Post Half Marathon Reflections

I have so many different thoughts relating to my experience training for and running the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon!

Me & My Medal!

I’ve received a lot of questions about the race, ranging from what I thought about my training plan to whether or not I noticed any changes in my body or appetite while I prepared for the race.

I figured I would break up my thoughts into segments, since I have a lot to say! Hopefully this will allow you guys to read whatever aspect you’re interested in, or just scroll down, ignore everything and enjoy some pictures. To each their own!

I. My Training Plan: I comprised my training plan using a hybrid of many plans and intended to follow the long run distances recommended by Hal Higdon’s plan. (For those of you unfamiliar with half marathon training plans, most recommend doing one “long run” a week where the runner gradually adds one mile to the long run each week.)

I created the plan I did because I didn’t want to run more than three days a week. I love strength training and wanted to keep up my normal weights routine which included BodyPump classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I found that the plan I created worked really well for me! I didn’t feel too burnt out on running by the time the race rolled around, and on race day I felt adequately prepared.

After Running the Final Run of My Training Plan

My training got sidelined a little bit when a bruised heel set me back three weeks. I intended to tackle a 12-mile run before the race, but only managed to cover 10 miles. Going into the race this definitely concerned me. Fortunately as I was running the half, I felt powerful and I didn’t feel too fatigued after the race.

Overall thoughts: I loved my training plan and would follow it again.

II. Training as a Whole: While I didn’t feel overwhelmed by all the running, I didn’t enjoy feeling like I had to run. That was probably my biggest complaint throughout training. If I woke up in the mood to take a spinning class on a day I planned to run, I didn’t like forgoing my exercise desires to stick to a plan. I really missed including a variety of different cardio exercises in my day-to-day workouts.

Overall thoughts: Feeling like you have to run is kind of a bummer, but eventually I learned to just suck it up and get out there. I always felt great once a run was over!

III. My Appetite and Body Changes: It may seem odd to some, but I actually gained weight while training for the half marathon. My weight gain wasn’t crazy and wasn’t something I worried about at all. I attribute my small weight gain to the increase in my appetite I experienced during training.

More Fo Yo Puh-Lease!

After I began running distances longer than eight miles, I noticed that I felt hungry more often. Β On long run days once my appetite returned (I’m never hungry within an hour of running), it almost seemed like I couldn’t eat enough and all my body wanted was carbs. Of course I listened and made sure to refuel properly, but overall I definitely felt hungrier during my training. After talking to many runners, I found that I’m not the only one who wanted to eat everything in sight after a long run! Apparently running for more than 90 minutes will make some of us out there want to eat our hands!

Overall thoughts: I felt hungrier during my training and noticed some body changes, but nothing dramatic in the least.

IV. The Race Expo: The only other half marathon I completed was a small one in Orlando (the OUC half in 2007), so this was my very first race expo! I thought it was great and enjoyed learning a lot from the running-expert vendors. I also loaded up on free samples which always makes me happy.

At the Race Expo

Overall thoughts: Super fun and lots of good free samples!

V. The Race: I cannot say enough wonderful things about the Chicago Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. I enjoyed this race more than I ever could have imagined. The race had bands playing energetic and lively music every 1.5 miles or so and spectators lined the entire course.

Ready to Ruuuun

The course itself was wonderful and meandered through downtown Chicago so runners were able to really take in the feel of the city. The last four miles of the course took runners along Lake Michigan. It was great to feel a slight breeze and run toward the city skyline. Talk about motivational!

There were also water and Cytomax stations located frequently along the course, so hydration was never an issue.

After the race it was easy to get my belongings from the gear check station and people really seemed to enjoy the post-race beer garden and concert, though my friends and I opted for some deep dish pizza. πŸ˜€

Overall thoughts: I loooooved this race!

Question of the Afternoon

  • HaveΒ  you ever run a half marathon or a full marathon?
  • If you haven’t run one, not do you have a desire to one day?

82 Responses

  1. Thanks for this great–and very timely!–post! I am about to begin training for my first half marathon next week, so I really appreciate your thoughts and ideas. I’m glad to hear that it was such a positive experience overall…I hope mine is too!

    –Gavi @ GaviGetsGoing!

  2. Not a runner! I would love to be able to run but I really just despise it. I prefer other cardio to running. I wish I loved it though!

  3. Great post! You have the best abs ever…seriously!

  4. very nice recap! I plan on running a half marathon, but I honestly, have no desire to EVER run a full.


