Happy fall! Are you enjoying some beautiful fall running with the beautiful fall foliage? It’s only thirty days until the Good Life Halfsy on November 6, the point-to-point half-marathon I’m running in Lincoln, Nebraska. It is a good time to stop and reflect on how to train for a half-marathon, a race that more and more people are running.
First, it is good to begin training for a half-marathon at least 12-16 weeks before the race. I’m including 16 in case of injury/illness/busy lifestyle obstructing one or two weeks of your training. 12-13 weeks is enough. 12-16 allows for a good margin in case of unexpected changes in health, injuries, or other challenges.
Second, picking a good half-marathon for you is important. It’s great to run hometown races and support your cities but it’s fun to travel and make it a “racecation” (racing vacation). I’ve run half-marathons in Omaha, Lincoln, and Norfolk, Nebraska; and Laughlin, Nevada/Bullhead City, Arizona (Run Laughlin half). It’s possible I may have run a half-marathon in Texas and forgotten but I think I’ve only run full marathons in Texas. Do you like flat, fast courses? Does the number of participants affect you? Do you prefer a race with more runners or less? Trails or roads? Trails and roads? How convenient is the location? Are you willing to travel and if so, how far? Does the race challenge you? Is the race practical and feasible with your other commitments and time available to train? Do you love hills? How much walking do you intend to do during the race? Are you using the half-marathon to build incrementally to the full marathon distance (26.2) or is the half-marathon your main target race distance? These are all important questions that should be considered and answered.
Third, it is very important to start slow and incrementally increase the distance and difficulties of your workouts in two-week minicycles (alternating longer distance, shorter distance in consecutive weeks). Do not adjust the long run by more than 10% per week. Do not adjust your weekly mileage by more than 10% per week to avoid injuries, fatigue, and exhaustion.
Fourth, prepare for all weather conditions. In Nebraska, we have a running joke that if you don’t like the weather here, wait a little while, it will change and perhaps suddenly and unexpectedly. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. That’s living the Good Life. Nebraska the Good Life, as we say. This means prepare for sun (heat/humidity), rain, snow/ice/sleet, and wind. If the weather is too difficult, your race could be cancelled or (more frequently) delayed (e.g., for lightning/thunderstorms).
Fifth, determine your goal for the race. Are you running your first half-marathon? If so, run it just to finish and see how it goes. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you do have a time goal, figure out how to test yourself regularly to make sure that you are fast enough to run slightly faster than your target pace. If you aim for faster, you are more likely to break the target. If you aim at the target, sometimes that means you undertrained and we don’t reach the target. Align your training with the race goal (to finish, to PR, to run a little faster than the last one, or to run a specific pace). Run your race at your pace.
Sixth, work in some hills. Maybe just one day per week run hill intervals of 2 minutes or so in length. Sprint up the hills. Jog down the hills. Allow a few minutes for recovery/walking. Repeat 6-10 hills over your training period. If you can get close to 10 hills per session, you’ll be in great shape on race day.
Seventh, make sure you hydrate properly (water primarily) and are managing your nutrition (whole food nutrition). In short, eat more plants. Plant power has produced remarkable results for athletes who make eating more plants a priority (less meat). I’ve experienced dramatic improvement in my running by switching to 5 days of meat, 2 days meatless (Mondays and Fridays). Figure out what works for you. One great way to make sure that you get enough plants in your diet is to drink a healthy green smoothie every day (or at least 5 days per week).
Eighth, if you are struggling with training or need some help, consult a good running coach. Find someone who will work with you (whether local or online and group training programs). Coaches are ready, willing, and ably available to help you with customized training programs that will fit your busy lifestyle and help you reach and exceed your running and health goals. And Galloway run-walk programs are available in many cities. (I serve as program director for the Lincoln, Nebraska Galloway Training Program).
Ninth, I strongly recommend that you consider a run-walk format of training for your half. Why? It conserves energy, allows you to finish with more power while using less effort. Many runners have smashed their PRs and qualified for the Boston Marathon simply by adopting and sticking with the run-walk Jeff Galloway method of training. If you are local or in the Lincoln-Omaha area, please contact me to discuss joining our Jeff Galloway training group. Newcomers are always welcome.
Finally, taper well and don’t allow a poor taper to ruin your race. Allow a 1-3 week taper. Taper more if injured/tired. And schedule rest days if needed. Not everyone can run 7 days a week. For some people, 3-5 days a week may be more practical. Many runners prefer every other day to allow the body to recover better, especially from long or difficult runs/workouts.
Try to train a little on the race course if possible. With racecations, it’s not always practical. For example, I ran a tiny portion of the Run Laughlin half-marathon race the night before but that was it. For races closer to us geographically, it’s easier to train on the course and possibly run the entire course. If you cannot do that, talk to someone who knows the race course intimately for advice. You’ll get inside running intelligence that will be very helpful to you.
Excited about running the Good Life Halfsy for the very first time in Lincoln. It’s only a month away. This weekend we are running a 12.5 mile run (near the 13.1 distance) with our Galloway group and in a few weeks, 14 miles (a little more than 13.1). I do recommend running slightly overdistance in training for a half. Ideally for me, that has meant 14-17 or so miles sometime before the race (hopefully at least a month before to allow for taper).
Have you run a half-marathon before? If so, which ones? What half marathon might be calling your name? Good luck in training for your races, whether half-marathons or longer. If I can be of any help with your running or health, please feel free to contact me. My door is always open. Happy trails!