Half Marathon Goals: Then and Now

Reading the recap from my first half marathon gives me a little bit of the chills. When I first started running back in April 2009, I could barely run for 90 seconds. The thought of even running a full mile straight seemed so far fetched that I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to do it. I ended up running from April through September of 2009 (5 months) before I had enough courage to run my very first race – a 5k. I ran it with a bunch of coworkers and friends, and even though the race was super unofficial (no bibs, no official time, no swag bags, etc) – the feeling of crossing that finish line was addictive, and so began my love affair with road races.


(Side note: In case you haven’t read it, check out this How I Started Running post. It’s one of my favorites and I think sometimes people come across my blog and just assume I’ve always been a runner, when in fact I’ve NEVER been a runner until less than 2 years ago!)

It’s funny because many times if I mention a race I’ve run or will be running to someone who’s not that interested in running, I get asked if I’ve ever won a race, or if I think I’ll ever win one. I can’t help but laugh. It’s hard for people who aren’t runners to imagine doing something that you’ll never win, but the thing about running road races is (unless you’re a superstar elite runner), you’re running against yourself.

You’re running to set a personal distance record.

You’re running to set a personal time record.

You’re running for fun with your friends.

You’re running to show you’ve still “got it.”

You’re running to push yourself towards new challenges.

There are so many reasons to run races – but for someone like me, winning isn’t one of them.


I run to challenge myself, to keep my fitness level up, and because I genuinely enjoy it. Running races feeds my competitive spirit and gives me something to look forward to. With the strict training that comes with any long distance run, it also helps take the guess work out of my exercise routine.Living most of my life as an obese person, where running was never something I was able to even dream of being able to do, leads into the main reason I run – I run because I can.

With that said, for my first half marathon back in September 2010, my only goal was to finish. I had set some time goals in my head before the race, but when I ended up getting a cold the weekend of the race, I quickly readjusted to make my only goal to cross the finish line feeling good. I tried to go relatively slow throughout the race, soak in the bands and cheerleaders, and focus on not losing steam, and I did just that. I finished feeling strong and thrilled with myself for having set both a personal distance record AND personal time record (since that comes automatically for a new race distance).


For this second half marathon, my goal is not just to finish, but to set a PR. I know that I’ve put in the training to run the distance and that I’ve put in the speed training to run it faster than I did the first time, so I have a few specific time goals in mind.

  1. Main Goal – Beat my first half marathon time of 2:16:18
  2. Secondary Goal – Finish in under 2:10
  3. Reach Goal – Finish in under 2:06 (cutting 10 minutes off my time)

I think it’s also important to set some non time related goals, so that if all else fails I can still be proud of myself for having covered 13.1 miles. My non-time related goals are:

  1. Fuel Properly – I plan to eat a GU/Sports Beans at mile 3, 6, 9, and possibly 11/12 so I don’t lose steam.
  2. Thank/smile at the spectators – The support that comes from the crowd lining the streets cheering for the runners is priceless. There are many times during races where I start to doubt myself or feel myself fading, and I look up and see a funny sign or someone screaming for me that I don’t even know, and it gives me the little pick-me-up that I need. I want to make sure I thank as many spectators as I can for coming out to support myself and the other runners.
  3. Maintain a positive attitude – I want a smile on my face when I cross that finish line. I’ll accept nothing less!

Just typing all this out makes me realize how soon the half marathon is! This morning marked my very last training run for the race, so no runs left before the 13.1 on Saturday. Crazy!!

Do you have any races coming up and what are you goals for them? If you don’t, have you ever considered running a road race? Why or why not?

35 Comments on Half Marathon Goals: Then and Now

  1. alison
    March 23, 2011 at 8:52 am (10 years ago)

    Good luck, Beth! I’m running the National Half, as well. This is my first half marathon (I do things backwards and ran a full marathon first) so I don’t really have a lot of expectations. I have a time goal in mind, but my training has sort of fallen apart this last week. My daughter has been sick, which has thrown a wrench into my workout plans. I just hope my legs aren’t rusty on Saturday!

    Best wishes for a great race!

  2. Holly
    March 23, 2011 at 9:04 am (10 years ago)

    Hi Beth!

    I think you have great goals for your upcoming race — how exciting!

