You Can Run a 1/2 Marathon and Other Random Race Tips for Mother Runners

by This is Carrie on March 2, 2011

Disneyland Half Marathon 2009 – my first 1/2 marathon.

I don’t claim to be a running expert. Heck, I’ve only been running for a little over 2 years.  But to pass the time as I was running my last 1/2 marathon, I started composing a few tips to share with my fellow mother (and non-mother) runners.  I’m sure there are far more comprehensive lists around the internets, but here are my random tips:

1. You can do it! Barring medical problems or serious physical injury, anyone can do a 1/2 marathon. Even if you can barely run down the street right now, you could be ready to run 13.1 miles in 6 months….if you wanted to.  If you are already running up to 3 miles now, you could be ready in less than 4 months…if you wanted to.  Not saying it wouldn’t take hard work.  It would. But you could do it. So stop saying you could never do it.  You may not want to do it, but you could.

2. Mark your calendar. Once you’ve decided to train for a 1/2 marathon, make/pick a training plan.  Schedule runs in your planner, online calendar, phone organizer, whatever.  If you don’t have it on your schedule, training will surely get bumped for “more important things”. I’ve found when I include training runs on my calendar, they carry more importance and I schedule around them. And be careful not to over train.  In a good training week I only run 3 days a week, crosstrain 2-3 days (bike, swim, boot camp, etc) then rest 1-2 days.

3. Be flexible. Even with training runs on the calendar, expect that not many of your training runs will be done under perfect conditions. A mother’s life is all about juggling and changing plans. Kids get sick. Mom gets sick. PTA needs help. Baby is up all night.  Weather turns bad.  Husband has to work late. Don’t bail on your training because you can’t do it perfectly.  If I waited to train until I could do it perfectly, I’d be waiting a very long time.  Sometimes you’ll have to bail on a run, but sometimes you just have to be creative. For example, I calculated that 8 laps around our cul de sac equals one mile. I once ran 6 miles around that circle while my kids played out front.  Another example: on a day when I supposed to do an 8 mile run, plans changed and I had all 4 kids home.  It would have been easy to bail, but instead I decided to throw 2 kids in the jogger and the other 2 on bikes, knowing full well we’d have to stop at the playground and a few other points on the route to keep everyone happy.  Was it the perfect 8 mile training run? Nope. In fact we only made it 6 miles. But it was better than nothing.

4. Training runs are not just for running. Use your training runs to experiment with hydration, nutrition, & clothing.  By your last, long run, you should know exactly what you are going to wear, eat, and drink during the race.

5. Look good, run good. There are a number of things to think about when picking your running outfit. While comfort is obviously important, wearing something that helps you stand out in the crowd makes it easier for your cheering section to see you.  Of course I opt for the Sparkle Athletic Running Skirt.

6. Set a goal. Set a realistic but attainable goal and don’t be afraid to change your goal during training or even the race. Towards the end of the training for my first 1/2 marathon, it was clear I hadn’t been getting in the miles I needed to meet my original goal.  I had not anticipated how hard it was going to be to train through the summer with my kids all home from school (I had not yet become creative-training-mother-runner I am now).  So, I decided to set a more realistic goal for myself.  Don’t be afraid to raise the bar either.

7. Listen Up. If you must to music while you run, opt for one bud in, one bud out or else you’ll miss the cheers of the crowd and the camaraderie of the other runners.  And those are two of the best parts of the race.

8. Don’t underestimate the power of a cheering section. Hopefully you can talk family and friends into coming to the race.  While they will want to see you at the finish line, I think the most important place to have a cheering section is 1.5-2 miles from the finish.  That’s usually where you are really starting to feel it & the extra encouragement really helps you over the hump as you charge to the finish. Here is where wearing a stand-out outfit can also help. Eye catching attire can help you win the cheers of strangers in the crowd along the entire race route.

9. Find a Buddy. Running with a friend is fun and motivational.  If you don’t have a friend to race with, don’t be afraid to chat it up with a stranger running near you. A friend made during the race can be just as fun and motivational.

10. Stay on Pace. If you decide to run with a pace group, don’t be afraid to run right up to the front of the group and introduce yourself to the pacer.  Their job is to help you stay on pace and they can do their job better if they know you by name and know you want to finish with them. My last 1/2 marathon was a perfect example of this.

11. Just breathe. When you feel like you want to stop, concentrate on taking long, deep breaths, relax your shoulders, and soak it all in.  You’ll be surprised how you can run straight through those walls and come out on the other side feeling good again.

12. Post Race Food. If you need something to take your mind of pain or discomfort during the race, brainstorm what you’d like to eat post-race. Then follow through after the race.  I’d recommend stuffed french toast, a side of hash browns and a tall orange juice.  But that’s just me.

13.1. A Word of Warning. Half Marathons are the gateway drug to full marathons. Don’t say I didn’t tell you.

See, I told you they were random.  Feel free to add your own randomness. I look forward to it.

