Running With Us – Where to be by Christmas

Half Marathon training – where should you be by Christmas?

So, the Cambridge Half is booked and at one point it seemed like the date was ages away right? But all of a sudden, Christmas is coming which means that after 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 to achieve, 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 already has you organised and sorted at Base Camp 1.

Depending on your experience as a runner really depends on how long you need to train for a half marathon, many of 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 normal enough but this is because lots of base has 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 we can then work from in the New Year. We work a lot to time with our runs we set and 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 long run to be no longer 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 and working at “controlled discomfort” intensity or 3-4 word answer pace is what is required.  A typical session might start as 4×5 minutes off 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 runs 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 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.Good luck!