The running distances involved in half marathon training provides both the next challenge for those who are comfortable over 10K and can also be a good basis for people aspiring to run a marathon. If you have your sights set on running the 21K (13.1miles) of a half marathon then you should be prepared to devote a lot more time to your running than you spent on your 10K training program but the health benefits are immense.
Half marathon training involves a lot of groundwork, known as getting ‘miles in your legs’ but there will also be the variety of speed work, tempo runs and hill work. If you are considering running a half marathon, you should also spend some time doing weights in the gym and some cross training activities to avoid over-use injuries to your legs.
If your aim is to enter a half marathon event then you should expect to spend about three months in half marathon training: this is if you have been doing some running already. If you have not run for a while or you are new to running then you should go through a 5K training program and expect to do at least six months training before you run a half marathon.
What can you expect when you step up a distance?
You would have noticed a number of changes when you moved from 5K to 10K training. The same can be expected as you make the move from 10K to half marathon training. You will feel very anxious that this might be a step too far, but if you are now confidently running 10 kilometres then there is no reason why you cannot make the step towards 21K.
The first thing to point out is that you are no longer a novice. People who were surprised when you first started running will by now have accepted that you have changed your lifestyle and this progression will come as no surprise. You might be surprised, however, by the amount of respect that you have earned as a result of your endeavours.
You body shape might have also dramatically changed. When you first began running you were probably very unfit, with excess fat where it shouldn’t appear. Now, with a few months of running under your belt, you will be looking sleeker and toned. Many people find that when they make such huge changes to their lifestyle, they also kick other habits such as smoking, drinking excessively and eating junk food. This will all have an impact upon your shape and feeling of well-being.
As you begin your half marathon training, you will need to increase your food intake. You will be continuously burning in excess of 1,000 calories each training run and this will need replacing. Depending upon what time of day you run, you will need to eat more at breakfast, snack more often and eat a substantial lunchtime or evening meal.
While your proportion of carbohydrates, fats and proteins will need to stay the same, the amount you eat of each will rise substantially. And now you are running for more than 90 minutes in some of your sessions, you will need to ensure that your vitamin intake is either supplied through your diet, or complemented with vitamin pills.
Looking after the nutrition is one thing: you will also need to look after your body in structural terms. Regular sports massages are a good idea, and if you start to feel aches and pains use ice packs or cold sprays to give the muscles some help in the healing process. You are asking a lot of your body and it could use some help now and again.
Take care to wear training shoes that are up to the job. Increased weekly mileage due to your half marathon training will mean you need to replace your shoes more regularly. Talk to a shoe specialist for advice on the best type of shoe to wear.
Music as a distraction or motivation during your half marathon training will come into its own for the next few weeks. As you are pounding out the miles, a musical background that will give you something else to concentrate upon will be invaluable. Search the podcasts and apps available to choose the best tunes to run to.
The final words of advice as you take this new challenge are: ‘take it slow’. There will be a temptation to rush your program and try to get the holy grail of 21K quickly but your body will not thank you for it. Follow the program, and if you need to retrace some weeks, or slow things down, then do. And talk to other runners via the runner’s forums, they will prove immense comfort and support.