Christmas Training

How far into your training should you be at christmas?

So, the Saucony Cambridge Half Marathon is booked and at one point it seemed like the date was ages away, right? But now Christmas is coming which means that when the festive period is over, there are only 9 weeks to go!

It’s a good idea to give yourself a goal by Christmas so you don’t head into the New Year with the fear of 13.1 miles looming. Act now, be prepared and be safe in the knowledge that plenty of training has already been banked, and a foundation has been laid that has you already at Base Camp 1.

The length of time you need to train for a half marathon really depends on how much experience you have as a runner. Many of the runners that I coach are running all year round from 5k’s to autumn marathons. If you are already in good shape and 5k/10k race fit, then 6-8 weeks of half marathon prep is about right – but this is because lots of bases have been built already.

For those of you who are running your first half marathon or are less experienced, we need to build a solid platform which we can then work from in the New Year. We often work to time with our runs. By Christmas, if your longer runs could be a minimum of 60 minutes long then you will be in a great position of fitness and training.

Build up gradually in the weeks following the festive period and add 10-15 minutes per week and no more to your long run. This allows the body to gradually adapt, build fitness and it reduces injury risk. We suggest your longest run to be no more than 1:45-2 hours long regardless of the distance you hit.

There are other key elements that need to be worked on in this pre-half marathon training phase though. Working on your threshold training and making sure at least one run per week contains lots of periods of running at roughly 80-85% of your maximum heart rate starts to build that strength endurance. Be careful to get the effort level right – working at a “controlled discomfort” intensity or 3-4-word answer pace is what is required.

A typical session might start as 4×5 minutes off with a 2-minute walk/jog recovery built into a 45-minute run, but develop into 5×5, 5×6 and 3×10 minutes by Christmas, or within your half marathon prep. Consider running some of these sessions on a sensible gradient to incorporate what we call ‘continuous hills’

It’s also a good idea to book smaller races amongst your half marathon training for a number of reasons. It gives you smaller goals to work towards your main goal, which can keep you focused and your training fresh. It also allows you to get used to ‘racing’ – running in a crowd etc – it’s all good practice for the big day. It also allows you to mix up your route to avoid you running in the same places all the time. Consider local parkruns, 5ks, 10ks.

Finally, use this period to really focus on your strength and conditioning plan and perhaps also see a good running physio for an MOT to find weaknesses, hotspots and areas for improvement. The clever runner develops a conditioning plan and works on this once or twice a week to prevent injury.


If you haven’t started your training yet, please visit our other other articles:

How to Choose The Right Training Programme

The Training Programme For You.