    My half marathon is NEXT september–so it’s a ways off obviously. How long in advance should I start “training” for it?

  5. I’ve done two half’s – 1:52 and 1:37. Doing the NYC marathon in November and couldn’t be more excited/nervous πŸ™‚

    I can totally relate to post-long run eating binges. I immediately need sugar in some form – this morning it was a handful of marshmallows!

  6. i don’t think i would ever want to do a race, but i love reading these recaps! i can’t wait for the savannah one now too πŸ™‚

  7. I love it!

    I’m working my way up to a half, probably next year. I don’t have a plan just yet – but do you recommend Hal Higdon’s, one long run per week?

    I only run 2-3 times per week as it is right now. But I’m in KM”s up here in Canada ;), and I’m upping my km’s by 500m each week. Right now I’m at 7km – 7.5km, and I do longer runs (only about 8k) each Tuesday, on the trails.

    I don’t know what to do in reality. The training plan you linked sounds like a great one and I have heard so many ppl talk about it.

    I thought you’d just add on the mileage each week, like I’m doing. But then again I’m doing short runs compared to a lot of other runners.

    I’m excited for it!

    • i absolutely recommend hal higdon’s plan! i think they’re spot-on w/ the one long run a week. anything more than that would be a lot for a new runner’s body to handle.

  8. very good recap, especially for those new to training! marathon training is much harder for me not to gain weight because the day after 20 miles i’m ravenous. I did pretty well this last year though by focusing on better protein

    • pssssh i can’t even imagine what my appetite would have been like if i was training for a MARATHON! i probably would have eaten ryan… and sadie, too.

  9. I’m glad you loved it! It was definitely a great experience for being my first half, too!

    Come visit Chicago again soon! πŸ™‚

  10. Great recap! I agree with you on so many things. I ran my first half last April and I’m training for my first full in November. I definitely gained some weight training for the full and I can guess I will again during marathon training as well. I get ravenous!

    Where did you get your skirt in that first picture? It is so adorable!

    • banana republic (the outlet). glad i’m not the only person who gains weight training for these bad boys!

  11. I meant to ask, when you do the LONGGG runs, do you do it at a slow pace?

    My running coach (the girl who runs the program at the local gym I go to) said to do short fast runs, and long slow runs.

    Well… if I do a slow long run, wouldn’t that affect my Half-Mary time? I don’t want to do it slow…! Sheesh. Running can be confusing.

    • i never really cared about my time but according to my garmin, my pace was usually the same whether i ran 5 mi. or 10 mi. it was so strange!

      • That’s what I found too. I thought I was supposed to be “speedy” on the 5k races, which I thought I was. But I’ve been maintaining my speed since I’ve been upping my mileage. Which I suppose is a good thing!

        Ps. I’m totally eating ice cream right now (it just reminded me of you, haha)

  12. great post!

    i’ve never run a half or full before having only started running 7-8 months ago. I do however deefinitely have that part of me that wants to. I had planned to try for a half this fall, but was unable to get the amount of running in as I wanted this summer due to the extreme humidity we’ve been experiencing here in ontario, so I think I will make it one of my goals for 2011.

  13. I am actually a brand new runner and my ultimate goal is to run a half marathon and eventually a marathon in the future (probably the Disney). I’m chronicling it at

  14. I am signed up for Dallas Half in December. Also modeling after Hal Higdon. I notice that I am starving after longish runs. My longest right now is 7 and I definitely needed food fast! and a nap later. Hope the cooler weather in the next few months help with outdoor runs too.
    Congrats! And I can’t believe so many girls did it with you!

  15. I’ve done numerous half marathons and one full. I love the halfs because it doesn’t take as much time to train – I always just do three or four ten milers on the weekends and I’m good to go. I think my last one took about 1:45, but I ran with a friend who was super fast and I felt like I was dying the entire time.

    I loved the full marathon I did but I was at grad school so my schedule was a bit more flexible. Being in the real world and working long hours makes it impossible to get in longer runs during the week. The most I can get in is about 4-6 miles and that’s just not enough – it’s fine during the summer when it’s light out but in the winter it’s too dark by the time I get home and too dark when I leave.

    I also totally agree with hating the feeling of HAVING to run. I love running and it’s what I do and love best, but it can be a struggle even for me when I don’t feel like running and I know I have to get a run in. However, like you said, after the run I am SO happy I did it.

    Congrats on the half marathon!

