How to approach a Half Marathon
I love the half marathon, when I say that people tend to think I mean it’s easy, on the contrary, it’s not easy, I love it because it is very challenging.
21.1km is a long way to run…the half requires training, and a good mental attitude, but the thing I respect about it is, that if you do the very best you can and give it your all then you will complete it, running all the way.
The marathon, on the other hand requires you to give it you’re best as well, but then it always asks for a little bit more and unfortunately you don’t know what more it wants from you...so the unknown is a very scary thing…but that is another tip for another day.
The Half marathon however, only asks for the best, and everyone has their best to give.
I approach the half from this point of view;
If I had a 5km running base it would take a 25 week training program
If I had a 10km base a 20 week training program
Sounds like a long program, but I allow for things to go wrong, not in a negative way but a positive way. If are unwell, or suffer an injury or you need to go away for a week and not sure if you can run…its fine, you have plenty of time to play catch up in 20 weeks
I would not start a training program for a half marathon from a non running base
I think new runners should just learn to run, get to a 5km base and then stick with it for about 3 months, enter some fun runs and get used to the whole notion of running.
Then after 3-6months (and only if you want to) start gradually increasing your distances by 10% or half a km a week (not every run) until you get to the wonderful benchmark in running, the 10km. Then enter some fun runs and work on your 10km. In the second year of running, then you could set your sights on a half marathon…if that is your goal
Ok but back to half marathons
You have been running for more than a year and you want to do a half
Start Training then
Follow a good safe program, join a club (Lazy Runner Clubs) and do your long runs as a group, or see if you can rope a friend in to join you..or there are lots of online training programs you can follow now
Run 3 or 4 times a week, with a day off in between each run
Your program should include
*One long slow, steady run a week, increasing weekly or fortnightly until up to 18-20 km (you do not need to run a half marathon in training before you run your half marathon, what’s the point??)
*One 10km good paced run for you, so no dilly dallying on this one, find your best 10km time and always go out trying to match it or beat it, a negative split is handy as well.
*One speed session, best to join a Lazy Runner for this, so much easier to do this with a group and a coach.So its fast stuff over shorter distances with recovery, these sessions are usually about 5km in distance but really hard work
*One session should be on a different course, so cross country, trail running or a hilly course or one DWR session, or if you only want to run 3 days a week, do some other form of cross training exercise, so walking, cycling, swimming, fitness class etc
Each of your sessions should be different, don’t get stuck into a rut thinking every run has to be long, that will not improve your speed or fitness or your running in general, it more than likely will make you tired and give you a higher risk of injury.
The half marathon program would probably start with a weekly km tally of 20km and build up to 40-50kms in the last few weeks
The Half Marathon
I love the half as I mentioned, on saying that though I haven’t loved every half I have run, I have finished them all, but some have been nicer to me than others.
You will have found with your running already, that bad runs seemed to be built in to your internal program, you never know when they are going to strike or in what form, but they do, with maddening regularity.
I say I have one bad run about every 8 to 10…on a bright note, I am always pretty pleased at the end of a bad run as I know it won’t be back for a while.
Often there is no rhyme or reason but sometimes there is, heat, a tough course, overtrained, something you ate, hormonal, who knows? but it happens, and you have to deal with it, push through to the and think ‘that was a bad run’
I pray that it doesn’t happen on race day, but of course it has. I have run 10 marathons and 3 were just horrid…same person (me) same fitness levels, not bad courses, same training regime and 3 bad runs…I still shudder when I think of them. I have probably done about 20 halfs and I would say 2 of those were bad. But don’t worry I’ve done 10km runs that have gutted me…so as I say no rhyme or reason…but I do know that I have to bounce back quickly and put it way behind me in the bad run pile or I would just throw the shoes away forever if I didn’t
I digress …back to the Half Marathon!
I am a real thinker with my running; I don’t enter a race and just follow Joe Blogs around the course in a daydream and hope to goodness I finish. I think, I plan, I scheme…I talk to myself, I keep an eye on everything going on a round me…I am so on the ball out there. I figure I’ve paid good money to run on this course for 21.1km and I’m getting my moneys worth
This is how my half marathons go down
At the start, I try to position myself in between the pacers, with my dream time I want to do written on the balloon in front of me, and the time I can do written on the balloon behind me.
Now not all pacers are the same, some are terrible so I don’t pin all my hopes to their wagons, but I just keep them there as a reference. If I get close to them I try to have a little chat to make sure they know what they are doing and what their race plan is, it doesn’t gel with mine, I just let them go and do my own thing. But if they seem to know what they are doing, I stick with them because sometimes they are fantastic
I start steady, get my bearings, have a chat, and try to settle down the nerves and my running. Once I get to one km, I try to settle into the pace I want to do for the rest of the race, or a good part of it.
