How I Prepared For My First Half Marathon

I completed my first half marathon just a little over 2 weeks ago, w00t!

Setting up the training plan for the big day was definitely one piece, but so was preparing the week leading up to the event.

I was nervous, forgetful, and excited. I’d been preparing for this for over a year and didn’t want anything to be amiss. To help shake off the shakes, I;

  • reminded myself not to worry about things that hadn’t happened yet
  • visualized myself physically running the race
  • reminded myself why I love running
  • told myself to be proud, no matter what

And being the type A that I am… I made a plan, or a checklist if you will.


Eat lots of carbohydrates

Carb loading is not to be confused with increasing your caloric intake and going crazy on the pasta. Instead, think of it as you trading in some of the proteins and fats you would generally have on a daily basis for a bit more carbs.

Basically, instead of having meat sauce and pasta, I had pasta and meat sauce.

This increase in carbohydrates can be done 1-2 days before the race.

Avoid trying new things

Cutting out anything experimental a week before the race will decrease the likelihood of having to deal with impromptu stomach issues, digestive upsets, headaches, or allergies. I filled my diet with the foods I knew weren’t going to give me grief.

So, as much as I wanted to visit the new Mexican restaurant that everyone was ranting and raving about, I reminded myself that it was best to wait until after the race.

Stay hydrated

Drink, drink, drink, drink, drink! Water is best!

I drank 20 oz. of water 1 hour before the race and stopped drinking after that. I stayed close to a bathroom until I needed to line up. Then drank 6oz. of water 10 minutes before we began.

Pre-race meal

Here’s where I failed. For some reason I thought I needed a strawberry banana sleepy smoothie and an apple quinoa flake bake [below]. All that food + all the water = not a happy camper. Next time I’ll omit the smoothie and go for the high protein, high carb bake.

Pre-race Quinoa Flake Bake

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoon raw honey
  • 2 tablespoon raisins
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flakes

Combine all ingredients but quinoa flakes the night before race day [perfect if you’re traveling to attend the race]. In the morning, combine egg mixture with quinoa flakes. Microwave for 3 minutes and enjoy.

Race fuel

Instead of reaching for the gels, syrups, and sugary artificially colored gunk, I packed a couple of medjool dates stuffed with raw almonds for snacking during the race. I snacked on the same date throughout the race and it was perfect!

I also made my own electrolyte solution for the race using these recipes.


Cutting runs and workouts

My knees perform better with tighter muscles, so I opted to do leg strengthening 2 days before the race. Generally that’s not recommended, but you have to find what works best for you.

The week of the race, I replaced 2 of my 4 runs with a 1100 meter swim.


The day before race day I did my hardest to stay off my feet, propped up in bed with a good book and took a couple of naps. When we went to pick up my race bag I was quick to get what I needed and head back to the car.

Exercise the day before the race

Getting rest is a good thing. If you’re jittery before the race; as I was, try going for a quick 20 minute run. In my case, I decided to head to the pool.

If you do choose to run, keep your thoughts positive!

If you feel you’d perform better with no activity 24 hours before race day, then do that. It really boils down to what you feel most comfortable doing. As long as you’re not sore and tired the next day, you’re golden!


Pre-race swimming program

1000m endurance swim – 1100 meters

  • Warmup: 100m easy swim. Focus on breathing and a long and strong pull.
  • Pull buoy set: 200m pull, :30 rest
  • Kick set with a paddle board: 4 x 25 kick, :10 rest between 25’s
  • 200 free, :30 rest
  • 6 x 50 free, :15 rest between each one
    • on the second 25m of each 50 count strokes. The goal is to decrease it throughout the 6 x 50m swims.
  • 200 pull with a pull buoy
  • Cool down: 100m swim focusing on maintaining body position the same as you had with the pull buoy.


I’m the type that will forget to pack things if I’m not checking it off from a list. Here are some things that I brought along with us:

  • Running shoes
  • Hydration belt
  • Running socks [love the double walled socks from Running Room!]
  • Lululemon shirt
  • Warm sweater + cooler sweater
  • Running shorts
  • Running pants [just in case… you never know with Alberta]
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock
  • Garmin with charger
  • 2 iPods just in case one died + chargers


Quality of sleep

The sleep you get during the days leading up to the race are the most beneficial, even more so than the night before the race.

I’ve never found it challenging to fall sleep, regardless of the situation. Since we were staying in a fairly busy hotel I opted to bring along some ear plugs just in case. Best sleep I’ve ever had.

Waking up bright and early

We planned to wake up early enough to eat breakfast, take a shower, stretch, calm ourselves me, cut my toenails [seriously… you have to do it] and get to the event before all the parking stalls were taken. Getting to the event early let me get a grip on my surroundings and ease myself into the day.


We got to the event early which gave me ample time to stretch, warmup and check my gear.

Pre-race warmup

I repeat this warmup until my heart rate hits 135bpm and stays there for 2 minutes. Generally I want to hit this heart rate no more than 10 minutes before the race is set to begin. Having the blood flowing before the race has helped me avoid jolting knee pains!

If you’ve never heard of cross crawls, they’re part of brain gym; something my Mom had me doing as a kid. I’ve always found them to be very calming and if you speed them up, they’re perfect for any warmup!

Have fun,

be proud,

cry, and


Gosh I can’t wait to do it again.

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  1. Loved this blog. I only shook my head “no” when you wrote, “cut my toenails”. Ten years of running, I’ve always been told to not do this too close to race day in case something goes wrong. Same for pedicures. I always schedule my last one during the second last week pre-race. (no callus removal, though)

    • Very good to know, Penny! Gosh, I always cut my toenails before race day… guess I never thought about it causing issues. It was more to avoid them. Noted!

  2. Hi Leane,
    I am from India but live in Helsinki, Finland. Yesterday I just finished my first half marathon, Helsinki city run. Your suggestions helped a lot. I like to do it again, may be full marathon this time. Thank you for sharing much needed guidelines.


  3. Hi Leanne,

    I’m doing my first half marathon Spring 2012 I’m super anxious about the race. Do you have any tips on how to stay calm & motivated. Also, how did you overcame mental challenge.

    Thank you in advance!


    • It’s challenging to stay calm, especially the weeks leading up to the race. I just kept telling myself that I was proud of all that I’d accomplished in my training. So what if something happened and I couldn’t run? I’ve gained muscle, confidence, and love for myself in the process. There will always be another race. AND everyone lining up at the starting line is JUST as nervous and scared as you are.
      For motivation, I just kept telling myself that I owed it to myself to do my best. I hope that helps!
      You’ll do great :)

  4. Way to GO…what a great accomplishment!!! I’m a half-marathoner as well and I follow a lot of those same guidelines…although I’m almost positive I’m not as organized as you :)
    Do you have your sights on another half already??

    • I’m glad to hear my recommendations weren’t totally off in left field! How many halves have you done? Yes, I’ve registered for the last one of the season, Nov 13. What about you? Any races coming up?

      • Haha…yea, It’s always fun to hear about others pre-race rituals!!
        I actually have 2 races coming up. A local one on Oct. 9th and one in Vegas on Dec. 4th. I’m super exciting about the Vegas one…it’s a night race! I really enjoy halves, they are fun & challenging! Hope your second one goes GREAT!

        • You’re going to Vegas? NICE! I didn’t know if filled up so fast, I wanted to go, but maybe next year! You’ll have a blast!

  5. This is really inspirational. Congrats to you. You must be so proud of yourself. I love your tips. The pics are fantastic.