  16. Congrats on your half! I am training for my first one on 10/10. I can’t wait! πŸ™‚

  17. Great little q&a!

    I’ve run both half and full. I’ve only done one full, and really have no desire to do another. Halfs, on the other hand, are myy faaaavorite distance to run! I’ll never give those up!

  18. Congratulations on having such a great run!

    I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one that gains weight training for races. It seems so counterintuitive! I’ve run one half and one full. Trainng for the half was not bad but my appetite was out of control training for the full!

  19. I give you so much credit. I’m not sure I could ever do one. Running a 5K was difficult for me. πŸ™‚ I definitely see where it could be enjoyable though. Enjoy your Rock & Roll Half part 2.

  20. Thats awesome that you signed up for another half marathon! They get addicting! I have ran 3 halves and 4 marathons, I am training for my 5th marathon now. happy running!

  21. i’ve run a full marathon and a half marathon, along with numerous other road/college/HS races. i love racing! i have a 5k, half, & full marathon all in the next yr that i’ve sign up for. wooohoo!!

  22. What a great post! I just decided to sign up for my first half (my longest distance is a 10k so far) in Feb 2011 with my friend. (I’m in the mist now of Tri Training.)

    I always found it so funny to hear other runners say they gained weight during training but I can totally see why, I would eat everything after running for *that* long.

    Would you say 12 weeks (if you hadn’t hurt your foot in there) was more than enough time to train? (Some people say 15, while some say that’s overkill, so just curious how you felt!)

    • yes, i definitely think 12 weeks is plenty of time. if i were to do it again, i honestly think 6 weeks is enough, but that’s only b/c i’ve built up the ability to run 5 mi. comfortably. before i ever ran a half in 2007, i definitely liked the 12-week timeframe.

  23. I’ve never run one, but I am looking for one to run this year. I would love to travel for my first one. I looked into the website (Team in Training) where Tina signed up for hers and it sounds like something I would totally do!

  24. Great info! I’m running my first half in November and I’m super excited!

  25. You are such an inspiration! My husband and I are actually going to train to do a half marathon! But I wondered about training on a treadmill instead of outside? I have a three year old, so I have to bring him to the gym with me, so that I can use the treadmill. I don’t really have the opportunity to run outside, except for very short runs! I know that running outside and on the treadmill are so different, so I am wondering if the training plan would work with a treadmill?

    • SUCH an awesome question. actually trained for my ENTIRE first half marathon on a treadmill. it went completely fine, but i definitely preferred training outside. as long as you run on a slight incline (1.0 or so), i think you’ll be fine. i will say that my second half (which i trained for outside) felt easier, but that may also be b/c i built up my ability to run for the first one & had maintained th ability to comfortably run 5 mi. for a couple of years before i started training for my second one. LONG answer! πŸ˜€

      • Thank you so much for the infomation. I was worried that I couldn’t really do it on the treadmill, but I am going to! Thanks!

  26. Oh I dream of even running a 5K but a half…wow….that would be awesome! I run 3 miles atleast 4 times a week in addition to yoga and strength training. I guess the issue is that I run slow and don’t have confidence in my running to actually run in a race. Guess I better bite the bullet and just sign up for a race and get to training!

  27. Hi Julie,

    I’m a new reader of your blog – definitely enjoying reading your posts, especially your most recent about your half marathon training. Congrats on finishing your race! I’m currently training for a 1/2 in Toronto this fall, but am currently sidelined by an ankle injury, so your story about bouncing back after your heel injury gives me hope! I’m trying to crosstrain in a meantime, but am a little worried about how the ‘break’ is going to affect my training. I’m in my 2nd week off, and hoping that I”ll be able to start running again in another week. How were your 3 weeks off? Did you crosstrain at all, and how did it feel doing a long run after a period of no running? I’ve seen a sports doc, and he told me that my ankle should return back to normal… so I’m am trying to be very patient!

    Congrats again, and cheers from Canada!

    • i definitely crosstrained. i did my cardio workouts on the elliptical, which seemed to keep me in decent cardiovascular shape. i did have to cut down the distance of my long runs (i was only able to do a 10 mi. run when i planned to do a 12 mi. run), but it ended up being totally fine.

  28. I’m training for sprint tri in 3 weeks and a half in october and i will say- im a little nervous about weight gain because im actually trying to shed a few, but i found that last time i ran that much i didnt look bigger, and my clothes weren’t tighter, so maybe it was muscle? Could you notice a difference?

