Why did you sign-up for your first half-marathon or full marathon?

By Kiera Smalls

Fall race season is our favorite time of year. Although many runners are out doing an event for a second or third time, there's a shared sense of fear, not knowing, and excitement that first timers to an event - whether it's a first 5K, half- or full marathon - will experience. 

We caught up with a few first-time half-marathoners and marathoners to discuss what motivated them to sign up for their races and to talk a little about what keeps them going throughout their training. 

Are you thinking about signing up for your first long distance run? Keep reading to get inspired. 


Don’t doubt or compare yourself to other runners. It is your race and the feeling that comes over you when you’re coming up on the finish line is like no other. You got this!
— Stacey Gray

What would you tell someone who's considering signing up for their first big race?  

Stay Gray, Photo via Lululemon

Stay Gray, Photo via Lululemon

"I volunteered for a race last year. I was positioned right at the starting line. The energy was insane and I was so hyped. You would have thought I was running the race. I told myself I would train and be on the starting line next year. Throughout my training, I learned that it is truly mental. You can do it - you really can. Believe in yourself! Being among positive runners/people helps a lot too. Also, don't doubt or compare yourself to other runners. It is your race and the feeling that comes over you when you're coming up on the finish line is like no other. You got this!" - Stacey Gray


"12 years ago, running 1 mile was difficult for me, but it didn’t stop me from eventually reaching my goal of running long distance. When I run the Philly half this month, it’ll be a celebration of how far I’ve come. There’s so much advice out there for first-timers training for big races. Everyone has input on speedwork, tempo runs, fueling, etc. However, when it’s pouring rain on a long run, or an hour on the treadmill is dragging, then what? Not every workout will be easy or great. Over several months, I’ve learned to be dedicated to workouts, but have fun with them! Try running with friends to get coffee or hike a new trail. If you’re racing shorter distances during training, try 5K color or costume runs. Anything that switches up the usual routine will help keep you interested and makes the time put in go by easier. During the hard runs when you want to quit (there may a few), remember why you love running in the first place, and think of how great it’ll feel to cross that finish line. That sense of accomplishment is so worth it." - Mimi Reitano


I have learned that I can do anything if I work hard enough and want it badly enough.
— Sharon Ulak
Sharon Ulak, Photo via Facebook

Sharon Ulak, Photo via Facebook

"I ran my first half marathon on October 31, 2015.  At that time, I had zero interest in running a full marathon, ever.  I constantly told people I'd never run a marathon, and running my first half didn't change my opinion in any way.  Then I ran the Philly Half Marathon three weeks later, and at the end of that race, I knew I wanted to run a marathon in 2017.  As a person who spent most of her life angry when forced to run any amount of distance, it was a pretty surreal moment in my life when I voluntarily paid to run 26.2 miles. I have learned that I am much stronger than I ever knew.  I have also learned that I am not happy unless I am truly challenging myself.  The marathon is one of my biggest challenges to date, and I feel an incredible sense of fulfillment from the whole training process.  Most importantly, I have learned that I can do anything if I work hard enough and want it badly enough.  I've learned that anyone can do extraordinary things when they put their minds to it.  I hope that when people see my story, it will inspire them to take that chance and do something crazy. " Sharon Ulak


"I registered for the marathon a week after having my first baby. I had no idea how recovery would be but I wanted to set a goal for myself. I signed up because running is the best (and often, only) "me time" I can get. Having a race on the calendar helped make sure I got my foot out the door. Also, for a few runs a week, it's my social time! It has been great training alongside with many friends for this race. I'm also running this marathon to set an example for my daughter. I want to show her the importance of goal setting and living a healthy lifestyle. Training for a marathon with an infant is not easy so I hope it will show her that if you work hard, you can do anything you set your mind to. I know my daughter won't realize these things now, but I know she will in the future. I have learned so much about myself during this training cycle. The most important being that I am stronger than I ever thought I was! I have not crossed the finish line yet, but I feel that I have already accomplished so much." MaryBeth Gillian 


Rachel Brown, photo via Instagram

Rachel Brown, photo via Instagram

"I never thought I would run 2 miles without stopping, let alone sign up for a marathon. I knew I had to start slow. Wednesday City Fit Girls runs started to become the most consistent events on my calendar. It was a commitment I made to myself, my friends and my goals. My mileage slowly increased and I knew I was ready for a big jump. After running several half marathons, I took the plunge and signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon with friends. Do it for yourself. Run with friends if it motivates you, but this is your race! Oh, and eat all the donuts!" - Rachel Brown


"I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon for a few reasons - partially because I had conquered the 25k distance and wanted a new distance challenge, and partially because my friends were doing it... running FOMO is real! Marathon training, on top of working full time and grad school, hasn't been easy. I've passed on many happy hours, I haven't seen non-running friends in weeks (or months!), and I'm constantly exhausted. It will all be worth it though when I cross the finish line on November 20th. My best advice is to find some pals and arrange your weekends around long runs. I would have never made it through the miles and miles of training runs without an awesome group of lady runners." - Katie Fox


Na Seemah (left), photo via Takia M.

