Thinking about Your First Half Marathon? Start Here!

Ask any longtime runner, and chances are there’s a race that holds a special place in his or her heart.

Maybe it wasn’t their fastest race ever.  But under some tough circumstances, it’s the effort they’re most proud of, the time they were able to dig the deepest.

Perhaps it was a beautiful destination race that made them realize why they love running, or maybe just the first time at a new distance that used to scare the heck out of them.

Download this free special report now and learn to avoid them!

I’ve got a few like that, and the one I’m most proud of is certainly my 3:09:59 Boston-qualifying marathon.  But there’s another race I haven’t talked about much, one that was an absolute turning point for me as a runner.


It was my first half marathon. A modest 1:56:59 at the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half.  And the funny thing is, I had already run a full marathon a few years before that.

So what was so special about it?

That race meant so much because it showed me that I was back.

You see, when a few friends and I decided one day, almost three years prior, that we were going to run a marathon, we had no idea what we were getting into.

We jumped in like the cocky college kids we were, thinking, “We’re in good shape, how hard could this running thing be?”

Turns out it was pretty hard, because we none of us were runners before that.  Not knowing how to train, all three of us got injured, and the stress fracture I got in my shin left me in an aircast for a few weeks. And without even a cool story to tell.

The worst part is that’s not end of it. We ended up running the marathon anyway — like I said, we were cocky college kids.  The race went horribly, and it’s no surprise that I messed my shin up again as a result.

For years, I wanted to run another marathon to redeem myself, to prove to myself that I really could run a better marathon.  And yet every time I started to train, my shins would start hurting within a few weeks and force me to stop — all because of the damage I did when I jumped into marathon training without a clue about what I should be doing to increase my mileage safely and to recover properly from workouts.

I almost quit out of frustration.

When I sought out help, two therapists not-so-subtly suggested that maybe I just wasn’t built to run endurance races, that my shins were shaped in a way that made these stress fractures inevitable.

This is one time I’m glad I didn’t listen.  I went on experimenting, determined to make endurance training work.

When a few years later (after more stops and starts in my training than I can remember), I crossed the finish at that Virginia Beach Half Marathon, you can understand why it felt so great.  After all that pain, disappointment, and frustration thanks to the stupid mistakes I made when I didn’t know any better, I was finally back on track.

It’s easy to make mistakes when you don’t know any better

I’ve found that completing a long distance race like a half marathon isn’t that hard, physically.

Don’t believe me?  Look around you at a half marathon or even a full, and you’ll see some people running who, by other measure, aren’t what you’d call “fit.”  And yet they’ve learned what they need to do to train their body to safely carry them 13.1 or 26.2 miles, and they’ve put in the work it takes to get there.

In other words, a lot of this game is mental.

I don’t want you to have to make the mistakes I did, or the mistakes that so many others make the first time they try to push themselves to run a half marathon or more.  Because as it turned out for me, those mistakes ended up impacting the next few years of my life, holding me back from becoming the runner that I knew I could.

So to help you avoid the mistakes and the pain (well, most of it, anyway), I put together a free, 17-page PDF report called “15 Training Mistakes that Can Crush Your Half Marathon Dreams.”  You can download it here to print off or read at your leisure, as over 1,200 other people already have.

As you might know, I’m just about ready to release the Half Marathon Roadmap, the 13.1-mile version of my guide to training for your first big race on a vegetarian or vegan diet.

The free “15 Mistakes” report, along with some more great free stuff I’ve got lined up this week, is part of the lead-up to the release.  So if you sign up, I’ll also send you updates about the Half Marathon Roadmap once it’s ready to go.

Check out the free PDF report here so that you can learn about those crucial mistakes and how to avoid them.  And be sure to leave a comment to ask any questions that come up, or just to let me know what you think.

P.S. Happy National Running Day!



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  1. I downloaded your PDF yesterday. Thanks! It was a fun read and useful even though I’ve done many half- and full marathons by now. Love the college perspective. I started running in college and noticed that I was easily able to do well in the age groups because, well, everyone else was out drinking while I was running!

  2. I’ll be starting training soon for my 4th half marathon… the Virginia Beach Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. I have already run 3, but I wanted your PDF anyway because I absolutely have room for improvement.

    “Look around you at a half marathon or even a full, and you’ll see some people running who, by other measure, aren’t what you’d call “fit.” And yet they’ve learned what they need to do to train their body to safely carry them 13.1 or 26.2 miles, and they’ve put in the work it takes to get there.”

    You were talking to me there. To look at me, you wouldn’t know I’m a runner. I’m about 20 pounds over my “happy weight.” I’m also a vegetarian. I’m looking forward to your other “free stuff” leading up to the release of your roadmap.


  3. Huh…your first half was Va Beach. Are you from around here?

    The one I signed up for (my first one) is the Richmond one in November. You coming to that one? 🙂


  4. I am starting to train for my first half marathon in September that I plan to run with my sister. She is just getting back into running after having her 3 children (she has run 3 marathons in the past). I am also working my way toward becoming a vegetarian. I am looking forward to your training guide to help us on our way!

  5. Hi Matt,

    This comes at a great time for me as it was just yesterday I decided to do my first half in October. Thank you 🙂 PS How are Erin and Baby doing?

  6. I’m doing my first half in Nov at the Savannah Rock N Roll race. I’m so excited but definitely want to approach it smartly. I respect you so much you better believe I’m downloading this!

  7. I’m just starting to train for my first half marathon, so this paper was perfectly timed. Thanks so much for the great tips! Can’t wait to watch the video.

  8. Lorraine says:

    For some, including many longtime runners, a 1:56:59 half marathon is a tremendous accomplishment – not “modest” at all.

  9. CrossfitJunkie says:

    I ran Boston (about 6 years ago) qualified here on PEI. I was vegan for 40 years. Yes 40. Until two days ago when I was convinced to try PALEO for 30 days and My Goodness already I feel a tremendous positive difference. I slept for the first time since I was a child (8 hours) Normally I need a BiPap machine just to get 3-4 hours. I have energy already. I never, never thought I say anything like this. I swore I’d die before eatting an animal. This is only day 2!

  10. I’m just wondering why you don’t put the dates on your blog entries? I like to know when things were posted!

    Thanks for your site!

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