I Ran My First Half Marathon!

I Ran My First Half Marathon! 

Training & Race Day Recap

Back in September 2023, I dusted off my running shoes, laced up, and hit the pavement for an easy effort jog. 

I didn’t really have any expectations, but to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it – so much so that I dedicated the next seven months to training for my first half-marathon. 

I crossed the finish line last weekend with a time of 1:51:50 and a joy for running I never thought I’d feel again. 

I’m not a running expert, but I did put considerable effort into making sure this race went as smoothly as possible. If you want my honest opinion about the tools and strategies I used to make this happen, keep reading! 

Training Program: Nike Run Club Half-Marathon Training Plan 

For my first-ever half-marathon, I didn’t feel like a fully customized program was necessary, so I opted for Nike Run Club’s Half-Marathon Training Plan. 

This free 14-week plan can be downloaded in PDF format and viewed on the Nike Run Club app (I used both). Within the app, you have the option to use audio-guided runs. These were a game changer on days where I needed a little extra motivation, especially since I did the majority of my training alone. That being said, the volume was not consistent within the app and it was sometimes hard to listen to music alongside the guided runs, which was frustrating. 

I also found that the Nike Run Club GPS wasn’t as accurate as I would’ve liked. I ended up switching to Strava and ultimately, decided to fully rely on my Garmin to make sure my paces and distances were as accurate as possible. 

True to reviews I’d read from other people, the overall training volume of this program was low to moderate, so I ended up adding a few miles to the easy runs and long runs, but kept the speed workouts as is. These were tough and made a huge difference in my performance on race day. 

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic program, but will probably pay for a customized program for my second half-marathon. 

Running Belt: FlipBelt Elite with Arc Water Bottle 

I tried six different running belts before settling on the FlipBelt Elite. I needed to be able to pull out my phone mid-run without other things falling out and put it away without stumbling around. This belt checked both of these boxes and had several other features that made it stand out from the other belts I tried. 

It was snug against my body, so I barely noticed it was there, and had a compartment in the back for the Arc Water Bottle, which was super convenient for medium length runs and on race day. It also has a keylatch for house keys and several other pockets where I could stash up to three gels during training sessions. 

I have no affiliation with this company, but the FlipBelt Elite definitely has a permanent place in my collection of running accessories.  

Fuel: ❌ to CLIF BLOKS, ✅ to Gu, HoneyStinger, and Hüma

I enjoyed using CLIF BLOKS Energy Chews during my long training runs, but they were a big mistake on race day. For one, the packaging was extremely hard to open while running at race pace. They’re also huge and I just couldn’t chew them efficiently. I actually ended up choking on them at one point because I inhaled a chunk straight to the back of my throat. Never again! 

Energy gels from Gu, HoneyStinger, and Hüma were a much better choice. I experimented with all three during my training runs and found that I digest them without any issues. After the mishap with the CLIF BLOKS, I had a gel 60 minutes into my race and another at 90 minutes. I highly recommend experimenting with different fueling strategies well before race day, so you aren’t plagued with any unexpected gastrointestinal symptoms. If you aren’t a fan of energy gels, high sugar candy like gummy bears and Airheads (my personal favorite) work great, too.

Electrolytes: PEScience Versalyte in Black Cherry 

Electrolytes were a key part of my hydration strategy during long runs and on race day. There are so many different types of electrolytes on the market, but my personal favorite is the PEScience Versalyte in Black Cherry (they also come in Wild Berry Splash). You can use my code “SOHEEFIT” for a discount. 

Shoes (& Clothing): HOKA Mach 5, HOKA Clifton 9, and Adidas Supernova

I had three different pairs of running shoes in rotation during my seven months of training. The HOKA’s definitely had more cushion than the Adidas Supernova (which had a slightly thinner sole), but I liked them all equally. On race day, I ended up wearing a pair of HOKA Mach 5s that I had already broken in. 

Cardinal rule of running: never wear a brand new pair of shoes on race day! The same thing goes for clothing. I wore a pair of leggings with side pockets and good compression that I had run in previously, and a bright pink T-shirt so my husband wouldn’t miss me crossing the finish line. 

Pre-Race Meal: Carbs on carbs! 

I’m not usually an early riser, but I woke up two hours before the start of my race at 5am to choke down a pre-race meal. I opted for a bagel with peanut butter and jelly, my regular cup of coffee, and about 75 mL of water. This meal was easy to digest and nothing out of the ordinary for me so I knew it would sit well. As I said before, race day isn’t the time to try anything new, especially when it comes to food. Eating an adventurous meal the night before (or the morning of) could wreak havoc on your performance. 

Running Watch: Garmin 265S

I want to start off with the very big caveat that you don’t need an expensive running watch to train for a race. In fact, I didn’t purchase my Garmin until I had six months of consistent training under my belt – I wanted to make sure my newfound hobby was actually going to stick! 

When it was finally time to invest in a running watch, I went with the Garmin 265S. Aside from the colorful touchscreen display and super accurate GPS, it gave me a ton of data, like advanced training metrics and recovery insights. 

The only downside is that it isn’t equipped with Siri, so important features like responding to text messages and Find My iPhone are missing. I often wore my Apple watch and my Garmin to get around this, but I’m hoping to find an alternative solution in the future! 

Strength Training Program: Momentum By Sohee 

I stayed consistent with lifting during the seven months leading up to my race to maintain my strength and support my running. I used the 3x/week gym version of my Momentum By Sohee program, which definitely helped me be a more resilient and stronger runner. You can sign up for the program HERE for just $19 USD per month. 

Race Strategy! 

I have a tendency to go out too fast due to nerves, so I forced myself to keep it cool and cruise along for the first 6.55 miles of the race. Rather than being a stickler for maintaining a certain pace, I let effort be my guide throughout. I crossed the finish line at 1:51:50, but still felt like I had 5-10% left in the tank. The last three miles were 100% a mental battle and I know I have it in me to push through the discomfort for a stronger finish next time. That being said, I’m extremely proud of myself for coming in under two hours! 


Training for this half-marathon has been an incredible experience. The fact that I’m able to push my physical (and mental) limits well into my thirties has been extremely gratifying, especially since I grew up hearing that everything goes downhill around the age I am now. 

I’ll never stop surprising myself, pushing my boundaries, and most importantly, having fun while doing it. 

Next up? My second half-marathon in London. 🏃🏼‍♀️🇬🇧