    My next race is in June (marathon, eek!) but I’m looking at races in April/May to get back into the “racing” feel. My first goal is always to finish and to not need medical help — to me that means pacing myself, fueling properly, walking if needed, etc. Other than that I do have time goals in mind, but I try to not think about them too much since I end up putting too much pressure on myself.

    • Holly
      March 23, 2011 at 9:05 am (10 years ago)

      I don’t know why my old login info is popping up!

  3. Marci
    March 23, 2011 at 9:21 am (10 years ago)

    I am on the injured reserve for a while but I just ran my first half marathon in December. It was such a great experience and I hope to add racing back to my schedule one day. I love the dedication of training, and the high from finishing.
    Can’t wait to read your next race recap!

  4. Lori
    March 23, 2011 at 9:29 am (10 years ago)

    My first 5k is this weekend – not sure if I’m 100% ready, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless!
    My goal is to just finish! (Baby steps, right?!)

    Your post today is so motivating!

    • Beth
      March 23, 2011 at 9:30 am (10 years ago)

      Good luck Lori!!! Your goal for any time running your first race should be just to finish and be able to walk after! The second part might even be a stretch. 🙂

  5. Erin @ A Girl & Her Mutt
    March 23, 2011 at 9:50 am (10 years ago)

    I love that you have a goal of smiling/thanking spectators! Who knows how many people you will inspire to start running or do a road race just through a smile and a thank you!

  6. Carly D. @ CarlyBananas
    March 23, 2011 at 9:59 am (10 years ago)

    Good luck this weekend Beth. I’ve loved reading about your training and I know you put so much effort into it!

  7. Emily
    March 23, 2011 at 10:25 am (10 years ago)

    Good luck this weekend, Beth! You’re so inspirational! I’ve just started a 26 week training program for a half this week, so I’m hoping to run with the Baltimore Half or the Hershey Half in October. I’ve trained for a half before but never completed the race. You inspire me that I CAN do this! Thanks for sharing your struggles and victories with us!

    • Beth
      March 23, 2011 at 10:30 am (10 years ago)

      Yay Emily!! I’m so glad you’re going to run a half. I think its a great distance because its challenging so it takes a lot of mental/physical discipline, but its not SO far that it will hurt you even if you train right (like a marathon can). Good luck!!!!

  8. thekitchenbitch
    March 23, 2011 at 11:04 am (10 years ago)

    Good luck on Saturday girl! You really do inspire me. If only I wasn’t stuck to this desk chair today 🙂

  9. Liz
    March 23, 2011 at 11:08 am (10 years ago)

    I just did a post with my national goals as well. I am doing a pace goal for the first time in a while and it is kind of scary!
    Good luck this weekend!

    • Beth
      March 23, 2011 at 11:12 am (10 years ago)

      Having a pace goal is SCARY. I still want to make sure I enjoy myself!

  10. Kandi
    March 23, 2011 at 11:39 am (10 years ago)

    Well I always wanted to be a runner. Thought it was the mark of a true athlete, so I’ll be starting the c25k program when my iPhone comes in the mail (should be here today).

    After I complete that program, I would love to start running races.

    Good Luck on Saturday!

  11. greensandjeans
    March 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm (10 years ago)

    You’re going to rock it! Can’t wait to see you Friday!

  12. lostalykat
    March 23, 2011 at 1:17 pm (10 years ago)

    Wow Beth we are so alike it is almost scary hehe. I ran my first Half Marathon in September as well. I also didn’t start running until 2 years or so ago. Now I do Triathlon’s as well as half marathons! Good luck with your race! I love reading your blog everyday!


    P.S. I have a triathlon coming up April 3rd! So nervous/excited.

    • Beth
      March 23, 2011 at 1:20 pm (10 years ago)

      Hi Aly! Good luck on your triathlon! I’ve yet to tackle any races besides running but I wouldn’t rule it out. I have a 10 miler on April 3rd but I’m just running that one for fun. Thanks for commenting!

  13. Capitol to Capital
    March 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm (10 years ago)

    Good luck to you this weekend! I’ve run two half marathons 2 months apart with a 13 minute difference in finish time – that’s what a snowy winter (out of shape!) and terrain (one flat, one hilly) can change. I hope you reach your goals and beyond, if not in this race, then on the ones to come.

  14. Monica
    March 23, 2011 at 3:55 pm (10 years ago)

    Have a blast on your last training run! I know your half will go awesome because you are awesome!

