So you have decided you want to take on the challenge of a half marathon.  Yay! Go you!  

Now you want to know how you can achieve that good half marathon time or want to make sure you can run the half marathon distance and run it to the best of your ability. 

If you aren’t sure how far is a half marathon, it’s a lovely 21.1 km run.  A distance that should totally be respected and is no easy feat.

When I entered my first half marathon melbourne I had no idea what I was doing.

I would run as fast and as far as I could every time I headed out the door.  

I wasn’t really sure how far or how often or what else I needed to do.  So I started googling and downloaded an one-size fits all training plan which I thought sounded good and I was ready to roll.

I ran and ran and ran. As fast as I could.  All the time.  I ran when my muscles were sore, I ran when I was feeling crappy and I ran when I was feeling unwell (or tried to run anyway). 

I was smashing down the vegan burgers and chips after my runs like it was nobody’s business. In my head I’m thinking yes this running thing is going pretty well.

Ah until it stopped going well.  I started to really struggle with feeling good after my long runs.  I would feel sore and tired for days.  My right knee really started to not love all the running and my netball ankles were in struggle town. The fatigue was real.  I started missing days of training and sometimes weeks.

I was not improving, in fact I was going backwards with my running plus I felt like crap.

I finally made it to the start line of my first half marathon. Just. 

And the half marathon? Hmm let’s just say there may have been some hobbling to the finish line and some ugly crying.  It was so far from the vision I had in my head of me racing towards the finish line feeling fabulous with my family and friends cheering me on.

I was like seriously, I love running but I really don’t want to feel like I have to drag myself out of bed every morning because I’m so tired and like I’m constantly battling one niggle or another.  There has to be a better way.

And it turned out there WAS another way….

You can be prepared and show up to run an awesome run and avoid all the niggles and burn out like I did and like so many runners have when when they decide to step it up to a half marathon. 

You may have questions like:

  • What and how much do I actually need to do?
  • What kind of plan should I follow?
  • How many weeks of training should I do beforehand?

There are so many questions once you decide to take the leap and step it up into half marathon territory.

By implementing a few simple strategies you can show up to your half marathon and run like the running machine I know that you are. 

Let’s go through a few things you need to know to show up to your half marathon prepared, ready to roll to give that half marathon a decent crack.

Half marathon training plan

What to consider before starting half marathon training

I know you are excited but I want you to get there in one piece and I want you to finish it feeling awesome with no ugly crying.  Definitely no ugly crying.

So before you start your half marathon training and smashing out the km’s here are a few things to consider.

How committed are you?

Are you all in ready to jump in and do what you need to do to give it your best?

How committed you are to doing the work makes all the difference in what the result is going to be.  It’s not an easy thing to do so have a good think about why you want to do it.

Dig deep.  Be honest.  Write it down and stick it somewhere you will see it regularly.  The why becomes important when the motivation wanes and you need the reminder of why you bothered in the first place.

Where are you starting from?

Each runner begins their half marathon campaign from a different starting point.  If you have decided to enter when you haven’t done any running for a year that’s fine but acknowledge that’s where you are and maybe it’s not such good idea to enter one that is 4 weeks away.

A good thing to do is to keep a training log and keep track of what you are actually doing as a starting point.  

Once you know where you are starting from then you can plan, plan, plan!

How many weeks of training do I need to do?

How many weeks of training you need to do is very individual and depends on factors such as your current fitness level and running you doing right now, running history, any health issues or injury issues you have and how much time you have to dedicate to your training.

As a general guide 12 to 15 weeks of structured training (more on this later) is a good amount of time to plan for a half marathon, though it all depends on those factors I mentioned above.

You may need longer or less time will work for you.

The more time you allow the better chance you will have to run at your best and give it a decent crack.

Get working on your weaknesses

Having a think about what you need to work on whether that’s your body or in your mind will make a massive difference to how your training goes and whether you can stay consistent.

Do you struggle with finding the time?  Then work out where you can carve out time before you start. You can read more on finding the time here.

Do you have problems with your knees or other niggles that keep popping up?  Then go and see an appropriate health professional or get a running coach to balance your training load and build strength to help you get it sorted.

Do you find it boring running on our own? Then find a running buddy or a run group.

Having a good think about what’s holding you back or what’s likely to interrupt your training means you can take steps to help you manage the situation to give yourself the best chance to do the work you need to do to achieve your half marathon dream.

Obviously life happens and there are things we can’t control. 

Control the controllables and roll with the rest.

Half marathon training

Elements of a Half Marathon Training Plan

How you approach your training and what half marathon training plan you follow will make a difference to how your race goes and how long it takes to complete half marathon on the day.

We want our training to be sustainable, so we see the improvements we want to see and do it without feeling crappy, getting sick all the time or injured. Winning!

There a some important elements for an awesome half marathon training plan.  You can read more on how to adapt your training plan to suit you here.