No I don’t have a garmin or ipod talking to me and telling me constantly what pace and time I am doing. I have my watch and my gut and that serves me well.
Years of running has taught me what pace I can settle to and run a race in. If I’m out of my pace I struggle, if I’m running too slow or cant get a break I stress out, so I just like to sit in a pace that is right for me…that really is the basis for long distance running, find your pace that you can use and stay there, until your reassess your pace (more on that later)
When I am running on my usual training course, I usually know my landmarks, they are the things I focus on, pace my self on and count down. So if I’m feeling ok I may lift my pace slightly for one km (to my next known landmark) if I’m feeling crap I may say ok I will slow down for one km (next landmark) and then reassess when I get to it.
In a half marathon, if there are one km markers I use them if not I use the drinks stations, I treat the drinks stations as little rewards. I tell myself, ok try this pace and see how you feel at the next drink station.
I always take a drink, even if I am not thirsty, even if it’s the first drink station, even if it’s just to wet my lips and throw it away, I always pick up a cup. A few reasons for this; the drinks stations are good distractions, there is always a lots of activity going on around them and you have to focus and it takes your mind off running; a mouthful of water can have an amazingly good effect on a the body and the mind, it just seems to lift you a bit; and in the past I have often ran past a drink station and not taken a cup about 300metres up the road have been filled with regret and really feel like something, so don’t have any regrets, take a drink. It will not hurt and it can really help.
Then after that drink station, I reassess again, how do I feel, can I keep this pace to the next drink station...if the answer is yes, its yippee, if no then I go through my reassessment checklist, what is the problem?
Is it the legs? Check my stride length, slow down,
Is it my breathing? Blow out all the dead air in three long slow breaths and then start again
Am I just stuffed? Check my posture, I am swinging about too much, moving too much in my upper body, shake it out and slow it down
Is my head not in it? I ask why, give myself a pep talk, distract myself, check out everyone around me, focus on what’s in front of me, where I am going what is around the next corner, and talk to someone
I usually find I’m at the next drink station by this and I have a drink and ready for a new assessment…as you can see plenty to think about
My favourite place to be in a half marathon is halfway of a half!.
Once you turn or see that magic 11km mark that’s when the good talk begins.
Many runners get to the halfway and say, ‘Oh no now I have to get all the away back’, or ‘I’m only half way through, it’s such a long way to go back’
I say ‘Yahhhh, I’m on the home stretch’ or ‘every step now is a step back not a step away’ or ‘every drinks station or one km marker is a count down not a count up’
See the difference between the talk…it’s a celebration to be halfway
Another way to look at it is, I’ve just run 11km, that’s over, ticked off my list
Now I am in 10km race, restart, refocus, 10km is easy for me, I run it all them time.
So it is not 21.1km anymore it is only a 10km run
I really focus more on the reassessments on the back half, because the race is getting shorter, have I more to give?…I don’t want to just settle...this is the make or break part of the race...can I lift a little and see what difference it makes...just to the next drink station of course!
I keep this up and when I am at 18km, this is another make or break part of the half marathon…18km is a long way, and it is understandable to feel tired and just over it…I have had enough, I want it to be over, just finish already…Ok what about this talk 3km to go…this is what goes on in my head…
’3 km is nothing to me, if someone told me to run 3km I would laugh at them…I am still running so that is good, I have already run 18km so the worst is well and truly over, some people are starting to walk, but I’m still running, I am passing those people, I wonder how many people I can pass from now until the finish, Ok here goes 1…2…3…’
1 km to go is bittersweet, you know in your head and your heart that is not very far at all yet your body is screaming at you and wanting it to be over now….
‘Come on there is no going back now, if you can run 20km then you can give one more, you are going to finish this race, you know you are…so its just a choice now of how well…you may be feeling dead but you are not, so lets pretend how well you are, straighten up, run tall, look straight ahead, focus on what’s in front, blow out your dead air, long slow breaths, you are preparing yourself for a big finish…it wont be long now til you can hear the crowds at the finish line, don’t let them see you looking crap, let them think you are doing it easy..SMILE, even if you don’t feel happy there is something about a smile that makes you feel better, start looking along the sidelines for your friends, family or Lazy Runners, wave if you see them, distract yourself with pleasing all your fans!’
Before you know it you see the finish line…what an incredible moment, I always say, you can run to what you can see, so there is no stopping now, you have to run to it and over it… Its amazing what you remember when you look back on a running event you have been in, and it is always the finish, if you have a bad finish, you have bad thoughts and feelings about that event, if you have good finish that race seems to be remembered fondly by you…remember you have a choice as to how you finish...good or bad…make it good...run tall, smile wave, sprint to the line…you do have a choice so make the right one.
Yahhhh you have done it, its over you have given it your best and run a half marathon…Well Done