P.S. Here are a few of my favorite running products ranging from totally practical to unbelievably motivational:

1. Run Like a Mother – the book. It’s funny, it’s motivational and it’s full of super helpful tips for moms who run.  It’s total nightstand material for any mama who runs.

2. Run Like a Mother (the book) witty running shirts. Personally, I like the one that says “Are my kids still chasing me?” And after my recent battle with the Baby Blues, “The more I run, the less I want to run away” is especially poignant as well.

3. Yurbuds – I don’t know what it is about my ears, but I could never find a pair of earbuds that would stay put while running, until Todd got me a pair of Yurbuds. They are personally sized and they totally work. In fact, at the end of a run, when I go to pull them out, I often yank the earphone out while the bud piece stays put inside my ear.

4. Nuun Hydration & U-Hydration tablets – I love Nuun for the electrolyte replacement I desperately need while running & the delicious, light, flavors encourages me to drink enough to keep properly hydrated which, as a breastfeeding-mother-runner,  is uber important to me.

5. KT Tape. This stuff has gotten me through numerous running injuries from shin splints to ankle pain to an achilles strain.  And because I don’t really know how kinesiology works, I’ll just say it’s magic.

6. Team Sparkle Skirt. I NEVER wear anything glittered or rhinestoned in real life, but I HAVE to sparkle when I run. It’ll take your race to a whole new level.  I promise.

7. Words to Sweat By towels.  No matter your athletic leanings (even Zumba), there’s a towel ready to motivate you to sweat and mop it up afterwards.  My favorite: “No Excuses.” Reminds me of the mantra I say when I come up with excuses: “But it doesn’t matter.”

8. Bondi Bands – I picked up my first Bondi Band at the San Diego Marathon Expo. At 16 weeks pregnant and getting ready to run my second marathon, when I saw the one that said “Run Like a M*ther” I was sold.  Not only do they make a statement, their wicking fabric keeps hair and sweat out of your eyes.  No matter what your sport (spinning to snowboarding) or your cause (cancer to cupcakes) there is a Bondi Band made just for you.

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Step One: Make a plan. « Running Jennie
March 14, 2011 at 4:31 pm

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Cassie March 2, 2011 at 5:14 am

i don’t normally leave comments, but you are kind of an my inspiration and your family is an example of what i want for my family. i am running the derby mini at the end of april and i was just wondering if you have any recommendations for what to eat the night before and the morning of?

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Katy March 2, 2011 at 5:37 am

These are great! I had major back surgery almost a year ago and am hoping to run a 10k on my surgery anniversary… and then maybe work up to a half after that. we’ll see! training’s been difficult, but I love being able to push my body again to do things I used to be able to do! Thanks for the tips.

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Sarah
Twitter: sarahenglebrown
March 2, 2011 at 6:54 am

Love this post! These are great tips! I’m training for my (kind of) first half at the end of the April (walked one a few years ago- now I’m running!) I had a baby 6 months ago and couldn’t wait to get back to running! Thanks for the tips and the great blog!

Sarah
Uberlibrariana

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Jen
Twitter: jenkinkade
March 2, 2011 at 8:00 am

AHHH! the half is an ultimate goal for me! there is one in Nashville in Sept that I can’t seem to push myself to commit to!
I love your inspiration in the article; it might just be enough to push me! 😉

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Misha March 2, 2011 at 8:38 am

LOVE how you ran in circles to go 6 miles. I’m not alone hahah.

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Jessica March 2, 2011 at 8:44 am

I’m usually not one for posting comments either, but I’m training for my first 1/2 marathon and I cannot get enough helpful tips and encouraging words, they really do help to keep motivation up. Thanks so much!

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Melanie
Twitter: melaniekayphoto
March 2, 2011 at 8:54 am

Carrie, how did you start running? Did you do the Couch to 5K program?

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Lulu March 2, 2011 at 9:59 am

I think all of these tips are absolutely true. I always think it’s basically just mind over matter. If you think you can, you can. You will. xoxo.
mamagram.tumblr.com

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Karissa Ferguson March 2, 2011 at 10:21 am

Your blog is quickly becoming my favorite inspirational read! While I’m training for this 5k (you may remember emailing with me about a month ago?) I’ve felt a little discouraged, well a lot really. I would love to run marathons and be in super shape and all but while I’m just starting I get down easily. These tips are great though! After reading this I definitely feel like I could be doing a half before the end of the year! I want to make it a goal to do the Disney World Half Marathon. I’ve never been to Disney World (or land for that matter but I am in the Easter US) and I think it would be awesome for my first trip there to be doing a marathon! Thanks for pumping me up!

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Heidi Crawford Reply:

Karissa The Disney half marathon in 2012 will be my first run, I hope to see you there. :)

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Tracy M March 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Thank you Thank you Thank you!! I feel kind of like you wrote this for me. 😉 I’m totally going to print this out and paste it on my fridge. I’ve been sick and totally bailed the last week on my training. I need to get back on the horse and just do it. Finals are next week, but its always gonna be something, right? Onward!

