Taking on the challenge of a half marathon is a big step for a runner. It is almost seen as a watershed moment when running becomes more than a means to weight loss or a way to get healthy – it is something you are serious about.
But don’t be daunted by the challenge of half marathon training programs. Although it is more than double the distance of a 10K, it will not be double the pain. You will not always be running the full distance in your half marathon training program; most of your training will be a combination of the training methods you have been using as part of your 10K program. The one major difference will be the inclusion of one longer run a week, but this should not be viewed with fear – you are now at a stage with your running where the chance to do a relaxed, longer run will be a pleasure.
You will have all sorts of concerns and questions during your half marathon training program but don’t worry, there are hundreds and thousands of people who have made the same commitment and are facing the same dilemmas. A quick trawl through the C25K website will allow you to read other people’s stories and see how they dealt with the issues you face.
There are many half marathon training programs and they will all be slightly different. Finding a training guide that you like and that you can stick to will be your priority. If you are the sort of person who has the time to devote to your training and can afford to spend a little longer each day on your training sessions then it may be that a training plan that simply increases your mileage might be just the thing for you. Where you used to spend three days a week running about 4-5 miles each session, now you might run on four days, and push your distance up to 6-8 miles, meaning your weekly mileage rises to 24-32.
However, that may be too much running for some people, either due to a lack of time, or because a tendency to injury means they need to do other activities, such as cross training or swimming. In that case, adopt a training plan that only has two running sessions in the week and then do a long, slow run at the weekend. This could be a 10-12 mile run, where the main aim is to keep running for a long period, not to run at a fast pace.
So as you choose your half marathon training program, consider how much time you want to spend training on a weekly basis and decide what you want to achieve from your training.
Select your half marathon training program based on the way you feel you would most like to train. All the training plans will help you increase your mileage but you need to take into account the training plan you feel most comfortable with. It is also a question of how long you want to follow the training program for and what your end goal is.
Is it to challenge yourself to run a higher weekly mileage? Have you enjoyed the health benefits of running and want to lose more weight and get even fitter? Have you made a pledge to support a charity by running a half marathon? Or have you been bitten by the competitive running bug and want to really push your running limits?
If you are aiming to run a half marathon, what are your aims for the race? Do you want to stay the course and say ‘I have run a half marathon’ or do you want to run a half marathon in the best time you can? For novice runners, just aiming to finish the course should be your priority. There is plenty of time to improve once you have confidence over the 13.1 mile distance.
Half marathon training programs will incorporate a number of training methods that you may not have encountered in your previous training programs. These aim to develop your speed, strength and muscular endurance. Here are a few of the more popular methods.
Fartlek training is a training method that means ‘speed play’ and involves changing pace from walking through to sprinting at regular intervals over the course of a run.
Hill running adds another dimension and is often used in training programmes to develop your leg strength and speed. You may be asked to run for 30 seconds up a hill and repeat that a number of times. If you do not live near a hill don’t worry, you can substitute hill running with sprinting, or running on a beach.
Another training method you might encounter is interval running. This is a formal style of Fartlek training. The 10k training program may say ‘sprint 5 x 100 metres’. To do this, you should pace out a distance that is roughly 100m, but don’t worry about making it exact, the important thing is to work a little harder for a period of time.
With all of these training methods, the important thing is that you don’t overdo it or take on a training program that is not right for you. Read what others say about training programs and make a decision based on what you want to get from the experience.
Links to Half Marathon Training Programs