7 TRAINING TIPS FOR FIRST TIME HALF MARATHON RUNNERS
1. Build a base
2. Pick a training plan
3. Think quality over quantity
5. Find a training group
6. Research the race
Thad McLaurin, in an Active.com piece, lays out great advice for runners wanting to run a half-marathon, some of which has been discussed and incorporated into the Earned Runs training plans (tips listed above).
The NUMBER 1 tip is to “build a base”. This is language that would be familiar to high school or college cross-country team runners! Typically the coach recommends a summer running program in which team members accumulate hundreds of miles over the school break in preparation for the fall season. The purpose of running these miles is to build a strong aerobic foundation or “base” on which the later drills can build speed.
If you're interested in learning more, Runner’s World has an article that more fully explains how base-building miles should be run (80% of miles run slower than race pace but faster than recovery pace; 20% run at higher intensity). It also makes the point that wintertime is a great opportunity to build a base for the summer race season, for those of us not in school.
In base-building to prepare for a half marathon training program, McLaurin advises runners to have a longest run of run at least 5 miles distance or a weekly mileage of 15-20 miles. If you are following the EarnedRuns™ “SAINTS DAYS” Plan you will have completed a long run of 5 miles distance by the end of WEEK 4 (February 13 if you did not run a 5K that day) and run a week’s total of 16 miles by the end of WEEK 6 (February 27). So you have been in the process of building a base for half marathon training!!!
IF YOU WISH TO USE THE “SAINTS DAYS” PLAN AS A BASE BUILDER FOR AN UPCOMING half marathon and NOT as a lead-up to a best time for a 10K race, skip the “taper” process of WEEKS 8-9 (the taper calls for decreasing mileage in the 1-2 weeks leading-up to a race). Instead, repeat the WEEK 7 schedule those weeks, in which you run 17 miles total.
In the meantime, search for a half marathon race about 12-16 weeks later and find a plan that suits this timeframe (the NUMBER 2 tip). Many longer distance races offer a free plan to participants. Such plans won’t’ necessarily fit YOUR schedule. McLaurin suggests and explains (the NUMBER 3 tip) how to “think quality over quantity” by choosing a plan with 2 base maintenance runs + 1 “mid-week tempo run” + 1 “weekend long run”. This is great advice to help you evaluate the various plans.
The remaining tips are worthwhile reminders that there is more to training than just plain running! There should be strength/cross training and rest days in a good plan.
I enjoy reading these kinds of articles because there is always a nugget of information that is new, or that finally I am recognizing as important, and because they reinforce principles of training that I need encouragement to follow. In more than 40 years of running/competing, there is always something more to know!
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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