Sarah Feist
"Before" shot of Sarah Feist from November 2011, left, paired with photo of Sarah from August 2015 at the Go Far Woman half marathon in Fargo, N.D. (Submitted)

Sarah Feist participated in the Soutehrn Hills Spring Triathlon in Hot Springs, S.D., on September 5, 2015. (Submitted)

Sarah triumphantly crosses the finish line of the Go Far Woman half marathon at Scheels Arena in Fargo on August 22, 2015. (Submitted)

In August, I ran my first half marathon at the Go Far Woman event at Scheels Arena in Fargo. I can tell you without a doubt that crossing the finish line was one of the proudest moments of my life. The Kroll's Diner Bismarck Marathon was held last month with the scenic route crossing through Bismarck and Mandan. If you had a chance to attend, you would have noticed races provide an electric excitement for runners, supporters and spectators.

Growing up, I considered myself an athlete, but running drills were dreaded and I never considered myself a "real" runner. Fast forward to adulthood, when I found myself overweight and out of shape. In 2013, I decided to take control of my life and change things around for myself. I began running in an effort to manage my weight. And by "began" running, I mean I couldn't even run a mile, or five minutes for that fact, at a time. I went from totally sedentary and obese to completing a half marathon (as well as two sprint triathlons, two marathon relays and a 10K run). I am here to tell you that you can do it, too!

The running world can seem daunting and overwhelming to a newbie, so I'm sharing a few tips that took me from couch surfer to half-marathon finisher.

Build a base and have a plan

As a newbie, running any length of time might seem impossible, but not if you take the time to build up your base. There are many training plans available online. Some great ones include Couch to 5K plan, Run Walk Run Jeff Galloway method, or simply Google for training plans. Having a plan will keep you on track and motivated. I felt a sense of achievement each time I checked a box off on my training schedule. Bismarck-Mandan has great parks and trails for practice.

Lean on friends and family

The reason I began training for a half marathon was simply because a friend asked and encouraged me. Although we are separated by distance, we routinely checked in with each other for support and, at times, to commiserate about our sore muscles. If your partner runs, join him or her and make it a family event by taking the kids outdoors. These people will be your biggest cheerleaders and hold you accountable.

Time commitment

There is no doubt training for a race demands a time commitment. Factor your runs into your daily schedule just like it is an appointment. I prefer to run in the morning, to avoid family time and be energized for my work day. I typically did my long runs on the weekend when I had more time. Work your way up to a half marathon by scheduling in some 5K or 10K runs. The experience and finish line will give you a glimpse to what the big day will be like.


Make sure you have your practice runs in a variety of weather conditions. I ran when it was cold, raining, humid and sunny. I tried to stay away from running in the wind, as it is my least favorite type of weather. Guess what happened on race day? Yep, 25 mph winds. The weather definitely affected me, but I could have been more prepared by practicing in the wind. This also goes for mixing up your running routes with hills and multiple types of terrain.


You might be surprised by all the numbers that can go into running: everything from measuring distance, miles per hour, splits, the costs of gear, monitoring nutrition, cross training and more. As a beginner, I encourage you to just get running down before you worry too much about pace. Running can be a very expensive sport, and I found all you truly need is a good pair of shoes and the determination to get started. You'll figure out more as you gain experience along the way.


The tricky part about race day is so many factors are out of your hands -- so stay consistent with training in advance of the big day. I encourage you to lace up and get outside or hit the treadmill this winter. You might surprise yourself, just like I surprised myself. I promise that adrenaline rush crossing the finish line is worth your effort.

Please note: Be sure to check with a doctor before beginning any new physical training plan or changing your diet.

Sarah Feist is a lifelong North Dakotan who lives in Hazen. She blogs about her passion for food, travel, exercise and more at