Looking to step up from 10K to half marathon distance? Here's our expert advice...
You know that you’ve got the running bug when you return home from your first 10K and are immediately scouring the web for your next challenge. If you’re beginning to dabble with the idea of stepping up the distance to a half marathon, here are our top tips.
Anything involving the M word is undoubtedly daunting, but it doesn’t have to be – particularly when you have a 10K under your belt. A half marathon is the perfect test of endurance – in speed and mileage – and doesn’t require you make too many sacrifices in the training process.
After developing a good level of cardiovascular fitness, perfecting that mix of speed and endurance, and learning a huge sense of training discipline in preparing for your first 10K, you’re armed with the appropriate tools to run your first half marathon. But what else do you need to know and how should you take the next step? Check out these simple tips and you’ll have that half marathon medal taking pride of place on your bedpost in no time…
Build up your mileage gradually
In training for your first 10K, you’ve learned to up the mileage each week, gradually developing your stamina to prepare for the distance. Stepping up from a 10K to a half marathon is exactly the same: reserve one day a week as your long run day, increasing the time you run for each week. Work out how many weeks you’re going to give yourself to hit your target distance, and then you can build the mileage up incrementally: best practice would be to add roughly ten minutes onto your long run a week. By gradually building up to this distance, you will develop your cardiovascular and cardio-respiratory fitness and your body will be prepared for the mileage.
Don’t neglect strength training
While you may have come away from your first 10K injury-free having done no strength work, it’s a risk that can’t afford to be taken when training for a half. By upping the volume and mileage you are running each week, it is important to build strength in the thighs, glutes, hamstrings, calves and abdominals – to not only decrease your risk of injury, but increase your muscular power, prolonging the time it takes these muscle groups to fatigue. You’ll find everything you need to know in our ultimate guide to strength training for runners.
Factor in some threshold running
Within your mid-week training sessions, it’s a good idea to undertake some speed-endurance intervals and threshold work to train your body to run harder and faster for longer, by raising your lactate threshold.
Your threshold pace is much quicker than your half marathon pace. “Threshold runs are done at 80% effort level,” explains running coach Martin Yelling. “If you can speak with effortless flow you’re not running fast enough, but if you’re gasping for every breath you’re over cooking it.” Speed intervals are even faster, demanding an 85% effort level, yet are interspersed with period of rests and recovery. Although such sessions are painful, they’re over quickly and will make your long slow runs feel much easer. Here’s how to get started with threshold training.
Plan in some cross-training
As you increase the volume you are running, you’ll notice your legs feeling more fatigued than usual. To give your legs some relief, prevent painful and counter-productive training sessions and also reduce your risk of injury, integrate low-impact sports into your training such as swimming and cycling.
Consider your nutrition
When you’re training three or four times a week, running for nearly two hours on some days, it’s important to plan your nutrition strategy carefully. Choose carb-based dishes on the evenings before your morning training runs, and protein-rich dishes post-run to aid your recovery. It’s important to eat breakfast each day – even on your rest days – to ensure you stay energised throughout the day. On the mornings you choose to do your longer, harder training sessions, you may well experience a serious case of ‘runger’. On these days, fuel up on a second breakfast, such as eggs on toasts, for a protein hit. Here’s roughly how much protein you’ll need.
Find your pace
By increasing your mileage and speed with each training session, you’ll eventually find your tempo pace – the pace at which you can run at a sustained effort for a lengthy time period. The more you run, the more familiar you’ll become with running at this effort level, meaning that, come race day, you’ll find the half marathon distance achievable and comfortable.
Stick to your plan
The half marathon is a distance to be respected. So that you roll into race day feeling confident and well prepared, it is important to stick to a plan. To take away the stress of trying to cram your training into a short period of time, while also reducing your risk of injury, take time to prepare months in advance, gradually building up your volume and mileage each week. Here are our half marathon training plans so you can print out the right one for you and stick it on your fridge!
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