Coach's Corner - The Half Marathon

 TRAINING FOR A HALF MARATHON

 As road running enjoys a revival with more and more people dusting off their trainers and taking to the roads, so too is the half-marathon enjoying a resurgence. Where, a few years ago, half-marathons were in decline, there are now new ones appearing while the longer established ones go from strength to strength.

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The half-marathon remains a significant challenge for many runners, but whilst the distance still requires a commitment to training and preparation, it should be within the capabilities of most.

Training for half-marathon is not unlike training for any other distance: it requires a few basic elements:

  • a staged training programme that incorporates the appropriate weekly mileage and long runs;
  • adequate rest and recovery;
  • nutrition.

Staged Training Programme:

If you do not yet have an established training programme that will prepare you for a 13.1 mile race, start planning a schedule now.

To race 13.1 miles you should aim to build up your weekly mileage to a minimum of at least 30 (more if you are aiming for a sub 1hr 30mins time) and a long run of at least 10 miles, but preferably 13 miles.

An outline schedule for a first timer might look a bit like this:

 

Sun

Mon

Tues

Wed

Thur

Fri

Sat

Total

Type of run

Long/Slow

Recovery

Steady

 

Steady

Gentle

 

 

Week 1

5

2

2

Rest

3

2

Rest

14

Week 2

6

2

3

Rest

3

2

Rest

16

Week 3

7

2

3

Rest

4

2

Rest

18

Week 4

8

3

3

Rest

4

2

Rest

20

Week 5

9

3

4

Rest

4

2

Rest

22

Week 6

10

3

4

Rest

5

2

Rest

24

Week 7

11

3

5

Rest

5

2

Rest

26

Week 8

12

3

5

Rest

6

2

Rest

28

Week 9

13

3

5

Rest

7

2

Rest

30

Week 10

6

3

3

Rest

3

Rest

Rest

15

Week 11

Race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long, slow run: well below expected race pace

Recovery: relaxed, gentle pace

Steady: at, or just below, race pace

Gentle: 20-25% below race pace (e.g. expected race pace 8 min miles – gentle pace would be 9:36 to 10:00 minute mileing).

Of course there are many adaptations that can be made to this, such as training on fewer days, in which case daily mileage would need to be adjusted and/or training spread over more weeks. However, the basic principles are the same and a training schedule should include a steady, graduated build up in both weekly mileage and long runs and must include adequate rest and recovery periods, particularly in the week before the race.

For more experienced runners, the schedule can be more challenging and include additional elements, such as speed, fartlek or hill sessions. Mileage will be increased and rest periods may be reduced. Again, here is an example, which assumes that the runner is already running around 25 to 30 miles a week and is incorporating long runs of at least 10 miles.

 

Sun

Mon

Tues

Wed

Thur

Fri

Sat

Total

Week 1

10 - LSD

3 - R

5 - F

3 - R

4 - S

3 - G

Rest

28

Week 2

12 - LSD

3 - R

4 - Sp

3 - R

5 - S

3 - G

Rest

30

Week 3

12 - LSD

4 - R

5 - H

3 - R

5 - S

3 - G

Rest

32

Week 4

13 - LSD

4 - R

5 - Sp

3 - R

5 - S

4 - G

Rest

34

Week 5

13 - LSD

4 - R

6 - F

3 - R

6 - S

4 - G

Rest

36

Week 6

14 - LSD

5 - R

6 - Sp

3 - R

6 - S

4 - G

Rest

38

Week 7

14 - LSD

5 - R

6 - H

3 - R

7 - S

5 - G

Rest

40

Week 8

15 - LSD

5 - R

6 - Sp

3 - R

8 - S

5 - G

Rest

42

Week 9

15 - LSD

5 - R

6 - Sp

3 - R

10 - S

6 - G

Rest

45

Week 10

7 - LSD

4 - G

5 - S

Rest

4 - G

Rest

Rest

20

Week 11

Race

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LSD – Long Slow Distance

R – Recovery

F – Fartlek

H – Hills

Sp – Speed session (faster than race pace, on track or road)

S – Steady (at or just below race pace)

G – Gentle (below race pace)

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Rest and Recovery

Do not underestimate the importance of rest and recovery Tired muscles need the opportunity to replenish energy stores and to build new muscle. A lack of adequate rest and recovery will lead to tiredness, under-performance and is often a cause of injury.

In the week before a major race it is important to ease right back on training and to allow your body to build up essential supplies of muscle glycogen (the fuel for running). Overtraining in the last week will not improve your race performance and is more likely to hinder it. Do not be tempted to throw in that extra run or try to make up for runs missed in previous weeks. It will be counter productive and, at this late stage, will do nothing to enhance performance.

Nutrition

Lots can be said about racing and nutrition, but for now we just need to consider a few basic points.

Throughout the training schedule, aim for a balanced diet, containing carbohydrates, protein and fats. Adequate amounts of fat are available in any normal diet, but avoid excessively fatty foods, such as fried foods. Carbohydrates are readily available in foods such as pasta, rice, bread and potatoes – wholemeal products are best.

Don’t forget fluids, as it is important to remain adequately hydrated. Avoid fizzy and/or sugary drinks as well as excessive alcohol.

On the day before the race, eat sensibly and avoid foods that are difficult to digest – do not have a large meal late in the evening.

On race day, have a light breakfast – tea/coffee and toast or cereal – at least 3 to 4 hours before the race. Avoid a full cooked breakfast – you could regret it. Take every opportunity to keep hydrated. Drink water – little and often is good practice.

The Race

Don't go off too fast and keep within your target pace. If all works well you may find that with 3 or 4 miles to go you are feeling strong and then is the time to pick up the pace – carefully.

A steady paced run is ideal, but don't worry too much if you are slowed down in a mass start. When the field thins out you will be able to pick up the pace – but, again, don't get carried away. Keep an eye on the watch and listen to your body.

GOOD LUCK!

 

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