  29. I loved this post! I’m so excited for fall running season. I did a 7-miler today because it was so cool out and I had a blast πŸ™‚ Oh PS I’m making your honey-soy sauce fish tonight! I don’t have salmon but I’m gonna use it on snapper. I’ll let you know how it comes out πŸ™‚


  30. Currently I’m training for a 10K and plan on doing a couple this year then next year I plan on starting to run half marathons!

  31. Thanks for this post, Julie! I am doing my first half 2 weeks from tomorrow & you definitely reassured me that I can do it!

  32. Great post! I’ve done one half and one full and I can definitely relate to the frustration of “having to run.” I usually plan 4 days of running a week that way every other week or so I can cut one day out and do something else if I feel like it without feeling too guilty.

  33. Your blog has been so inspirational for me! When I saw that you signed up for the Savannah 1/2 marathon, I decided I would sign up for my first 5k. I’m really excited and motivated about my training plan. Thanks for being such a good influence!

  34. Loved hearing about your post-half thoughts. I ran my first half in June, and I was really nervous! I definitely don’t class myself as someone who enjoys running, but once I got fit it was great and a good challenge and discipline.

    Looking back, I loved training with a friend, it made long runs on winter nights bearable, and even something to look forward to. I ran about 4x a week, and I really missed strength training. If I did another half, I would definitely not run more than 3x a week, and keep up yoga and pump classes.

    I suprised myself and LOVED the race itself, so I think another one may be in my future!

    • isn’t that crazy? i wasn’t in love with the whole training thing, but i LOVED the race!

  35. I’ve just started running, never had the desire to before, but after joining sparkpeople and I started exercising I felt great. I hope to be able to run some of those races someday.

  36. I’m training for my first half marathon now. Tomorrow is my 8 mile long run, my longest ever. I’m so nervous about it! I’m doing three runs a week, a 3 miler, a 4 miler, and another 3 miler. It’s totally doable with my schedule. Some training plans had that midweek run increasing close to 7 miles, I can’t do that during the week! We’ll see how this plan works for me, but 2 weeks into it I feel like it’s very doable!

  37. I’ve never run a race before. I am a newish runner and can probably run no more than 4 miles but I’m cool with that. πŸ™‚

  38. I have never even run a 5k, but it sounds like fun!

  39. I got asked by my sister inlaw to be on their marathon relay team. I had never run in my life but I decided of I am going to train to run a 6 mile leg of a marathon I might as well train for a whole marathon.
    So the training began. I ran the relay and it was a blast. I kept the training up and a year later I ran my first full marathon in under 4 hours. I think that is pretty good from going from no running ever to running a sub 4 hr in a year.

  40. To Anonymous: Who cares if you’ve studied eating disorders? Who cares if she weighs her food? Why do you spend your time commenting? Why are you so obsessed? I think you probably have a psychotic disorder, and I’ve studied those too, and you definitely fall into them. You are the one that needs help.

    • thanks, k! πŸ™‚ i’m just ignoring & now deleting those comments b/c they have no merit & are not coming from a person who is genuinely concerned but rather someone who just wants to hurt me.

      • If a reader were truly concerned, they would e-mail you personally and express their concern. Obviously, they are just jealous. Keep up the awesome blog, Julie!

  41. You’re welcome! I’m so glad you look right past that negativity!! That’s just so frustrating bc I love your reading your blog mainly bc of how positive it is, and all of the positive comments. It inspires me to not only be healthier & more active but more positive all around! So to see stuff like that really erks me! There’s no room (or need) for it!

  42. Yes!! I definitely want to try and run a half marathon some day. I’m hoping to start training for a 10k soon and just build my way up! Congratulations on your medal!

  43. Congrats on the half! It sounds like a truly good race; there are bad races and good races. Sometimes they are so disorganized and the routes are terrible. Glad you had fun with it!

    I have doe two ultras, two halfs, and am training for my first marathon (NYC) right now. I did a 6 day a week training plan for my first half and I got so burned out. Now I am doing five days a week which is perfectly sufficient. πŸ™‚

    I definitely feel you on the hunger front: my appetite gets out of control sometimes. Oh well, a little extra cereal never hurt anyone. πŸ™‚

  44. Wow. I am so impressed with anyone who can run a half marathon! This recap was very encouraging…I am just recently getting into running (I am a walker for sure) and will be doing a few 5ks this fall. For right now, those are challenging enough for me but maybe one day I will look back at 5ks as an easy task and start looking forward to even harder races! Thanks for the inspiration!

