Training for your first half marathon? Our coaching team from Running With Us share their top tips to help you get started and prepared for the big day!
Build a firm base
Harder is not always better. Easy running builds your aerobic capacity and increases capillary density. Embrace the speed of chat (being able to run and hold a conversation) and aim to build up bigger blocks of continuous running with a planned run/walk strategy if needed. If you are running so fast that you can't hold a conversation you are running too hard to build up your base fitness.If needed, consider a planned walk and run strategy (for example, run five mins and then walk five mins, run 10 mins and walk three mins) reducing walking breaks as the weeks progress. When you're up to 30 mins continuous running or you have completed a 5k, look to start following a half marathon beginners plan 12 weeks from race day.
Top tip: Focus your weekly long run towards a conversational pace.
Work in time and effort and don't always fixate on distance and paces. Your body is not a machine and it is normal to feel stronger on some days than others. Therefore, don’t set yourself up to fail with mileage and pace targets that are unrealistic, especially if you're tired. Use your GPS as a guide and keep a casual eye on pace but make focusing on time and your effort the main priority.
Top tip: Choose exciting routes and love every run.
Push the Threshold
Heard of interval training? Go for it! Make sure that the sessions you do are suited to the half marathon though. 10 x 1 minute busting a gut is hard but will be gearing you up to run a better 5km, rather than a half marathon. The pros use threshold every week and we want you to do the same… it works!In a 30-45 minute run try incorporating some of these interval sessions:
- 3 x 5 mins with 2 min recovery
- 6 x 4 mins with 90 secs recovery
- 5 x 5 mins with 2 min recovery
- 3 x 8 mins with 2 min recovery
Try to build up to doing 3 x 10 mins in the final weeks of half marathon prep. Everyone can progress to this level if you build the threshold a little each week and are consistent in training.
Top tip: Include a weekly session running longer ‘reps’ at a ‘threshold’ effort of about 8 out of 10.
Time to Grow
To progress you need to heal and recover. Busy work and home lives impact on your body as much as your training, so even if you are only running 3-4 times a week make sure that you focus on quality rest and recovery! Sleep is an important part of recovery. Even an extra 30 minutes can make a big difference to your progression, particularly as the long runs go further and the sessions get tougher.
To help you kick start the recovery process, drink a Recovery Drink that contains both carbohydrate and protein after any harder and longer runs. If you are out and about, you could also have a Recovery Bar as soon as possible after your run, followed by a healthy main meal later on.
Top tip: Take a minimum of one complete rest day a week, considering cutting back your training every fourth week by roughly 30%.
Mix it Up
Many beginners find half marathon training daunting if they are unable to run continuously for extended blocks of time. Recognise the value of cross training in supporting your running programme, it will allow you to sustain more training volume without the impact.
Maintain the same time and effort levels as your running plan. This will allow you to build strength and endurance, whilst remaining injury free…
Top tip: Cross trainers, rowing machines and aqua jogging can supplement your running and even replace sessions if you are injured.
Bridge the Gap
Don’t get daunted by the volume and the goal. Starting 12-16 weeks of training can seem like a lot so aim to break your half marathon goal down with intermediate target races.
Top tip: Enter a 5k or a parkrun four to six weeks into your plan and then a 10k three to four weeks before your target half marathon.
A half marathon can be quite a step up physically if you are not used to running continuously for 90 mins to two and a half hours. Get to know your body and include a core and strength and conditioning session a couple of times a week to help you remain injury free.
Top tip: A good sports specific physio will be able to give you an ‘MOT’ checking your posture, gait and specific areas of weakness leaving with the right exercises for you as an individual. Don’t wait until injury happens!
Think energy and hydration
Stay ahead of the game and ‘never hungry, never over full’ is often our top tip. A distance runner needs fuel and the half marathon will test you. A healthy balanced diet is essential but consider drinking an Energy Drink before your runs and take a gel regularly on your long runs and race day. A gel sipped every 20-40 minutes is ideal so practice this in training. These will give you the energy you need and also the key electrolytes to help you remain hydrated.
Top tip: Practice taking gels and Energy Drink in long training runs and carry the gels with you on race day. Find your race day half marathon nutrition plan here.