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Michelle D
Twitter: RunAttitude
March 2, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Great tips!! I couldn’t have come across your blog at a better time – I’m just getting ready to start training for my first half!

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kage March 2, 2011 at 5:09 pm

I found these mini varsity letters that are red with red sparkles, and I am thinking of sewing my name on my tank top…
thoughts? front or back? probably front ?
And…I do not believe I will run a marathon…I just can’t see it.

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kage March 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm

AND:
do you wear your hydration belt for the race or just training?

do you listen to music during the race ever?

do you run solo during the event or stay with friends? My group and I have been strategizing, and one of our thoughts was to commit to staying together for the first hour, no matter what, and then break up if we need to change pace, but I’m sort of thinking that might be a downer….let me know what you think!

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Jen Guzman March 3, 2011 at 6:02 am

I needed this blog post, too! Some days I feel very confident about the race, other days not so much. I would love to hear your answers to the questions posed when you have a chance….

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Don March 3, 2011 at 9:40 am

Your tips are appropriate for all levels of runners…..I think if more individuals ran 3 days, crosstrained 2 and took 2 days off you would see less injury….You can compete at a very high level also (if you wish) if your 3 runs are quality ones…….great post…

other tips….practice drinking whatever energy drink they will be serving during training….no GI surprises on raceday

Don’t try anything new raceday….clothing, shoes, socks etc….

Stick with your training…..you will feel bad on some training days….then when you least expect it (tired etc.) you will have a great run…..keep that image handy :)

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Heather @ Not a DIY Life
Twitter: notdiyheather
March 3, 2011 at 10:56 am

Great tips!! I’ve run 2 5ks so far, with 3 more planned this year. Hoping to run my first half January 2012!!

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Danielle March 3, 2011 at 7:12 pm

I ran my first 1/2 this past weekend. The Disney Princess 1/2. No one told me about runners diarrhea! Needless to say, my tummy started grumbling at mile 3 and didn’t stop until I found a bathroom in EPCOT only a quarter mile from the finish line. Then it picked up about 45 minutes after and lasted the rest of the day. Even with all the pain, my nephew and I are planning on the 2011 EPCOT food and wine 1/2.

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Shannon March 4, 2011 at 10:03 am

Thank you so much for these great hints. Even though I am not a mom(sadly, not by choice and not for lack of trying) I still run into problems with unexpected things that seem to take place over my exercise schedule. But no more. My husband and I decided for our up coming anniversary to run our first 5k and hopefully if things work out then this fall to fun our first 10k! We have been using the “couch to 5k” program and it is working great.

One big thing that helped was to immediately sign up for a 5k(or which ever run of your choice) so that you are totally committed! No backing out now:)

To everyone that has posted and is having an upcoming run ~ best wishes!

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Jess March 4, 2011 at 11:48 am

Thanks for the encouraging words! I’m running my first 1/2 on Sunday and I’m excited, getting a little nervous, but your blog was super helpful! Thanks for the encouragement!!

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Kristi March 4, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Thanks for the tips! I’m training for my first half right now (not until Oct. in Park City, UT) but I’m thinking Disneyland sounds like a fun place to make a trip for a race too! I’m always happy to hear advice from more experienced racers than myself! :)

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Heather March 5, 2011 at 9:48 pm

I love all your tips. I’ve just started running (I seriously have NEVER run before). I am currently doing the Couch 2 5K program, but I’m hoping to run a 1/2 this year and a full next year.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject. It really helps and inspires me.

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cheree March 6, 2011 at 11:29 am

I am training for my first half marathon (at the end of May). Having a runny buddy has made a huge difference in whether I get out and train. Also I learning little things to make my runs more comfortable: good ear buds, an audio book, BodyGlide and taped feet for blisters, and a camelbak for hydration runs longer than an hour.

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Mrs. Stranded July 13, 2011 at 12:40 pm

My husband and I decided to run a 1/2 Marathon to take place this upcoming November. My husband is uber athletic and I’m sure he’ll have no issues. When we run together, he let’s me set the pace, but I’m worried about my stamina. I can run 3 miles rather easily, but start to become winded after 4 miles. We have 4 months to train – is that enough time? I have to admit, though, that we’re fortunate that we don’t have many distractions, so we will be able to focus on training.

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Bethany September 28, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Seeing your comment on wearing your “Team Sparkle” skirt reminded me of some workout tanks I’ve been seeing on wanelo.com. They say “I don’t sweat I sparkle.”
I found your blog when looking for baby gift and I made the Rockin’ Baby Gown. (Loved it!) Then I saw your tri posts and I got excited! I am signed up for my 2nd Sprint Tri in Oct and have been having the hardest time finding training time! I loved this post and look forward to reading your others!

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