5 Things I’ve Learned from My Half Marathons

Cynthia from You Signed Up for What?, Courtney from Eat Pray Run DC, and Mar from Mar on the Run have 5 favorite cool weather drinks as this week’s Friday Five linkup. In my case that would be hot chocolate, and then tea, tea, tea, tea.


I suppose I could bore you with what kind of teas I enjoy during winter, but I decided to speak about some of the things I’ve learned from running half marathons instead.

Ditch the hat if it’s windy
I learned this one the hard way. The Green Mountain Half Marathon was very, very windy. That wind seemed even more intense since we were running along the shores of Lake Champlain.

I spent about 3/4 of the race clutching my hat with one hand. I’m sure I lost time (and definitely energy and running form) because of that. If it’s cold, wear a beanie.

I’m not sure what I’d do if it’s hot and windy. I haven’t run into that scenario yet.

Slow down if it’s hot
Someday I will actually do this.

Every hot race I have ever run I have started at the pace I planned. And every hot race I have ever run has been a huge disappointment.

If it’s hot & you’re BOTP like me, carry some water
On the other hand, every race I have run without carrying my own water has been a PR; of course, there have only been 2 halfs and 1 15k that I have run without carrying water so far.

The sad, cold fact that is races do run out of water for the BOTP (back of the pack) sometimes. It happened to me at ZOOMA Annapolis. And they also ran out of cups at one water stop!

I was carrying a small hand held water bottle with me. I also had the volunteers refill the water bottle halfway through. They were thrown for a loop by the request, but still happily obliged.

This was a hot, humid, hilly race. It was torturous enough and I really can’t imagine how I would have felt about it if I hadn’t had that small water bottle with me.

Check the timing chip if it’s not on your bib
My first half was RnR Vegas 2011. They did not have the timing chips on your bib; you had to loop it around your shoelaces.

I barely knew what a timing chip was, so it never occurred to me to check it. And when my husband was helping me put it on before the race, he realized it wasn’t mine.

We got it changed, but he’d signed up to track me and then couldn’t.

Carry a variety of fuel
If you’re racing anything over say a 10k, you never quite know what you might want to eat at the end of the race. Figuring out fueling strategies is part of training, of course, but training isn’t racing and you may find that you want something different as you get torwards the end.

That Vegas half was at night; my first night race. Trying to figure out what to eat for a nigh race is tricky.

Thankfully, I had a Honeystinger waffle with me — not something I normally eat during a race, as they’re tricky to carry with you (any suggestions?), but I often eat one before.

I wouldn’t say I hit the wall at mile 10, but I was getting kind of dizzy and the waffle really helped. Oddly enough I never carry with them with me anymore.

The point is that you may find yourself wanting something different than what you trained with as you get towards the end of a hard race.

 What have you learned from your races?

24 thoughts on “5 Things I’ve Learned from My Half Marathons

  1. My first Chicago Marathon in 2007 had no water at mile 5 when I got there running 9 minute miles. That threw SO many people into a tailspin since it was already 85 degrees with 90% humidity. Since then I’ve always carried my own. Except not in Vegas. THankfully it was fine. Yeah wind wreaks havoc on hats.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually, my first Vegas WAS one of the ones they ran out of water at one of the stops, but it was the first time they did it at night, too.

      I assess the situation & decide on race day. And pray a lot. The handful of races I didn’t carry water I didn’t regret it.


  2. I have used honey stinger waffles for a few of my races and I do like them. Chocolate is my favorite flavor but also had the vanilla. Do you feel like you have to have water though to wash it down? I think I’ll carry them tomorrow in my race as well.


    1. Most people do feel they need water to wash down gels; I’m one of those odd people that don’t, but supposedly the carbs are better absorbed when taken with water. So I suppose the same goes for the waffles!


  3. That’s funny. My hair is so thick and if I pull it through the hole in the back, my hat stays on in the wind. Beanies often don’t stay down on me.

    I don’t carry water & luckily I’ve never seen it run out.

    Good idea to check the chip. Good thing usually they’re on the bib. But not this Sat. They wil have chips to save money.


    1. Mine is very thick, too, but this was extreme wind gusts.

      With beanies I’ve found they stay down better if you put your glasses on over them & I have a few with a hole for a ponytail, too. I will probably wear a beanie tomorrow. We’ll see what it’s actually like tomorrow morning, though!


  4. I always have to carry my own water as I am definitely BOTP. I had an issue at the RNR Vancouver Half last year where, at mile 10, I got dizzy as well, but they didn’t have any more aid stations and I had run out of GU. I always carry more GU than I need nowadays just in case, because that really sucked!


  5. I always carry my own water for marathons (not half marathons though). My reason is somewhat different though. After running my first 4 marathons with terrible tummy problems (including nausea and vomiting, blech!), I couldn’t figure out why I could run 23-24 miles in training with no problem whatsoever, but a marathon would kill me. Finally though it could be the difference in the way I drank. Instead of slow sips as during training, during a race I’d knock back a cup of water every mile. I started carrying my own and it made a huge difference in my problems.


  6. I’ve always wondered how people eat a Honey Stinger Waffle during a race. I would choke. There would be crumbs in my lungs because I was gasp them in there. I’ve always used GU because it goes down smooth in one swallow or two. Just curious. And jealous.


    1. Well, if you run a whole lot slower and take walking breaks it’s not hard. 🙂

      I like a gel sometimes before, sometimes in the first 10k, but after that, even though I don’t have stomach problems, it’s just not what I want.

      Nowadays I make oatmeal date bars that I break up into little pieces and put into a ziploc.

      In fact, that’s all I had in my 15k a few weeks ago & it worked just fine! No gels at all.

      Everyone is different, though.


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