Half Marathon training starts in three weeks and I thought it might be worth a few reminders just in case it has been a while since your last half marathon / this is your first one. This photo from Great Birmingham Run 2017, how time flies!
Build up Slowly
If you want to run an Autumn half marathon you really need to get into the habit / get used to running at least three times a week. We start half marathon training on 7 August with a six mile run but you should already feel comfortable at that distance. Ideally you run at least three times a week with weekly mileage between 15 and 20 miles. That way if we increase the long run by 1 or 2 miles it is about 10% increase on your total mileage. Increasing too much too quickly is the single biggest injury factor.
Take the long runs slowly
Your longer runs should be at a steady, conversational pace. This will help improve your stamina as well as keeping injury risk to a minimum. If your aim is to improve your half marathon time then work on pace at different sessions during the week. A word of caution here. If it’s a while since you ran these longer distances and you are not used to intervals / speedwork avoid suddenly adding these and long runs to your schedule. That will put intense strain on your body. Better to focus on endurance for your half marathon and maybe focus on speed at another time using 5k or 10k events to measure your progress.
Have a plan
Get yourself a plan. I can help you text Helyn on 07788 628755 but there are lots online for you to look at. Be realistic. It needs to fit around your work and life. Schedule your runs onto your planner and try to stick to them but don’t run if you are in pain! Best to skip a week and get to the start slightly less fit but not injured. Be realistic about your goals. If it’s 2 years since your last half marathon, you only ran sporadically during various lockdowns and you’ve put on half a stone you’re unlikely to hit a PB! Set a goal that you can achieve based on where you’re at now and how much time you can dedicate to training. Enjoy getting fitter and the pleasure of taking part in an event again.
Sort Kit / Fuel / Hydration
The most important thing with your gear, food and fluid intake is to practise all of it during training. I have arranged a 20% week at Sutton Runner for week commencing 6th September so hopefully that will be time enough to sort new trainers and other gear for your Autumn events. Comfort is key and remember the conditions are likely to change during September so while you may train in warm dry weather by October it might be cool and wet.
Any additional training load puts a strain on the body so please support your training by eating well. Think about eating a good balanced diet all the time and not just the week before race day! Hydration is really key. Training on a hangover, after a long day in the office / car / on Teams will leave you feeling dehydrated and tired. Look after yourself. Long runs require fuel so that means a good meal the night before and carbs for breakfast. I think oats are hard to beat, granola, muesli, porridge because they are easy to digest and release energy slowly. After running you need protein to help restore and repair. The best advice I got was high protein yoghurt with fruit and as soon as you can after the run. If you are getting very tired and moody have a good look at your post race fuel – are you leaving it too long?
For a half marathon you may not need too much fuel during the event itself. Generally speaking if you are eating well you can exercise for 90 minutes. Assuming you will take longer than that then you will need something to carry you over but it doesn’t need to be masses! Everyone reaches for sports gels but they don’t suit everyone. It is really critical to practise on your longer runs. The worst part of a half marathon can be miles 7 to 10. At 10 you get a lift knowing you only have 5k to go! So you need something to carry you up to 10 and something to carry you to the end. A few sips of sports drink / strong squash might be enough for you. For a half marathon two gels maximum is all you need. Either way practise, practise, practise!
This is one of those “Do as i say” moments rather than “Do as I do”. Strength training is really important for runners as it helps to maintain your form on longer runs, keeps you running more efficiently and protects from injury. I don’t do enough and constantly battling injury niggles as a result. Don’t be like me incorporate some strength training into your schedule. I found these great workouts on Runners World which you can do from home. https://www.runnersworld.com/uk/home-workouts/
If strength training is really not your thing then please make sure you at least mix your training up with cross training. Time on the bike, swimming, yoga, pilates are all excellent for runners as they help keep you fit, develop strength and flexibility but without the repetitive impact.
Final reminder. It’s been a while since we got to take part in events so let’s take time to appreciate and enjoy. Let’s enjoy having a goal that makes us go and train even when we really don’t want to. Let’s enjoy running with our friends as the seasons roll and Autumn creeps in. Let’s make the most of being able to have a massive coffee / slice of cake / both without feeling too guilty! Let’s settle in for the big Saturday afternoon snooze. I didn’t think I missed standing at the start line in a fug of stale running gear, adrenaline and high notes of Deep Heat but perhaps it will be good to be there again. Let’s be grateful that we can look forward to this in 2021 and enjoy it together SE Fitness.