So you’ve signed up for your first half marathon (yay!) go you! It’s an exciting time and you’re ready to get pumped and prepared but whether you’re a regular runner or not it can be a little bit daunting and you are probably wondering about how best to train for the event?
Next month I’ll be doing my 3rd half marathon so I’ve been researching the best training plan to follow. There’s a lot of different advice out there but most follow the same simple framework so no matter where you’re starting from you can work your way to success! Here’s what to do.
WORK OUT A TIME FRAME
Basically how long do you have before the big day? Typically, a 12 week programme is recommended but it’s possible to prepare in 8-10 weeks if you’ve made a last minute decision, we’ve all been there!
The training plan I am following is over a 10 week period and designed for intermediate level, which means it’s suitable for those who can already run 5 miles for the first ‘weekend’ run. If you’re a beginner, you can essentially start from as little as 1-2 miles and work your way up to 11 within 12 weeks.
PLAN YOUR LONG RUNS
Each weekend you will aim to add a little more distance to your run, typically just one mile. These runs will be at a steady pace and you should aim to complete the distance no matter what time it takes. Since it requires a little more time, make sure you have properly planned when the best time to complete it is. My favourite is a Saturday morning so i can follow it with brunch!
It’s important to remember that you should never be completing the full distance during training, therefore aim to complete your longest run of around 11 miles two weeks before the event, dropping right down to just 6 miles the week before.
DON’T SKIP MID WEEK RUNS
Throughout the week, aim to complete 2 smaller distance runs. These don’t need to be any longer than 5 miles and should be used to improve your pace, by working on your speed. My favourite way to do this is with interval and tempo runs.
Interval – warm up at an easy pace or 1 mile then for the next two miles alternate between a minute of harder effort and a minute of recovery jogging. End with half a mile at an easy pace.
Tempo – do 1 mile at your normal pace then for the middle section pick up the pace to where you can only manage a few words at a time before ending the last mile at normal pace.
CROSS TRAIN/STRENGTH TRAIN
As with any form of event training, focusing too much on just a single type of exercise or activity can have a negative impact. For runners, the importance of strength training is second to none and can help prevent injury while building muscle to improve your overall performance.
Aim for at least one session per week (no more than 3) where you can get take part in a different variation of exercise. Something like pilates, yoga or even some light weight training is perfect to keeping your muscles strong as well as flexible, which is every runners dream! I love Springboard Pilates, which you can try for a week at Core Candy with their special $30 intro offer.
Be sure to listen to your body at all times, if you’re doing too much or you are worried about injury then take an extra rest day and lower the intensity.
RECORD YOUR TRAINING
You won’t know what your ideal pace is or be able to track your speed during the race if you’re not recording your training. The best way to do this is with a handy running app. At the minute I use Strava but have also used Map My Run and Nike+.
Running with a phone can be tricky so the best thing to do is get yourself a snazzy little armband pouch. It will be hard to check the time this way though so make sure you’re wearing a watch as well.
SET YOUR GOAL!
As a first timer, you’ll be achieving your personal best no matter what (woohoo!) but it’s still a good idea to aim for a time. Even if you’ll just be glad to finish, keeping pace is an important part of achieving that so you should have an idea of what speed you can maintain throughout and try to stick to it.
On race day you’ll be full of adrenalin and there’ll no doubt be a big crowd of runners in exactly the same boat so make sure you don’t get carried away and sprint off at the start in sheer excitement, it’s easily done trust me!
Remember why you signed up! To have fun right, so keep it that way.
I ran my first half marathon alone and it was no fun so when I signed up again, and again…I recruited my boyfriend or friends to join me, which makes the celebrations at the end all the more worthwhile too.
Fancy another challenge? Check out how I trained for my first triathlon here.