Can I run a half-marathon by Sept 8?
June 4, 2013 5:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering registering for a half-marathon on Sept 8 and wondering how realistic/hard a goal it is. I'm young and in good health but haven't run more than 3 miles before. I'm also looking for recommendations for a training plan.

I'm in my mid-20s and generally healthy and slim, but haven't been super active lately. Over the past 5 months I've been averaging 1 yoga class/week and either a 30 min elliptical workout or a 3 mi run each week. But if I'm being honest there have definitely been weeks where one or the other hasn't happened. When I ran today my pace averaged just under 10 min/mi (and didn't go above 10:20 except when I stopped for water etc). Some things I'm wondering:

-There are just over 13 weeks left. Is this enough time to safely train for a half-marathon? I don't want to risk injury or anything like that.

-I'm going to be gone the 3rd week of June and the first 2.5 weeks of July. I can maybe work once or twice when I'm gone in June, but July will be tough. How much harder will this make things?

-Any recommendations for training plans or other things I should know? I was hoping this would be doable with 2 short runs and 1 long run a week. Is that realistic?
posted by matildatakesovertheworld to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, 13 weeks is enough, as long as you aren't tied to a time goal. I would recommend looking at Hal Higdon's plans, especially Novice 1. However, note that it has you running four times a week from the beginning.

You might also want to look at Jeff Galloway's walk/run plans. There's no reason that you have to run the entire way.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:09 PM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

It would be possible if either 1) you were already running a couple, four times a week or 2) you had absolutely no gaps. Running once a week, you've not really built up the connective tissue which forms the basis for longer distances. I think you're setting yourself up for injury.
posted by notsnot at 6:12 PM on June 4, 2013

It's possible, but you have a bunch of stuff going against you-- If you were running 3 miles 3 times a week now, I would be more comfortable saying 'yes', but the fact that you're not running consistently now indicates to me that your muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments probably aren't ready to suddenly be running 3 times a week, with steadily increasing distances.

Add to that the 3 weeks you'll be taking off, at the most important time in the training plan, and I think you're better off putting this off for a while.

If you do decide to go ahead and run this, I second roomthreeseventeen's two recommendations for training plans.
posted by matcha action at 6:19 PM on June 4, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far!

I'd been running 3mi 2-3 times a week as recently as last September, so it's not something I've never done before. I generally end up running less in the fall/winter and pick it up again easily in May/June, but I recognize that re-starting to run 3mi 2-3 times/week is very different from training for a half marathon.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:24 PM on June 4, 2013

I went by a 9 week training plan with 3 short runs and 1 long run each week. I had more than 9 weeks to train so I had some rest weeks in there. The plan I used was I believe originally from Runners World, tho I only see 10 week plans on there now.
posted by TwoWordReview at 6:24 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, you should absolutely be able to do this and i'm surprised to see people on here telling you otherwise. There are plenty of guides on how to train and if you live in a town of any size, there's probably a running group with whom you can train.

As a frame of reference, I was running slightly longer distances than you (4-8 miles) before I ran my first half. My time wasn't great at all (slightly over 2 hours), but hey, I finished and I ran the entire time.

It would be one thing if you had not run before or you had significant weight to lose, but yes, do it.
posted by SpicyMustard at 6:33 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

At your age and fitness level, I actually agree with roomthreeseventeen that this would not be a problem at all. I just ran my first half, using a 16-week training plan, and it wasn't too hard. I have been running for about a year, but I'm also a bit older than you (and I was completely out of shape when I started...after having a baby).

I second the recommendations for Hal Higdon's training plans. Don't feel like you have to do 4 runs a week every week - I usually average 3 per week and it wasn't a problem for me. But I would encourage you to keep up the yoga as well, to help prevent injury.

Good luck!
posted by barnoley at 6:36 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Everything you describe about yourself is '+' for your chances. You are light built, less stress for ligaments, you have some habit for cardiac training, you are young. When I started running at mid/late-twenties I was in a similar position and I ran on average once per week, a short run or a long run, where I added ~30% to my previous long run distance. Then my feet and knees start to hurt in a wrong way and I bought proper running shoes(!) and had to take few weeks off to heal. At september I was able to run a full marathon. If just running through is your goal, boldly extend over your previous distances, and have long rests between runs. Take time to heal if necessary and don't do it if you find that some part of you is breaking.
posted by Free word order! at 7:05 PM on June 4, 2013

I am in my mid-twenties and ran a half marathon in February with over 100lbs to lose at the time. I did a 5k in October, the longest distance I had ever gone, and decided to sign up for a half with a group of friends. I trained from the end of October to the race time in mid-February, and I had bronchitis pretty much all the way through January and February and ran maybe 5 times total [not diagnosed until 5 days before]. Obviously not the method I would recommend, and I ended up with a hilariously slow time [partly from doing way more walking than I would have without the bronchitis, partly from godawful course crowding, partly because it was a Disney race and I stopped to take a ton of pictures], but I finished and now I'm signed up for 6 more halves in the next 10 months, hah. I *swear* by Galloway's run/walk intervals...I average about 3 minutes per mile faster using run/walk intervals than I do when I run straight through. I usually do 2 short runs and one long run a week, with some random recovery runs thrown in the place of long runs.
posted by kro at 7:11 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

You can definitely do this. Be cautious with your pace, both in the race and in training; follow a training plan and don't go over no matter how tempting; and back off if you injure yourself.

That all said, following one of the many training plans available, and you will be fine. Basically, if you can run 10km with no discomfort, you can run 21km. Just don't push yourself too hard - overtraining = injury.
posted by smoke at 9:38 PM on June 4, 2013

Run 3 times/week (2 short runs and 1 long) and if you want to work out more than that, do yoga, or go for a hike. Yoga will help with flexibility, and hiking with strengthen your lower body; both will help prevent injury.
posted by lulu68 at 6:56 AM on June 5, 2013

If you have the RunKeeper app on your phone, there are some training plans in there that might be helpful. You can set a goal and it'll lay out the workouts for you and cue you when you hit intervals.
posted by bink at 10:21 AM on June 5, 2013

I definitely think you can do it. Start the race slow and make it your ultimate goal to run the whole thing without any walking. Stay slow. Don't even consider trying to pick up the pace until you're 10 miles in, and by then you'll no longer want to.

I'm perplexed as to what you might be up to in July that precludes any working out. If you have access to a flight of stairs I can think of a way you can get a decent daily workout in.
posted by LowellLarson at 1:53 PM on June 5, 2013

I managed to run 21+ miles over 48 hours in The Relay a few years ago without explicitly training for it, though I was exercising very regularly. I was rock climbing 3 days a week for 3-4 hour sessions and taking hour-long boot camp-style classes twice a week. I didn't run a half-marathon, but I was running 6-9 miles at a time with ~5 hour breaks in between. By the end of the relay, a half marathon seemed like it would have been a lot less of an ordeal.

I think the most important thing that contributed to successfully running in The Relay was that I was comfortably running non-stop for at least an hour by the time of the event. I had no idea what the longest run (distance-wise) I had gone for was before going into the event, but I felt comfortable with the physical exertion and weird mental headspace of nonstop, continuous running.

Anyway, it sounds like you're not a stranger to exercise. I think a half marathon by September 8th is totally doable. You should easily be able to achieve the requisite physical/mental conditioning. I would suggest doing a few timed (vs. distance-based) runs where you just decide to run for an hour or more without stopping, regardless of pace.
posted by strangecargo at 6:21 PM on June 5, 2013

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