How to train for a half marathon event

Half marathon preparation and training

The thought of running a half marathon can seem a daunting prospect, but how do you train for the race? You might be surprised to hear that whether you're an elite half marathoner or a first- timer, the principles of training are just the same. Check out this guide to help you train smart for 13.1 miles.

Written by Louise Damen

Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.

Give yourself time!

As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day! If you want to maximise your chances of enjoying a positive experience on race day then you need to start training sooner rather than later. Training for a half marathon is a big commitment. If you're relatively new to running then you'll probably need at least 16 weeks of training under your belt. If however you are a more experienced runner with a good base level of fitness, you'll need considerably less. Remember that it's consistency of training, not one single monster run or workout that will get you fit and half marathon ready!

Build a base

When it comes to training, the analogy of baking a cake is often used; you need a strong sponge, (aerobic base) before you go to town with the icing and decorations (speed work). The half marathon is very much an aerobic event, so you need to prime your aerobic energy system and your body to be able to run for an extended period of time. You should therefore aim to spend the first part of your training block gradually increasing your mileage and conditioning your body to greater volumes of running. Don't worry about pace during this phase. The goal is simply to spend time on your feet in order to stimulate some of the most basic physiological adaptations needed for better endurance.

Get specific!

Once you've built a strong and stable base, it's time to get specific as you start to layer on the speed work and add some pace. The main goal of your training should be to prepare your body specifically for the physiological demands of 13.1 miles, so that means including some training at your goal race pace. You should gradually increase the volume of training that you do at your target race pace as the race approaches.

Train above and below race pace

One mistake that many runners make is that they only ever train at one pace. Sound familiar?!  If you're looking to maximise your potential over half marathon distance then you need to train at paces that directly support your target race pace, (in other words slightly slower and slightly faster). Aim to incorporate some speed work at your 10k race pace once a week and one longer run slightly slower than your half marathon target pace once a week during the second part of your training block.

Rest is training too!

It's safe to say that many runners fear rest. We're generally an obsessive bunch at heart! However, gains in fitness actually happen when you allow your body to rest and recover, not while you're training. Incorporating a regular rest or very easy day into your training programme will enable you to recharge both physically and mentally and you're therefore more likely to achieve better overall performance and consistency.  Good luck and happy training!

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