It is important for me to let you in on my personal journey so you know I am right here with you!  After years of wanting to complete this task, I have finally crossed running a half marathon of my list. I can honestly say it was the most physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging thing I have done in my life so far.  The experience was thrilling and I learned the most about myself during the training process.  If you are planning to run a half marathon or other race, I want to let you in on some of the lessons I learned along the way.

What I did well:

  • Plan your entire workout schedule in advanced.  I found my 16 week program on Pinterest, added every training day into my calendar, and hung it above my desk so I knew exactly what to expect during the week.

  • Carve out time in your schedule in advance to assure you make time for training.  I suggest training in the morning.  I have a demanding schedule between work, family, and Her Blank Canvas that I would wake up as early as 3:45 am to run before work, so it was essential to plan out each day.
  • Be conscious of your diet.  It is extremely important to watch what you eat. I saw a significant difference in my swelling and joint pain after long runs once I start to remove certain food groups from my diet.

  • Track your progress and reward yourself when you reach milestones.  This is essential when preparing to accomplish any goal.  You have to learn to keep pushing yourself until it’s done and building in incentives will help motivate you and build your discipline. After every training I completed, I would mark off the days on my calendar and set up rewards at certain milestones. Hint: Don't reward  yourself with something you are trying to improve upon, i.e. if you are trying to loose weight, don't reward yourself with dessert.

  • Tell enough people, but don’t tell everyone.  You will need to have an accountability system in place. When I first started training I shared the news via Facebook and told some family and friends.  It wasn’t until I was 6 weeks in until I started posting consistently to help me stay accountable.  I suggest this for anyone planning to run a race or train on their own.  Statistic also prove that we perform better in front of an audience because we have more to prove when others are involved.

What I would do differently:

  • Incorporate more interval and hill training.  When I was able to train outside during the weekend, I didn’t take advantage of the vast terrain in Southern California and stuck to the streets. Since my race was a trail run it would have been beneficial to do more cross training.

  • Realize what you put in your body affects your race. I know we love to think that if we run 15-20 miles per week we can eat anything we want, but I found out that was far from true.  Eating clean is key to running a solid race and that revelation didn’t hit me until a month out.  However, after I changed my diet I started to see better results.

  • Running is always better with a buddy. I typically prefer to work out alone.  I consider it my "me" time, plus working alone is less distracting than working out with a partner. For running though, I make an exception.  I wish I would have partnered with someone on my long runs or ran with a group of people.  It would have challenged me more during training and I would have been able to build a network in the community.

  • Lifting weights and do more strength training.  I did a lot of stretching, but not enough weight training.  That would have helped especially since half of the race was uphill.

The Results:

  • Start weight: 172 lbs End weight: 160 lbs (I would like to point out, I did not do this to lose weight, it was just an added benefit)
  • Race Time: 3:30 (A lot of room for improvement)

  • Training for this race helped me build more discipline and taught me how to stay consistent through the finish.  There were a few bumps in the road and at one point I wasn’t sure if I would be able to participate, but it all worked out.

I hope these tips encourage you and don't scare you away from attempting to run a half marathon or go after any other goal you have been needing to accomplish over the last few years.  My last piece of advice for you, keep pushing until you finish.



Bree Cooksey is the President and Founder at Her Blank Canvas, LLC.  She devotes her life to helping women become the best version of themselves, volunteering, reading, and exercising.  When she isn't busy building her empire, she loves eating pizza while binge watching her favorite TV shows, and spending time with family and friendsFollow her on Instagram and Twitter @breecooksey to follow her journey.