Ask the Experts: Bud Baldaro on Half-Marathons

Taking on an autumn half-marathon? Catch up with the highlights of last week's live webchat with coach Bud Baldaro



Running coach and ASICS PRO Team member, Bud Baldaro is one of the country’s leading middle and long distance running coaches. He has more than 20 years of coaching experience and he has worked with Olympians, World and European Champions. A former national marathon coach, he now works as a mentor for England Athletics.

He joined us last Friday to give you a training check and to help you assess your target time as autumn half-marathons get closer.

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Read the whole forum debate

Q. My training has been all over the place recently. I’ve gone from speed-based 5K runs to a marathon to an ultra-marathon this weekend. Obviously this has had an effect on the shorter distance times. What training advice can you give to help me get a half-marathon PB in seven weeks? matrichards44

A. It’s difficult to be too precise without knowing your full background but I’d definitely recommend the following:

Tempo runs of up to 10 miles
Long repeats, for example 6-8 reps x 1mile
A mix of tempo and shorter intervals, for example 15 minutes tempo, then 10 x 400m, then 15 minutes tempo
Long, relaxed, over-distance steady runs

Follow a hard training day with a recovery day and finally, don't train too hard in the week of the race. Good luck!

Q. I just entered my first half-marathon. My question follows on from the one above about training. I want to run it in 1:40. I currently run track speed/interval sessions once a week with my running club, usually one long run a week (up to eight miles but plan to increase one mile a week) and then another mid-pace run in between (anything from 5K to 10K depending on how I feel). Is this enough of a mix? I also take two spin classes, two strength/conditioning classes and swim once a week. The run is in October. My long run pace is around 8-minute miles and my 5K PB is 21:00. Nicky Roger

A. That sounds a good combination and balance of training. Use some of the training ideas from my reply to matrichards44 (above) and ensure you practise running at reps/intervals appropriate to your target time. Try and reduce recovery time between reps as you go through your training program and make sure you feel good running at race pace.

Q. I've started to increase my mileage using Runner’s World's Half-Marathon plan and suddenly I have pain in my right knee. Up until now I've been pain free and I'm worried that I won't be able to do my first half-marathon on October 2. Can you help? Rosemary Egbe

A. I’d definitely try to see a sports physio or masseur who’s acquainted with running injuries. If you are uncertain where to go, use Runner’s World website or magazine or use your local specialist running store as an information point.

Very often knee pain is caused by a stiff Iliotibial band (IT Band), the muscle running outside your thigh, which is notoriously difficult to stretch. Get this looked at as soon as possible and don't just hope it will go away.

Q. I'm running a half-marathon in six weeks. I've just been away travelling for two weeks and my training dropped considerably - I only managed around 3 short runs during this time. Before that I was running six times a week including a long run of around 20K. How quickly can I build back up to my previous level? I feel like I am starting from scratch and I’m worried about getting injured with such a short time before the race. Isabel Clark 2

A. Stay calm. The good news is that you won't have lost a great deal of running fitness in those two weeks, so there’s no need to panic. If you have six weeks to go before your race, you could rebuild gradually for four weeks and taper for two, or you might feel happier training well, albeit patiently and sensibly, for five weeks and then having an easy pre-race week.

Certainly don't go mad in the firstfour to five days. Aim for lots of relaxed, enjoyable running, preferably offroad. You might well be surprised how fresh and good you  feel having had two lighter training weeks. Stay calm and above all smart and avoid getting injured by running too hard too quickly. I hope it goes well.

Q. I'm looking at beating my half-marathon PB of 2:15 this year. I do three short runs a week of around 30 minutes each at lunch times and a long run of two hours maximum at the weekend. Time is precious as a full-time worker and mother. How can I increase my speed without increasing time spent running? Andreia

A. Andreia, this is a classic case of maximising your training time by utilising quality tempo runs in your programme. I’d strongly recommend the session of 10 minutes easy, 10-15 minutes tempo and 5-10 minutes easy. The tempo is a controlled discomfort pace, so you should be able to snatch out short word sentences but equally feel that you are pushing the pace.

A progression run could be 6 minutes easy, 6 minutes tempo, 6 x 1min effort at 10K pace with 1-minute recoveries and then 6 minutes easy.

