Set your sights on running a half marathon this summer? These seven tips from run coach Dom Cadden will set you on the 21.1km road to glory.
1. WORK IN REVERSE
Choose a race and work backwards from that date. Identify your week to taper – when you will significantly reduce the volume and intensity of your training to allow the body to rest and recover so it’s ready to race – and mark this on your calendar. You’ll also want to lock in a date for the longest run of your training program, no sooner than two weeks before the big day.
2. GET BACK TO BASICS
Your first goal should be to run 5km without walking or stopping. Find a rhythm with your breathing and concentrate on good technique and a consistent pace.
3. BUILD SLOWLY
Clocking up too many kilometres too soon is a fast route to injury. Consistency is key, and that means staying free from soreness and injury. Your long run for the week should build up gradually to about 17km–18km two weeks out from the race.
4. CHANGE IT UP
A good runner knows how to shift gears. Running at different paces and with different intervals and rest patterns works your body’s energy systems in different ways, conditioning you to burn fat as energy instead of just sugar, and keep up your oxygen intake while running longer and faster. It’s a good idea to add repeat intervals of 200m–400m and tempo runs to your training program (more on that below).
5. BREAK IT DOWN
If you run four days a week, nominate two days as “focus” sessions and space these apart – for example, Wednesdays and Sundays might be focus days with a more strenuous speed session on Wednesday (such as intervals) and your longest run for the week on Sunday, while Tuesdays and Fridays might be days where the pace and distance are more comfortable.
As a guide, your training should include:
- Interval sessions - Start with 8 x 200m, with 90–120 seconds rest in between. You won’t be able to run every interval at 100%, but learn to pace yourself and aim to run all eight intervals with a maximum 10-second variation. Build the distance in 50m increments up to 400m.
- Tempo running - A tempo run is where you try to hold a pace that’s 10–15% above your comfortable 10km pace (or a shorter distance if you haven’t yet worked up to 10km) for 10 to 25 minutes. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down either side of your tempo run.
- Pace run - This is 40–60% of the distance of your next long run. Focus on run technique and do most or all of this run at a comfortable pace. This session should not exhaust you. Speed bursts can be worked into your pace run by putting on a burst of speed then backing off to a slower pace. These bursts can vary from a few bursts of 400m to one burst of 1600m, or a range of distances in between.
- Long run – Aim to step up the distance by about 2.5km a week. It’s okay to repeat the same distance two weeks in a row.
6. ACTIVE REST
Use your rest days for 15–20 minutes of stretching, a yoga or Pilates session or some strength exercises. Other forms of active recovery include walking, swimming or running in the pool.
7. RUN YOUR OWN RACE
After your longest run two weeks before the race, you should have a good idea of your race pace. Come race day, stick to your plan – don’t be thrown off by adrenalin or the rush off the start line. Stick to your goal pace, then assess whether you have the energy to put on a surge in the last 3-4km.
With a smart training plan and just a few handy tips, runners of all abilities can take on a half marathon. Pull on your compression tights, and get out there.