    I miss races/running and want to register for something so bad. Perhaps they have races for Moms-To-Be…. 😉

  15. Shannon
    March 23, 2011 at 4:14 pm (10 years ago)

    Very timely post. I’m restarting the C25K program with the right shoes and have run twice this week. It’s tough but amazing, especially now that I can run without heel/shin/knee pain. And I feel so accomplished. Thanks for the continuing inspiration.

  16. Jacqui Lewis-Lyons
    March 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm (10 years ago)

    Good luck on the half this weekend! My next race will be in Cleveland in May – doing the half, hoping to get a PR! My goals are simple: finish and be smiling.

  17. happywhennothungry
    March 23, 2011 at 6:12 pm (10 years ago)

    I’m thinking about running a short road race with my sister after she has her baby. Great post and best of luck this Saturday!!!

  18. Stephanie @ The Cookie Battle
    March 23, 2011 at 6:31 pm (10 years ago)

    I’m currently training for my second half and have a goal of 2:15. My first half was awful awful awful (there was heavy rain and sleet that day) so I don’t even really count it. I walked a lot and was lucky I even finished.

  19. Theodora
    March 23, 2011 at 10:26 pm (10 years ago)

    2:16 is an AMAZING time for a first half! My first was something like 2:37 and my second was 2:13–so it’s definitely possible to shave a lot of time off, and it seems like you’ve been working hard. We’re going to kill this race!

  20. Laural (bhealthier)
    March 23, 2011 at 11:28 pm (10 years ago)

    ooo Good Luck on your half! I was super nervous for my first half and my first full marathon. I’m sure you will do really well!

  21. Jess
    March 23, 2011 at 11:46 pm (10 years ago)

    Good luck! I think it’s great that you have 3 levels of goals. You go girl!

  22. Michele @ Healthy Cultivations
    March 24, 2011 at 7:31 am (10 years ago)

    This is a great post, and I really do believe races are about participating and simply racing against yourself. I did my first 5K early this month and have a 10K coming up at the end of April. I wasn’t fast, but I finished well within the time limit. Despite finishing in about 50 minutes — turtle pace by some standards — it really is a major accomplishment since a few years ago and 100 pounds ago, there’s no way it would have been possible. Now, I have a lot of weight left to lose, but I’m moving forward with my life anyway. It’s not necessary to lose the weight before participating. There are lots of races with generous time limits. I’ll finish the 10K in less than 2 hours, and I’m planning a half marathon in September. So excited!!!

  23. Amy @ Conquering Self
    March 24, 2011 at 1:32 pm (10 years ago)

    Everytime I lose faith that I can run a half marathon on May 1st, I come here…back to your blog.
    There is something about your story that is so inspiring and so easy to relate to and inspires me to actually believe I can do it. Good luck at your half this weekend and good luck reaching your goals!! You can do it!!
    Have you ever done a post about your top tips for running a half marathon? I’d love to hear them!

  24. cindylu
    March 24, 2011 at 5:00 pm (10 years ago)

    I don’t have any races scheduled for a while. With races with a new distance, I set goals like run the whole thing and finish. I have time goals in mind, but I try not to dwell on them. If I’m running a distance I’ve done before, I definitely want to PR.

    I think it’s important to modify a goal with how you’re feeling the week or two before and weather. For instance, I know I slow down with really warm weather.

  25. Dee
    March 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm (10 years ago)

    I used to run long ago, then didn’t, for about 12 years! I just slowly started getting back into it last summer. Long ago, I ran a half-mary, a full mary, and a 10k, all within about a two year period.

    As a reborn runner, I am very slow but can run up to 6 miles continously now. So, I decided to enter a 5k on April 30. And I’ve set the long-term goal of running in that same event next year, but entering the 13.1 distance instead!

    • Beth
      March 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm (10 years ago)

      6 miles is no joke! I’m actually looking forward to scaling back on distance for a while after my half marathon. I think it’s good to focus on other stuff for a while so I don’t get burnt out!

  26. Jennifer
    April 5, 2011 at 3:43 pm (10 years ago)

    I’ve been so busy lately that I’ve fallen behind on my blog reading but thanks for this post! I just finished my first half this Sunday and my only goal was to finish. And I did! Hoping to beat my time with the next one.


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