Q. I tend to get a bit bored on long runs, pretty much anything over 10K. Are there any ways of making them more varied or interesting whilst still being useful? Graham Taylor 12

A. Lots of runners can feel the same way, Graham. Think about varying your routes, or perhaps running your usual route in the reverse direction. Running with friends make the miles more fun, or join a running club if you don’t already belong to one.

You can also add new sessions to your training to make each run more interesting. Try a short interval sessions, like five x 4 minutes fast with 90 seconds recovery between each effort, followed by a steady 30-minute run. Or you could try running a fast mile at the end of a long run and record your time to measure your progress.

Combining a steady long run with some circuit training is also fun. Devise a route and at intervals stop to do press ups, crunches etc. This is great for conditioning and endurance. Above all, use your imagination and be creative in your approach to training – and remember to have fun.

Q. I am running a half-marathon at the end of November and my target is 1:30. Last week I ran a 10-mile time-trial in 70 minutes. I currently run on average 35 miles per week over five days following the Runner’s World 1:45-1:30 half-marathon schedule. I’m 31 and have been running since April this year, I had some base fitness from gym prior to running. Am I setting myself too much of a challenge to run a 1:30 half-marathon in four months time? If it is a realistic goal how does my training need to change? Charlotte Rose 2

A. Your target time is most definitely feasible, Charlotte. If you are running five times a week, you should aim to complete your long run – ideally going over the 13.1-mile race distance – at a steady pace. Good quality tempo running of up to 8-10 miles (in shorter more accessible blocks if that sounds intimidating eg 2-3 x 15-20 minutes) will also boost your fitness. Carry on doing the intervals suggested in the half-marathon training schedule and ensure your recovery runs are at an easy pace. Rest, massage, good nutrition and effective hydration will also help you to reach your goal.

Q. I'm doing a half marathon at the beginning of September and up until now my training has been relatively low key - two 10-15K runs a week. What are the key things I should be concentrating on in my last month of preparation? Emily Grainger

A. Stay smart with your training, Emily, and don’t try to cram too much into the final few weeks. It is vital that you are happy about spending time on your feet and are confident about coping with the distance so include at least one steady long run each week but ease down two weeks before your target race. Mix in tempo and pace work and enjoy yourself.

Q. I’m planning to do a half-marathon in October. My long slow run is currently 10-miles in approximately 90 minutes. My shorter runs in the 3-5 mile range are at a fast pace of 7:30-7:45 or steady pace of 8:30-8:45. What is a realistic time target for the half-marathon? It's the Oxford one, which I believe is pretty flat and fast. What are the best training tips to hit that time? ADS runner

A. You should target a time well inside two hours – if you can run out of your comfort zone you should be able to achieve this. Be realistic but ambitious. Make sure you include tempo runs and interval training in your weekly regime, as well as lots of steady running. 

Q. I’m running the Bupa Great North Run, then I have two half-marathons, the Bupa Great Birmingham Run and Coventry, one a week after the other. What training should I do in that week? Should I rest, do some shorter runs or cycle? I’m running 11 miles on a Saturday or Sunday as it is, so I’m sure my legs will manage one after the other, but how do I keep them ticking over in that week? Caroline Rooke

A. Make sure you include lots of rest, relaxed swimming, light cycling and walking and short easy runs between your hectic race schedule. Focus on getting plenty of carbs in your diet and lots of fluid. A sports massage will probably help, as will resting your mind as well as your body.

Q. I am about nine seconds away from dipping under 30 minutes for 5 miles and hope to crack this in a few weeks. What sort of time do you think I could achieve for a half-marathon this October? And what sort of session do you think would take advantage of my new speed to translate up to half-marathon? My current PB is 1.25.26. knight rider

A. I am totally convinced of the value of mixed pace runs. They help add variety to your training, use different energy systems and train your mind to adjust to changes of speed. Mixing up the pace also minimize boredom and help you to become stronger both mentally and physically.

If you have done the distance work to go with your speed over five miles, you could be looking at 1:24  or faster. Try some long tempo runs and some steady runs mixed with long reps. You should be looking to break 1:20 in the next 12 months.


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