  45. I’ve been waiting this post for a while girl!!! πŸ˜‰ You wrote exactly what I was waiting for!!! hehhe…. I’m following the same novice half marathon plan now and it works perfect for me.. I don’t like to run everyday and I really enjoy the long run. yes. it’s kind of funny because although increasing 1 mile per week can be intimidating.. since I do it on Sunday I feel more relaxed. I make sure to have a good night sleep and tell myself that I can stop anytime I want. The longest distance I’ve done is 8 miles now. tomorrow I’m attacking 9 miles. I’m doing a half marathon on 9/12… before signing up, I thought I’d be scared, but now I’m all about excitement.
    I even order online the fruit strip that you mentioned.
    Two questions now: 1) Do you drink sport drinks during long runs too?
    2) I read that many woman who train for long distance lost their period.. does it happen to you? are u worried about that?
    Thanks for your inspirational posts!!!! πŸ˜€ I don’t comment during the day because I’m at work and I read it in google reader. But I enjoy every post of you!~~~

    • thanks for the comment! πŸ™‚

      for your questions… no, i stuck to water during my long runs, but ate these fruit strips that were basically a mix of carbs/sugar every 40 min. or so. i also drank water when i ate those strips. on race day, i did drink the cytomax, but only a sip at each station since my body wasn’t used to it in training.

      i didn’t lose my period at all. i think this really only applies to EXTREME athletes. i don’t think i put my body through too much so i never experienced that.

      • I just got those fruit strips! I’ll try it tomorrow for the 9 miles run, hope it helps to push me through the end πŸ™‚

  46. I ran my first half marathon last december with a friend. We ran the St. Jude half marathon in Memphis. It was such a rewarding experience. We were able to run through the St. Jude campus where we were immediately cheered on by the children who were being treated there. Running for such a good cause really inspires you to push through any pain you are having. Also, the fan support was awesome. One sign that really stuck with me was “Don’t stop-People are watching!”

    I thought that was so hilarious and spot on. We completed the race together without stopping and were very proud of our under 2.5 hour time!

    I am planning on running the women’s half marathon in Nashville in September!! You guys should check out the website for that series! They have the most awesome medals! There is a removable charm in the middle!! And the medals are all different based on what city you run in. The one in Florida is a palm tree, the one in Nashville is a music note. very cute!

    • awww they have one in st. pete by my parent’s house! i’d love to do it, but i’m not sure if i can jump into training for another one w/ all the wedding madness that seems to be picking up! good luck in sept! it sounds like a great race. πŸ™‚

  47. I’ve never run a half marathon, but it seems like an awesome goal to work towards – as long as I can get beyond some old lingering knees issues (arrggh!). Great to read your reflections on the process; it’s good to have some insight into it!

  48. I have only run a 5K but I would be willing to take the challenge of doing a half marathon someday. (When I am older and maybe get a group of friends to do it with me…)

  49. I ran a 1/2 marathon a little over a year ago and I had the exact same thoughts you did! haha! I was a runner for years so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal to follow the training schedule, but about 2/3 of the way thru I was so tired of HAVING to follow the schedule and it wasn’t enjoyable towards the end. But that feeling of accomplishment you get after the race completely wipes away any negative thoughts you may have had. Congrats on your race!!! πŸ™‚

  50. Hi Julie! I just wanted to introduce myself and tell you how grateful I am for your blog. It has been very inspirational to me during the past couple months. I’ve just started reading yours and other healthy living blogs and it has really helped continue the journey for me to a healthier lifestyle.
    I don’t have a weight problem and I haven’t actually lost more than a couple pounds over the past several months but my body fat % has dropped quite a bit because I have been eating real foods and a lot more fruits and vegetables. I’ve always been into exercise but I *thought* I loved junk food too much to ever really get on the healthy eating bandwagon. Now I don’t even miss fast food or frozen dinners. I figure if I can do it, anyone can!
    Thanks for your upbeat and detailed posts! Good luck to you in training for your upcoming half!

  51. I’m running my first half at the end of September. I hope that my experience is as great as yours πŸ™‚

  52. Right now I’m toying with the idea of signing up for a half that would take place next May! I’ve only done 5K races, but want to step up my running game and get serious about it. It’s scary! I love that you put up all this info, though- it makes it seem more within my reach. Maybe I’ll suck it up and go for it πŸ˜€

  53. OMG!! I am so psyched to do this run next year in my hometown!! Woot! My BFF Amy~ who is the one responsible for getting ME started on my new running journey~ just did that 1/2 marathon. It was her first. Congrats and thanks for sharing your tips and insights.

  54. I loved reading this because I just started training for my first half!!!

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