Plan Early For Your Next Half Marathon

It’s a new year and many of you are thinking about what half marathons you are going to do. I have a few suggestions for some great destination races and tips to make the experience as smooth as possible.

Running a half marathon in a new city can be exciting and fun. It’s a perfect way to combine a workout and a weekend get-away. It can also be a disaster. The key to making it run smoothly is the planning. The training is important too (obviously) but if you haven’t planned transportation, hotel, food, then no amount of training is going to help. I have learned a thing or two over the years about planning for a half marathon, so let me help you…

Planning Your Next Half Marathon:

Things to consider when picking a race:

  • Weather: Is it going to hot, humid, cold? This may impact your decision and help you plan. I ran Zion Half  and brought layers of warm clothes but it was windy and unseasonably cold so I wanted a hat or headband to cover my ears but all the stores had out their summer clothes. I should’ve checked the weather better. Oops.


  • Hills (rolling hills means different things to different people. Check the elevation map!) It’s not the end of the world if it’s hilly, but now you are prepared, and can train accordingly.
solvang hills
Santa Barbara Half–Santa Inez Valley to Solvang


  • Cost. Is this going to be a destination race or local? Will there be travel expenses? How much is the registration? Some races are pricey but if you register early it will be less. Do you need to fly, drive, stay overnight? It all adds up, so plan accordingly.

Pick a race.

  • There are plenty of races all over the country (and the world) so there are a ton to choose from. Do you want to run with huge crowd? Would you rather keep it small and scenic? Is there a city you have been dying to visit?  I will post my favorite races below to help you narrow it down.

Okay so you picked your half marathon, let the planning begin!

  • Register early!

    If registration is open then register now. The price usually goes up as it gets closer to race day. Also, some races fill up fast (Napa is popular and was closed within a couple of hours). If you see a discount code for your race, use it! Don’t wait for another discount, there probably won’t be one.


  • Book a hotel.

    If you are traveling to the race and need a hotel, book right after you register. Is there a host hotel and does it provide transportation to and from the start and finish? Do they have late check out? Or early check in? Will they have breakfast or at least coffee available before the race? You want to know if you need to bring a banana and make coffee in your room. The good hotels (at a good price) fill up fast. Most races have a host hotel or a few hotels that will have a special rate for race weekend. They are not necessarily the cheapest but they are usually the most convenient. I try to stay at a hotel within a mile of the finish.

  • Transportation.

    Find out whether the hotel or the race provides transportation to the start or from the finish and know where it is! Nothing worse than running 13.1 miles (or in this case 26.2) and not being able to find your shuttle back to the hotel…thus, I sat for a hour on a curb waiting for my husband to get through rode closures to come get me, then I washed up at Carl’s Jr before driving 2 hours home!  Live and learn :-).  That is why I prefer to have my hotel near the finish and get a ride to the start. A lot of races provide shuttles to the start now.

where's the bus
Me at the San Diego Marathon…Ugh!
  • Check out local restaurants.

    I like to know what is around for food. Food is a big deal the night before a race and the afternoon after a race. Know your options. There’s nothing worse than not having a plan for food. Those that know me, know I don’t like to be hungry. Sometimes my husband looks up restaurants that have been on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, to see if there is anything local. We found a great Fish and Chip place in Santa Barbara that we ate at after the Santa Barbara Half (my favorite half). I had the best clam chowder and fish ‘n chips ever! (Just looked it up to share link and they have closed 🙁  Bummer!

Hopefully these tips help you plan your next half marathon with ease, making your next race a great experience…one you will do over and over again. Check back next week when I post “Preparing The Night Before A Race.”

Here are 3 links for some great half marathons: Destination Races, Vacation Races, Rock n Roll Marathon Series.

My favorite half is Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon through Destination Races. It is well organized, they keep it small, and it’s scenic. (see the pic above)  It’s held on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend which makes it a great weekend trip. I will be running the Napa to Sonoma Half this year and have heard it is also beautiful. It may turn out to be my new favorite half. I will let you know.

All the race through Vacation Races look fabulous. I did the Zion Half. It was great. Also a small race. Transportation to the start was delayed and I missed the gun but it didn’t really matter. I would love to do another one of their races again and make it another family vacation. These races sell out quick so register early.

The Rock n Roll Marathon Series is hit or miss. I had a horrible experience at the San Diego Marathon (partly me, partly them) and I have heard others talk about the lack of organization, but I only have the one race to go by. A friend does the Vegas one and loves it. The thing I like about their series is the numerous cities to choose from. if you have done a Rock n Roll race let us know your experience in the comments below. Thanks!


I have put a link below for a special on running journals. It is a great way to keep track of training and to keep you motivated. Check it out.

Running journals

Thanks for reading and I wish everyone a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Keep running!

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