Half marathon tips for a happy race day

Half marathons are lots of fun. I enjoy the distance (21km/13miles) because it is far enough to challenge yourself, but it’s not ridiculously out-of-reach. Most people could get up to half-marathon distance from scratch, either walking or running, in six months if they stick to a well-designed training plan. If you’d like to give this a go, first find an event that appeals to you, and then approach a personal trainer, running club, or google online for a training plan that suits your ability. You’ll be able to tell this by looking at the level tackled in the first couple of weeks – eg, if the plan starts with running 8km and you’re not sure if you could run to the front door, you need to find a plan aimed more towards beginner level.

I am no elite athlete, believe me! Ha ha, I snorted even typing that. I have run two half marathons before and I am attempting my third one this weekend (my first one since having a baby). It’s the Whangarei event in Northland NZ, and the course looks beautiful, with plenty of harbour views, bridge crossings, and a trail section through tidal mangroves. Thanks Sport Northland!


Some people would describe my running style as plodding, or even staggering – my darling brother maintains that I run like a dinosaur (I think it’s the way I hold my arms. Rarrr.) So, please take the following advice with a grain or two of salt, but this is what I’ve learned and am putting into practise! If there’s anything in particular you really need help with, please consult a pro.


You should have all your key pieces of kit sorted, PRACTISED WITH, broken-in, and ready to go. This includes:

  • sports bra and undies (yes really. Do not do the race in a pair you haven’t trained in and know to be comfortable!)
  • top and bottoms (I prefer dri-fit fabric that breathes and will not chafe)
  • socks that you KNOW to be blister-proof
  • shoes that will not let you down
  • sunblock that will not melt into your eyes
  • hat/headband/visor
  • hydration system (eg backpack, vest, or belt) if you have chosen to go with that – but most half marathon events have adequate water stations at regular intervals. Make sure you know what is available and if you’re going to need to supplement this with your own supplies.
  • Energy boost eg lollies, chocolate, banana, sports bar. Make sure you have experience eating the exact items during a practise so you know if you can stomach it on the run!


Have a plan of action to make your morning as stress-free as possible. Think about:

  • Breakfast – I would eat something with slow-release carbs like peanut butter and banana on toast, or porridge oats, or bircher muesli
  • Hydrate beforehand but don’t overdo it – you don’t want to be using the portaloos or squatting behind a bush every 3km!
  • Speaking of which – sometimes it’s hard to go the toilet before a race, especially if you’re nervous and out of your normal morning routine. Coffee can work wonders, as can closing your eyes, and actively concentrating on relaxing your shoulders and your jaw. This sounds mad, I know – but it’s something I learned during childbirth and incredibly, with a little practise, it does work to help things open up. Feel free to fall over laughing while you read this.
  • Have a transport plan and allow PLENTY of time
  • Enjoy the race! Talk to people! Give encouraging smiles! Thank the volunteers! Feel stoked to be so outdoorsy! Be amazing! And smash it.


  • Don’t just drop to the ground into the foetal position immediately. Walk around slowly to cool down and then have a good stretch.
  • If they have massages available at the finish – you entered the right kind of event! Go get that rub down, you deserve it, and boy will it feel good. Or bribe a friend.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat some protein within 30 minutes of finishing. Personally, I am also hoping for a nice cold beer. Just saying.
  • I can highly recommend getting a foam roller to tend to your hard working muscles. There’s heaps of online instruction if you don’t know how to use one. Aaahhhhhh.
  • Stick around for the prize giving and nab yourself an awesome spot prize
  • Update your Facebook status to Champion of the World and look for the next event to enter!

If you have any half marathon tips to share, please be my guest and comment:

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  • Taryn
    17/09/2015 at 9:39 pm

    Just LOVE your tips for the half!!! You are simply awesome ?

    • Michelle
      17/09/2015 at 10:05 pm

      Thanks Taryn! Finishing it will be simply awesome!

  • Kim
    18/09/2015 at 10:27 am

    Good luck with the Half marathon this weekend.

    • Michelle
      18/09/2015 at 12:45 pm

      Thank you! Looks like it could be a wet day in Whangarei on Sunday, so at least we’ll have a few showers to cool us off.