5 Tips on Running Your Personal Best in a Half Marathon

I now can say I have two half marathons under my belt. After the first one, I said, “Never, ever, ever again.” After this second one, I decided I am going to start training for a full marathon.

So what was different? How did two races the same distance be so different? In the first half marathon, I looked like I was going to die in every single picture. In the second race, I was smiling in every picture and crossed the finish line, exuberant knowing I had beat my goal time and PR. So what did I do to change from race 1 to race two? I did a few things very differently the second time around, and that made all the difference!


5 Tips on Running Your Personal Best in a Half Marathon

1. Change Your Mindset and Smile!

Your mind will tell you to quit long before your body actually gives in. Everyone tells you that because it’s true. So stop feeding your mind with I can’t and focus. It requires hard work; it requires sacrifice; it requires you changing your mindset. This is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of training, even more than the miles you run in preparation for the race. I began working on my mindset after the first race. My ankle would twinge halfway through the run, and I would dwell on it and how it hurt and count the miles until I was done with training that day. I stopped doing that. If my ankle hurt from a sore tendon, I made sure I focused on how far I’d already gone and how it was strong. I willed the pain away, and I would keep on. I began mentally preparing for long runs. Instead of dreading the 10-mile run ahead, I would focus on how strong my legs felt and how grateful I was to be able to even attempt that kind of mileage.

The morning of the race came, and I had read somewhere that when you’re running, make sure you smile. Just smiling lifts the entire face and countenance, but tells your brain that you somehow are enjoying this long trek you’ve signed up for. I probably looked a little too happy to be running that half marathon, but a great side effect is that in all of the photos, I’m grinning from ear to ear. (In the first race, I looked like I was dying a slow, painful death – which I was). I finished that race smiling and excited. I beat the time of my previous race by a full 15 minutes!

2. Set a Goal

Goals are important. Not just in running specifically, but life. A goal gives you something to focus on and work toward. After that first race, I googled what an average half marathon time was and what was considered a “good” time. I read in one obscure article somewhere that around 2 hours was considered a good half marathon time (if that’s not true, don’t tell me. let me believe the dream!) So that became our goal. My running buddy and I worked on speeding up, and we trained more and harder.

But during the first half mile of the race, she decided she wanted to push herself to see just how fast she could go. Because we had trained using 4 minute/1 minute intervals, we decided to part ways and meet at the finish line. She ended up running the entire way, also beating her PR, coming in about 10 minutes before me. We both ended up exceeding our goals and not running together actually really helped us do that. There wasn’t any pressure for her to stay back for me or me to try to keep up with her. We both had our goals, and we went for it, rooting for each other along the way.

3. Find a Solid Playlist

The first race was run without any music. It was ROUGH. Because my running buddy and I parted ways the first half mile, I ended up plugging in my headphones (which I brought just in case, since we talked beforehand of the possibility of us running separately) and finding a solid playlist on Spotify. With the music blaring in my ears and a big smile on my face, I was able to get into the zone and run. Half the time I was ready to break out into song, but I’m sure that would’ve been weirder than the super smiley Asian girl practically skipping through the half marathon.

Recommended Spotify Playlists

It’s tough because everyone has a different taste in music, so here are a few of my favorites depending on my mood and the day.

running-half-marathon-personal-best4. Train Differently

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” This quote has been attributed to everyone from Tony Robbins to Henry Ford, but it rings true. For the first race, we used a running app by ZenLabs, which had us run 4 minute/1 minute intervals. For the second race, I added in quite a bit of cross training and used not only the ZenLabs app but the Nike Running app as well. Instead of running six days a week as the Nike app wanted me to do, I ran four days and cross-trained two days. On my cross training days, I did a spin class and some weights. For my run days, I added in some sprints here and there.

With my fitted. app, I was able to access hundreds of types of classes at 50 different gyms, so I was always changing things up and keeping my body guessing. Some classes you should check out:

5. Get Good Shoes

I love shoes. Cowboy boots, flip flops, stilettos, you name it, I probably have it in my closet. I even love running shoes, but buying them can be hard on the pocketbook. Experts recommend you switch out your running shoes every 300-500 miles and for me, that’s like a $250 expense! But good running shoes makes up for less time at the chiropractor with aches and pains. Going to one of those fancy-schmancy running stores where some guy watches and evaluates the way you run, made me feel like I was in P.E. again. I have high arches, and I overpronate and this and that…basically, I run funny and I need not only special shoes but custom insoles as well. The $250 is absolutely worth it to run without any pain.


So go forth and conquer! Running your best takes a lot of discipline, sacrifice, and hard work, but the feeling you get when you know you’ve smashed your PR and accomplished your goal is like none other!

Are you training for a race? Let us know your goal in the comment section below!

Hanssie is the Communications Director for fitted. In her free time, she runs marathons to get medals, counts the days until her next cheat meal (as well as her macros), rescues big dogs and blogs about the divorced life when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com and follow her on her various social media sites (below).

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