Training for a 1/2 Marathon
April 6, 2004 1:56 AM   Subscribe

I am running in my first half marathon in 3 and a half weeks time, and in my tradition of leaving things to the last minute, I didn't start serious training until last week. Any advice to make the whole thing go smoothly? [more inside]

I entered the half marathon about four months ago after an initial spurt of training, slacked off. I've been doing around 3 miles a week for the last 3 months. Now, one ace up my sleave is that I seem naturally capable of distance running. For example in my first spurt of training, I accidentally ran 11 miles (I thought the route was only 7 miles beforehand) and did it in a time of 1h40m (not including the ten minute break in the middle to let a mate catch up). But the 11 mile run was a double edged sword, it showed I could manage the distance in a reasonable time with very little training, and so my motivation since has been low.
How should I approach the next 3 weeks? What sort of distinces should I be running? For reference, on Sunday I ran 6.25 miles (just over 10k) in 53.5 minutes with what I'd classify as "medium" effort.
posted by chill to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total)
Do some longer runs, but stop at LEAST one week before the half. You should usually start tapering down 3-4 weeks before the big race. The most important thing is to get some probably two more long runs before you go it, simply to get your legs used to it. Ten, eleven miles will be good. If you did 6.25 on Sunday, go for maybe ten on Saturday, another ten the weekend after, with a few smaller runs in-between. YOU know your body best, and YOU know how well you recover after long runs...

Also, don't rush when you start the real thing - there will be some adrenalin, and people will be running past you and faster than you. Don't feel tempted to keep up, even if you can. Run your own race. Figure out a good pace to keep to for the first six or seven miles, and don't go over it, even if you feel great. Keep taking on fluids whenever they're offered.

Half's aren't too terrible if you haven't trained as long as there's a good level of fitness. If you'd said a full in three weeks, I'd be worried...
posted by humuhumu at 2:07 AM on April 6, 2004

It sounds like you've enough fitness to make the distance, so don't worry. Keep up a steady routine, but without any very severe exersion, between now and race day.

Listening to your own body is the most important advice. Feeling good? Push things, just a little. Feeling tired or in need of a rest - take a rest! Keep well hydrated and eat well - obvious advice that's nevertheless easy to lose sight of.

Don't be tempted to overdo things between now and race day in an effort to 'catch up' on training. Depending on how you feel, don't run more than about three times a week. Keep distances moderate, but try for just one longer distance run (10-12 miles, say) as soon as possible (this coming weekend at the latest). Do that run at no more than your medium effort and give yourself plenty of recovery time after it. On days that you don't run, spend some time doing the warm-up and warm-down stretching you would have done were you going for a run.

At this stage its about keeping fresh and avoiding injury, rather than building speed. Sometimes overlooked: Get plenty of quality sleep - especially in the few days before the event.
posted by normy at 3:27 AM on April 6, 2004

Cheers folks, that all sounds like good advice.
posted by chill at 5:26 AM on April 6, 2004

Depending on how sensitive your skin is and how cold the weather, you might consider putting some vaseline on your nipples [unless you wear a sports bra] and inside your thighs. The chafing can get painful very quickly.

I've always found it useful to take a nice healthy #2 right before running as well.

All the training advice looks good to me. Run like hell.
posted by sciurus at 7:21 AM on April 6, 2004

Drink gallons of water leading up to the race. I ran the Boston Half marathon and couldn't get to the next water stations fast enough. Prepare for the worst possible weather also. It rained and was pretty cold here, so make sure you get a proper warm up and cool down. Run with your pace in mind since the start here was walk, jog, walk, stop, run, stop, walk, run for the first mile. As for training get outside. I was on the treadmill for awhile, recovering from flu like symptoms, and really should have been running outside. Get some nice hills to train on repeatedly. As a first time half marathoner and not knowing the course, I sure could have used some hill training. Good luck and set your goal for under 2 hours. Write it down. Focus on beating that time, knowing what pace you need to run, and how you need to train in order to accomplish the goal.
posted by brent at 10:38 AM on April 6, 2004

Good luck and set your goal for under 2 hours.

I'll have to counterpunch that point. I was looking into doing the OKC marathon with my father this year, a prospect which for many reasons isn't happening. However, I did a ton of reasearch on the subject: training, mental aspects, etc. Everything I read about first-time marathoners said to not set a time goal, just aim to finish. This serves two purposes. First, if you fall a little bit behind on time, especially early in the run, you may push yourself too much, hit a wall, and wind up not finishing, which would obviously be less than ideal. Secondly, if you do finish but don't meet your time goal, it'll sap away some of the feeling of victory and accomplishment. YMMV, of course.
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:33 AM on April 6, 2004 [1 favorite]

Good luck and set your goal for under 2 hours
I'll have to counterpunch that point...just aim to finish
As it happens I've already landed somewhere between those points of view. I have set a target of 2 hours, which is something that I feel I can achieve if I stop slacking off and start to focus, yet not so high that I would risk pushing myself too hard and not hit my main goal, which is to finish.
posted by chill at 12:19 PM on April 6, 2004

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