had been on my life bucket list of sorts for two or so years now and it seemed a good idea at the time to get it in just before I turned 30. This past weekend I ran it and in doing so I learned so much about myself. I know so many people that have run half marathons in the past or are looking to do so, but today I wanted to share what I learned from the experience of training for and running my very first one, the Brooklyn Half.

1. Having a race in your calendar ensures you set aside time for training.

You learn to say “no” more often to social plans and you learn how dedication to a goal affects your lifestyle. Being disciplined about fitness is something I’d never achieved until I signed up for this race. It made me pencil in my workouts and really commit myself vs. always flaking out. Having a goal will help you make better choices for your health + wellness if that’s a priority for you.

2. Listening to your body is key.

A few weeks into my training my shin began to hurt on my right leg. I immediately thought my high school shin splints had returned but it turned out my hamstring was the root of the problem. It ended up severely affecting my training schedule and mileage achieved but seeing a physical therapist and ensuring I was taking necessary steps to help rectify it was essential. I leaned the importance of stretching, warming up your muscles, icing and a foam roller. Read up on all of these things as much as possible if you’re setting out to run a race. And walk and stretch at the water stations! It’ll make the next mile more comfortable.

3. Mental strength is just as important as physical strength.

Since I only got to 6 miles in my training (yikes!) the second half of the race was rather brutal. I found out the importance of mind over matter though and decided to stop talking down to myself. I repeated to myself how strong I was. How I’d endured harder things in life than running some mileage. I told myself I could handle this mile. Then the next. Then the last. And then I finished!

4. Dedicating miles to those you love is a great way to make the race more empowering.

I learned this tactic from my friend Christina who is one of the most dedicated and talented runners I know. She ran a marathon the other year and before doing so told me she was planning to run a mile in my honor. I was going through a really hard time and I was so touched by the gesture. I chose to replicate this and I picked people in my life who have given me strength and friendship and my family members who are always so supportive. It made those miles feel easier to endure and less lonely.

5. Consistently challenging yourself is always a good practice.

While I don’t have any intention of running another half marathon, I did love the feeling of putting my mind to something and accomplishing it. We all do this on small and large scales every day but it had been a while since I set out on such a major goal that was so outside my comfort zone. As I’m detailing in this post, I learned a lot from the experience and will carry forward the importance of consistently challenging myself moving forward.

6. Remember the power of support.

I had such anxiety going into the race because my injury had prevented me from training to the level I had planned / needed. But so many people in my life from friends to colleagues to blog readers and family told me I could accomplish the race. It wasn’t until about mile 11 that I began to believe them. I replayed what everyone had told me about my ability and I channeled that into the harder miles. And the race’s end was made all the more sweeter by seeing my brother’s face waiting for me at the finish line!

7. A kickass playlist is a must.

I know some people like to run without music to get “in the zone,” but not me. I feel drive off lyrics that are uplifting or empowering. Since my roommate Bridget was also running the Half we decided to surprise each other for the day of by compiling surprise playlists for another. That way, as we ran mile after mile, we weren’t stuck listening to the same songs we had trained with. Rather, we each got inspiration and delight out of hearing songs the other person had chosen specially for one another. Need some inspiration of yourself? The Spotify playlist I made her is here. And the one she made me is here.

In the end, I wouldn’t trade the experience I had for anything with this half marathon. It truly feels like such an accomplishment to cross off my personal achievement list and as you can tell from the above, it was worthwhile to have these lessons. Overall, I become more in-tune with myself on a new level. If you’re thinking about setting out on a half marathon, I highly recommend it. And while I won’t be signing up for another race in the near future, I do love the memory I’ll always hold on to from what this race taught me and the feeling of satisfaction I was left with following it. And in the meantime, 3-5 mile runs outdoors now seem like such a luxury 🙂

Have you run a half marathon? A marathon (go you!)? I’d love to hear about your experience!

[Photo via Instagram]

comments +

  1. Jess Zimlich says:

    I love your take on the half and what it meant for you. I think I mentioned on here before, but I ran my first half last April and it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve since ran a few more, but they don’t seem to be getting any easier. I’m kind of a freak about my playlists, I train with the same music and then run the race to the same songs. It helps me power through for some odd reason! The last race I did (this April) I got really down on myself after mile 6. I couldn’t get out of my head and it showed in my time and probably on my face haha. Keeping #3 and #4 in my back pocket for when I get the courage to sign up for my next one. I hope you have an amazing holiday weekend! 🙂

    • Meghan says:

      Jess – you rock. Your dedication is inspiring and definitely recommend #3 and #4 because it’s so hard to feel down on yourself and feel lonely! Keep me posted if you do another one!

  2. Nicole says:

    I LOVED this post! Brutally honest and real. Hats off to you – your hard work and dedication really paid off. I’m inspired by how you coped with the challenges and achieved your goal. Sending you a huge congratulatory hug from afar!

    • Meghan says:

      Thank you so much, Nicole! I’m trying to devote more time to poss that share a deeper level about what’s going on in my life and it really means a lot that you took the time to read it – thank you again so much!

  3. Brigitte says:

    Great post! When I ran my first half, I was surprised by how difficult it was to articulate the experience, especially to non-runners. At face value, running seems simple and maybe that is exactly why it is such a mental and emotional challenge. In addition to dedicating miles to friends and family, I like to dedicate miles to other big goals in my life. Focusing on future goals helps me connect to the sense of accomplishment I know I will feel by completing the current race.

    Killer playlists got me through my half marathon, but I switched to inspiring audiobooks when I ran my first marathon and now that’s all I listen to when I run. Hearing about other people’s struggles and triumphs takes me out of my current pain or discomfort.

    Congrats! The knowledge that you can push yourself farther than you ever thought (both physically and mentally) is such an amazing feeling.

    • Meghan says:

      I LOVE the idea about inspiring audiobooks, Brigitte – Thank you for the lovely comment and congrats to you on your accomplishments! Love hearing from other people who have been through this experience!

  4. I found your blog via Ginger and the Fizz- I loved this post and it really helps me out. I’m training for my first 1/2 and I am terrified. I just got up to 6 miles so I am hoping to keep increasing 1 mile each week, and I had a bad IT band problem for a month and I am just now getting over it. Stretching is so important- I have got to get better about it! What have been your favorite stretches and ways to warm up?


    • Meghan says:

      Jess – welcome!! Thanks so much for dropping by and so glad you enjoyed the post. Re: Stretches – pay attention to your hamstrings! They turned out to be the root of all my problems so I’d reco stretches for those muscles. They directly relate to your IT band and shins. Also going to physical therapy to have your muscles worked on did wonderful things for me to work them out and better understand where the problem areas were! Good luck on your run = you will do great!

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