5 worst half marathon training mistakes

Training pitfalls you must avoid

Training to run the 13.1-mile half marathon distance is not to be taken lightly. It’s a physical and mental challenge you need to prepare for. To make sure you manage to run to your full half marathon potential, we’re showing you 5 half marathon training mistakes you need to avoid. Follow these rules and you’ll be more likely to achieve all of your half marathon goals:

Man running vest

You don’t train using split times

Put simply, split times refer to the amount of time it takes you to complete certain segments (such as 1 mile or 1 kilometre) of the course. So for example, if in training you’ve managed to complete the half marathon distance in 130 minutes you would divide 130 by 13.1, which equals 9.9. Therefore your split times per mile would be nine minutes 55 seconds. It’s worth bearing in mind that many people advise you to run the second half of the race faster than the first half. This practice is referred to as ‘negative splits’.

Whether you would like to run even splits or negative splits is up to you, but the key is you need to practise one or both approaches in your training to make sure you stay on race pace during the event itself. Split times may seem like a complex business, but trust us, after a little bit of practise they’ll soon become second nature.

You don’t include tempo runs in your training

Tempo running is a term used to describe a fast run session that is run at your lactate threshold (the level at which your body is just about able to dispose of the lactic acid generated in your legs by the speed of the run). An example tempo session for someone training for a half marathon would be a warm-up, followed by three miles ran at a comfortably hard pace. Your running should be steady and although you could speak, you should be working hard enough that you couldn’t hold a conversation. After your first three miles at this pace slow down and jog for five minutes, before again running another three miles at a comfortably hard pace.

If you’re not 100 per cent certain how hard you should be running during your tempo runs, try to aim for a pace that is between 10 to 30 seconds a mile slower than your 10k pace.

So, why bother with tempo runs? Well, according to Toby Tanser, a former elite athlete turned coach, ‘Tempo running is crucial to racing success because it trains your body to sustain speed over distance.’ In other words, by fitting in tempo runs once or twice a week into your half marathon training schedule you’ll be able to run faster come race day because you will have increased your VO2Max and increased your lactate threshold.

You don’t eat the right foods

If you don’t adapt your diet to support your training you won’t achieve your half marathon potential. It’s as simple as that. So, what should you be eating? Generally speaking you should aim to get at least 55 per cent of your daily calorie intake from carbohydrates. This works out around the equivalent of 5 to 10g per kilogram (2.27 to 4.54g per pound) of your bodyweight per day. Carbs are important to runners because they supply your body with glycogen, which fuels your body when running. As well as eating enough carbs you should be consuming plenty of protein. Regular runners should aim for 1.2g to 1.4g per kg (0.55 to 0.64g per lb) of bodyweight.

As well as these rules, eat plenty of fruit and veg. Your body needs lots of vitamins and minerals to keep it functioning efficiently. Runners especially need vitamins A, C and E, as well as iron, magnesium and calcium. Finally, limit your intake of saturated or trans fats. Once you tweak your diet to support your running you should notice a big improvement in your performance.

You don’t cross train

You’re entering a running race, so all you need to do to train for that event is run, right? Wrong. You need to build strength by cross-training too. Doing exercises that improve your core stability and you upper body will help you to not only improve your running form, but it will also help you to build speed. Doing exercises like the plank, mountain climbers and walking lunges will help you to do this.

Cross-training can also help you to reduce your risk of injury. Doing leg exercises like calf raises and runner touch will help your leg strength and stability, which in turn will help you prevent a nasty injury. As well as strength training, try to do other aerobic training, such as cycling or swimming too.

You ignore the taper

Whatever you do, do not ignore the taper. In the two weeks leading up to your half marathon race you should be cutting back on the amount of times you train and scaling back the intensity of your training sessions. Your runs shouldn’t exceed 30 minutes in the two weeks leading up to race day, except for one ‘long run’, which should clock in at around 45 minutes. In the week leading up to your race train twice, again for no more than 30 minutes.

If you struggle to stay inactive you could do some light exercise, but nothing too strenuous. Think about all that hard work you’ve put in; don’t let it go to waste by being too overzealous.

Comments (7)

  • xwaite ' So for example, if in training you’ve managed to complete the half marathon distance in 130 minutes you would divide 130 by 13.1, which equals 9.9. Therefore your split times per mile would be nine minutes nine seconds. ???? 13.1 x 9min 9 secs ..... thats approx 119 mins... '

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  • DR_Hook 'Agree with xwaite. A half marathon in 130 minutes equates to 9.9mins per mile which is 9mins 55 secs per mile NOT 9mins 9 secs per mile.'

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  • BoyArden '1:59:57 at 9:09/mile and you are right with 9:55/mile for 130 minutes. http://www.realbuzz.com/pace-tools/pace-guide/'

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  • BoyArden 'Training pitfall 6 is incorrectly calculating your split time, running too fast for the first half of the race then not being able to complete the second half...'

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  • AOz 'The guys above say it all? Really realbuzz- who checks this stuff?'

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  • Kirstie_McIntosh 'Hello everyone - thanks for the comments and this has been amended now. Apologies for the mistake on ironically the 5 worst 1/2 marathon mistakes ... happy running.'

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  • frogs1970 '9.9 minutes is actually 9 mins and 54 seconds. It's a decimal figure... :-)'

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