Many of us decide to step it up after having joined fun runs in the past. The next best thing after doing 10km runs is to do a half marathon. There are hundreds of half marathon training programs available, but what makes one more suitable than the next? Here are some factors to consider.
How have you been doing in the past races that you joined? And what have you been doing as a follow up? This is the first factor to consider. If you can already do a 10km race and are running at least three times a week, then you have a good base to build up from. If you haven’t been a part of any short races before, it is always best to try that first unless you have been training at the longer distance for a while. Gradual progression is a much better method than jumping straight from the couch to 5 times a week of training sessions.
It is much better to build up slowly and let your body accustom itself to the distances than trying to power it out over just a few weeks. Twelve weeks is a good training period for working towards a half marathon if you can already do10km quite comfortably.
There are some basic types of sessions all programs should include. But a basic program should have a minimum of 3 training sessions per week, but preferably 4-5. If you have been running for a while, you always pick a more intensive program.
At least once a week, you should do interval training. Interval training involves running at faster than race pace for a short period of time and then recovering in between with light jogging or walking. The alternating between high intensity training and recovery helps develop your overall speed and strengthen your muscles.
The second type of session should be easy runs of about 10-12kms. These should be slower than race pace and help you to focus on maintaining your technique when you become tired and trains your body to convert energy over longer periods of time. If possible try to do two or three of these a week.
The final session should be one long run working up from 12km to 18kms. This can be a great Saturday or Sunday morning activity. It should be a comfortable pace and you should try to extend the distance a little bit further each time. If you have a specific time in mind that you want to complete the race in, try to jog for at least that time. You won’t end up doing the same distance as you will be going slower, but at least you will be used to running for that long.
Remember that recovery is an important aspect of the training program. In between sessions it is necessary to get plenty of rest so your body can adapt. If you are keeping your heart rate in the aerobic zone and not relying on anaerobic energy production, then you won’t need as much recovery and can do them on consecutive days. However, when working in rest days, the best times would be after the interval training and then after your long run if you are having two days off. The interval training sessions should be well into your anaerobic zone, and will be damaging the muscles in order for them to build up stronger. This means that more recovery is required so your body can heal and process. You will perform much better for allowing it to do so.
Nutrition is the final aspect to consider in your program. When you are a competitive runner, it is a great advantage if you lose some excess weight. But keep your energy levels up. So if you are putting in all this effort to get up and train, it is worth making the most of it by feeding your body plenty of nutritious food to give it energy, but try laying off some of the junk food so it doesn’t have to lug around more weight than necessary. Keep things in perspective and be sensible.
Give yourself the best possible start and plan your training well.