The key things to include are:

3 to 5 Runs A Week

3 to 5 runs a week will get you to your half marathon! 

Mixing up the types of runs you do will train your body to run long and improve your base fitness as well as run faster.

The type of run sessions you do in a week can range from a shorter easy run, a higher intensity tempo and/or interval runs and a longer run (you can read more on different types of run sessions here).

What you do and how you approach your training depends on you and where you are starting from. The key thing to take note of though is we want to gradually increase the time spent running, building up the distance slowly and the intensity.  As a general guide increasing the amount of time spent running and the intensity of your runs by 10% a week is a good place to start.  Though every runner is different!  This may be too much for you or not enough (though it’s always best to err on the side of caution, especially if you are a beginner, have a history of injury or are on the wrong side of 40). 

Listen to your body! If you are really sore and fatigued for days afterwards then you are doing too much of whatever you are doing.

So don’t go run 18 k’s when the furthest you have run is 10 or cram in 2 interval sessions when you are not recovering in between.  It never ends well!

Cross-training 

Maybe because I spent a long time doing triathlons but I love cross-training. Cross-training helps improve your base fitness and recovery through lower impact exercises like cycling, swimming and hiking. 

It’s worth including activities you enjoy other than running! Cross-training will keep you running long-term and reduce the risk of overloading your body.

Strength and Mobility Training

It’s non-negotiable if you want to avoid injury but also to improve how your body runs.  There are ways to sneak it in if you are struggling for time! A minimum of 2 to 3 sessions a week will get your body stronger, more mobile and you moving and running at your best.

Strengthening your whole body is important, though areas to focus on as a runner include your trunk, glutes (butt), quads, hips (especially your hips!) hamstrings, calves, ankles and feet.  

Where you start from with your strength training is individual. To get stronger we want to challenge ourselves, so your strength training needs to be structured to progress and taper just like your running. If it’s too easy, then either adding in additional reps or weights can build up your capacity.

Some example exercises include:

  • Planks (front and side planks)
  • Dead-bugs
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts/Single leg deadlifts
  • Lunges (all the different lunges)
  • Push ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Wall sits 
  • Calf raises
  • Plyometrics (jumping exercises) like skipping, pogos, hopping

There is a lot you can do.  If you don’t know what you are doing find someone who can teach you! 

  • Find a strength and conditioning coach 
  • Join a gym with strength classes
  • Find an online course
  • Read a S&C book for runners (Strength and Conditioning for Endurance Running by Richard Blagrove is good)
  • See a physiotherapist or osteopath if you are prone to niggles and they will sort you out with a program specific for your weaknesses.
  • Join a pilates class

Recovery

How we recover affects how consistent we are with our training and most importantly how we feel on a day to day basis.  Feeling sore, super fatigued or sick is not fun and it’s not really sustainable for the long-term.

The better we feel and the more consistent our training is, that’s when the magic happens with our running and we see those improvements we are working so hard for.

Recovering well doesn’t have to be this complicated series of products, exercises and supplements. Focusing on including recovery sessions and weeks in your training to allow enough recovery for you and your body is important.  Plus doing the things that make a difference like good sleep practices and nutrition will keep you showing up to your sessions consistently.

Tips For Your First Half Marathon

If this is your first half marathon here are a few tips to get you there!

Running shoes

Check your shoes aren’t worn or run down.  Worn shoes change your running gait or how your body moves when it runs which can lead you to injury town. 

Have a couple of different pairs to rotate.  This will help with the shoes laster longer as well as reducing the risk of injury by mixing up the load on your body.  I know it’s expensive but it really is an investment in your long-term health.

Set some mini goals

12-15 weeks can feel like a long time.  Setting some mini goals along the way can keep you motivated plus it’s an awesome way to track your progress and make sure you are heading in the right direction.

Some ideas are doing a 10 k run or aiming for a parkrun PB.  Choose something that gets you excited!

Fuel your body for your long runs

Your nutrition on race day can make or break how your race goes.  It can go really wrong really quickly when you start cranking up the km’s.  Learning how to fuel your long runs and practicing in training is a big part of showing up to your event to run at your best.

(We do talk about fuelling and hydrating a lot in the Vegan Running Women Facebook group, so if you are keen to find out more you can join here).

Think about your half marathon pace

Going in with a race plan and knowing what your half marathon pace is likely to be can keep you on track during the race.

You can estimate what pace you need to run to achieve a certain run time.  Say if you were going for a sub 2 hour half marathon pace, knowing what that pace should be before you show up to event can set you up for success.

Using the paces from your training runs or those mini goal events can guide you on what is achieveable for you.

Check out Strava’s run pacing calculator.

 

Hope that helps you get started and on your way to your goal half marathon time. Good luck with the training! You’ve got this!

 

Want some help getting running further and running faster with an easy to follow structured training plan plus accountability and support?  Find out more about The Sustainable Run Method here.