Na Seemah (left), photo via Takia M.

"After completing the Broad Street Run (2016) for the first time in that cold windy rain, I was confident I could push myself to do almost anything. Completing such a task in unexpected conditions banished any form of  self-doubt I've once had. I'm consistently called crazy & absolutely insane when I mention distance running by all my non-running friends and family, but the congratulations, hi-fives, &  smiles I'm met with when sharing my 5,10,15 mile-runs was all the support I needed. The running community has embraced me with open arms and that is priceless compared to the discrimination I'm faced with in other settings. The running community motivated me to sign up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon. The camaraderie amongst those who you don't know or have anything in common with besides running is truly something special. - Na Seemah


"I've only been running for a little over 2 years now after being nonathletic my entire life. Running has made me feel stronger and more capable than anything I've done. When I started, I never expected to run more than a 5K, but the more I did it, the more I fell in love.  So, I signed up for a 10K, then a 10 miler, then a half marathon but a full was still something that I thought was beyond my reach.  I went to cheer friends on at the Philadelphia Marathon last year and the vibe was so incredible that I knew that I had to do it. I signed up the day that registration opened. Training has been very tough. Matter of fact, it may be the hardest thing that I have ever done. I am currently bouncing back from a minor injury/setback, so the race might be a little more challenging than I anticipated, but, I will cross the finish line!" - Julia McDevitt


No one can tell you exactly what is right for you. It is all an experiment leading up to one final experiment of 26.2
— Katy Frank
Katy Frank (right), photo via Darren Burton

Katy Frank (right), photo via Darren Burton

"Since the 2011 Boston Marathon, I have been thinking about running a marathon. I never thought I would actually sign up for one. While cheering on all of my friends at the Philadelphia Marathon in 2015, I knew that I needed to be running the course in 2016. Training has actually been almost enjoyable with the help of friends. We have explored new parts of the city, which has saved me from burning out on "the Loop" in Philadelphia. The biggest thing I have learned is that all of our bodies are different. Fueling and recovery require testing out what works for you. No one can tell you exactly what is right for you. It is all an experiment leading up to one final experiment of 26.2." Katy Frank


"I joked when I signed up for the marathon that I was doing it out of FOMO because several of my City Fit Girls friends were doing it. Although this isn’t entirely false it was more that I knew if I was ever going to run a marathon I’d want to (and needed to) train with an encouraging and motivating community. The girls that I run with and I have bonded over being sore and tired, but have also celebrated each other along the way. Plus you really get to learn a lot about each other during those long runs. It’s pretty common knowledge that making friends as an adult is hard. So I guess you could say making friends has also been a motivator for running this marathon. Finding a great running community like City Fit Girls has helped- a year ago when I moved to Philly I didn’t know a single person, now I’ve made some really great friends AND I’m running a marathon. These two things both seemed so daunting a year ago, but I now realize are so much more achievable than I ever thought possible." Danielle DeWeese


"Last year, I started law school and worried that I would no longer have the time or energy required to run on a regular basis.  To try to keep myself to continue running, I set a goal to run ten half-marathons during my time in law school.  By the time I had finished my first year of law school, I had completed six-half marathons, and I was ready for the next challenge – the full marathon.  So I decided to sign up for the Philadelphia Marathon. Training for a full marathon while being a full-time law student with a multitude of commitments outside of attending classes has been difficult.  To make matters more difficult, I have been training alone, as I currently live in New York City. I look forward to stepping up to that start line, surrounded by a great running community, and running the *best* 26.2 miles of my life!" - Cara Kaplan


Kiera Smalls is the Co-Founder of City Fit Girls. She also works full-time at Bicycle Transit Systems as one of the marketing managers for Indego bike share. Kiera is passionate about helping women reach their fitness and weight loss goals, especially beginners.