Half marathons are becoming the fastest growing road race distance. We caught up with Joe Muldowney, a competitive runner and coach, to find out how a beginner should tackle half marathon training.
Why Run Half Marathons?
Running is a positive addiction. Most runners begin their running journey by preparing to complete a race, which, in many cases turns out to be the popular 5K distance. But the addictive nature of running soon compels a novice runner to seek out longer distance races.
As a runner moves up the distance ladder, half marathons becomes a compelling, attainable goal. For some, it is the next logical step before tackling the marathon; while for others, it is a means of focusing on longer distance goals that may result in faster 5km and 10km times.
How to Plan Your Half Marathon Training
The key to running successful half marathons is proper preparation and a training plan.
A good starting point is to count back eleven weeks from your race. This allows you ten weeks of training, and a final week of tapering.
You will successfully cross the line by utilizing an every-other day half marathon training plan. Train four days a week. One of those days should consist of a faster interval workout (alternate fast running with jogging or walking) on the track or a tempo workout (continuous run with an easy beginning, a build up in the middle, then ease back to the finish) on the road. During these workouts, you will simulate race conditions at shorter distances.
The most important workout for you at the half marathon distance is your weekly long run.
If you are a beginner, your weekly “long” run may consist of a distance of 5-kilometers at the beginning of your half marathon training period. Each week, you should gradually increase your long run distance until you reach about 15-16-kilometers by week nine of the training period. From there, you should taper down your distance in order to be fresh for race day.
Preparing for Long Runs
Preparation for your weekly long run is as essential as preparation for the race itself. Follow these preparation tips to get the most out of your long run:
- Take the day off before and after your long run, and make your long run count by attempting to run it within a minute of the goal time you have set for yourself in the half marathon.
- Avoid alcohol or excessive caffeine the day and night before your long run, as these beverages dehydrate the body.
- Hydration is very important. Drink a lot of water the day before your long run, and try to remain hydrated during your long run. You can do so by wearing a hydration belt, or by using my old school method of planting water bottles along your route.
- The body heats up quickly, especially on a long run, so if the weather forecast calls for hot weather try to get out early, before the temperatures rise to oppressive levels.
It is not necessary to run longer than the half marathon distance in preparation for your race. If you can successfully complete a 15km training run, you will be ready to race. Remember, on race day, you will be rested, your adrenaline will be pumping, and the crowd of runners will pull you along.
The half marathon is a great race distance. It will challenge you and push you to your running limits. If you are prepared, you will successfully achieve your half marathon goal.
About Joe Muldowney
Joe Muldowney is an accomplished runner who has been involved in competitive long distance running for 40 years. His vast experience has enabled him to coach several running teams and he now provides a one-on-one coaching service.
During his running career he has run 54 marathons, 51 of which have been under 3 hours. His best marathon time is 2:22:54, and, at age 57, he ran the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon in a time of 2:58:56. The Boston Marathon is a particular favourite – he has completed this an impressive 16 times. Marathons aside, he has run more than 1000 road races, and logged over 123,000 miles.
Joe is also the author of the book “Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes” and his latest book is, “Personal Best.”
To find out more about Joe Muldwoney, you can visit his blog.