Ask the Experts: Half-Marathon Training with Bud Baldaro

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

Q. I'm a 1.50 half-marathon runner but I'd like to be faster. Everyone tells me the next step is hill training but I'm not clear on how big, steep, or long the hill needs to be? Also, what reps and frequency should I be looking at? Brian Dick 3

A. Hills are a great form of getting stronger and are good for general body conditioning. I would suggest using three types:

1. Long continuous runs over a hilly circuit.

2. Reps of 30-40 seconds in blocks, for example, 2x8, 2x10, 2x12 etc. with a jog recovery and an easy five minutes between each set at 5K speed and on a gradual incline.

3. A mixed block of tempo running followed by a set of hills. Progress to two sets of both once you can.

Q. I have signed up for the Blenheim Palace Half Marathon in October.  However, I am very overweight - I am 15 stone at the moment, although I have lost two and a half stone since this time last year. I run 5K three times a week at a very slow PB of 41 minutes (10 minutes better than in February). I am trying to do one longer run at the weekend as well and am up to eight miles, although that took me two hours to do. Do you think I am too heavy to complete a half-marathon? My mum really doesn't want me to do it because my dad died of a heart attack last June. I am still loosing weight gradually with slimming world but I am just so slow.  I have no injuries and enjoy running a great deal.  Rosemary Ward

A. What you have achieved so far is fantastic. You can and will do a half-marathon. Be patient and be prepared to walk at times until your body is ready to go the whole way. How about aiming for an interim target of 10K? This is less daunting but it is still real progress. Be proud of what you have achieved; the weight will continue to come off and you will feel so much better for it.

Q. I am aiming for a sub-90:00 half-marathon this autumn. What should a weekly tempo session look like? I can currently do a weekly four mile tempo at 6:45-6:50 min/mile. Is this fast enough or long enough? Rob Cope

A. I suggest aiming to patiently work up to 7-9 miles of tempo work, probably in blocks of 2-3 miles to start off with. Build up with 2x2 miles, then 2x3 miles, followed by 2x4 miles, 6 miles and then 8 miles. You may want to finish at 10 miles before race day but be creative to ensure you make your training fun.

Q.  I've been training for my first half-marathon in early September and I was doing well. I did 11 miles in 1h 50m, I'm a newbie to running. However recently I tore a muscle in my hip. I have seen the physio and she is confident I will be match ready, additionally I have corrective trainers for over-pronation and insoles to put my back in alignment. What's the best way to get back to half-marathon training when I've been out for six weeks, without putting myself back on the bench?  I do cycling and swimming to keep my cardiovascular fitness up and I am confident that my fitness is good; I just want to get back into running with confidence.  I'm going for a finish rather than a time, so do you have any tips? Helen Gibb

A. I suggest you return to running very gently and realistically. You have at least two and a half months before the half-marathon, as well as inspiration from the Olympics to get you through. Write down the date of the race and plan backwards in terms of your preparation to avoid you running too fast too soon, and hopefully avoid any injuries.

Q. I have really tight calf muscles, it doesn't effect me when I train, only when I race, especially on the road. The pain does not feel like muscle soreness, they just hurt when I do anything that requires me to stretch them, like pushing wheelchairs up a hill which I have to do and calf raises. I tend to strike the ground with my mid/forefoot I also run offroad and on hilly terrain. I do stretch but this makes no difference. It is running related as when I don't run it eases considerably. camillia sinensis assamica mouse

A. I suggest you get hold of a good biomechanist, perhaps you could ask Runner’s World to recommend one for you? They may be able to tweak your running gait to alleviate the problem. Ensure your stretching is effective and you are fully hydrated. Perhaps you could apply ice to the affected areas or take some anti-inflammatories to ease the pain and tightness. I would be keen to know how you resolve it, good luck.

Q. Could you recommend a great half-marathon for the autumn? My coach has said that he will only allow me to run the Pisa Marathon in December if I achieve a PB in late September or October, so I need a good race to get the time. Simon_Freeman

A. In September you have Lake Vyrnwy Half Marathon, which is a very fast race, and there is also an excellent one in Amsterdam. It might also be worth checking out the half-marathon in Cardiff. Give my regards to your coach.

Q. I'm doing an offroad/hilly half-marathon in 10 days.  I think I'm in good shape as I ran a marathon recently and should be able to handle the distance pretty easily.  Do you have any recommendations for a last session or a few final sessions to put in before race day?  Daniel Mckeown

A. You must be in pretty good shape Daniel. It is important to stress that you have already done all the hard work, so don’t spoil things by training too hard just before the race. Do a light, faster session with long recoveries, for example 3x1200m at faster than race pace, then off 4mins. Good luck.

Q. I ran my first half-marathon last October in 2:22 after being knocked over by a fellow runner. I'm currently running sub-60:00 10K, but I would really like to run a sub-2:00 half-marathon at Stroud this year. However, I get a terrible nerves before race day. Do you have any tips to improve my training to get me closer to a sub-2:00? How can I calm the jitters? Carley

A. It is good that you are still running Carley. As said in other questions, I think the key lies in the quality of the tempo work you do; the distance and pace of long runs and the quality of your rest and recovery. Regarding your nerves, just remind yourself that stress is self-imposed and no one is making you do the race. Let running enhance your life not haunt you. Good luck and enjoy.

Q. I am running the Windsor Half Marathon in October. I'm trying to improve on a two hour PB that I achieved in the Reading Half Marathon in March down to 1:50. Having done lots of practice, my pace is gradually increasing, but feel I need more focus to make it. Do you have any advice on what I should focus on between now and the race? Percx

A. It is lovely to read of your ambitions. I would look at two key things in your training:

1. Long tempo runs, i.e. controlled discomfort over 7-10 miles or 2x3-4 miles if that’s preferable to rehearse good rhythm and sustained pace running.

2 Focus on a relevant and appropriate pace on long runs; aim to run 15-16 miles at a pace of 40 seconds per mile outside your target time. Ensure that your run is controlled and manageable and enjoy the feeling of confidence of going over the target distance at a good pace. I hope you hit your target.

Get all the training advice you'll need for your next half-marathon with our 2012 Half-Marathon Newsletter

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Discuss this article

good stuff by Bud

the right mix of caution and encouragement, much needed by the over-enthusiastic, and by the overweight !!!

many thanks (from a man with sore calfs) from oxfordshire

Posted: 26/06/2012 at 21:50

The GNR is my challenge for my 60th year!  I started running with Race for Life 9yrs ago and have done a few 10K - slowly - 1hr 20. I am about 1stone overweight and I usually run 2-3x/wk but feel I always run at the same pace and don't get any faster/fitter. If I run with others I let them do the talking as I feel I need all my breath for running! I have downloaded a SmartCoach programme but find I am running quite a bit faster at 11-12min/mile rather than the 13-15min/mile scheduled (I use a Nike sensor). Yesterday on my Long Run I tried to slow more but felt I was barely jogging. I live in the Lake District so hills are obligatory! I run mainly off road. Should I adjust the schedule to a faster 10k time?
Posted: 01/07/2012 at 22:12

Hi Bud,

I hope you had a good Christmas and are well. I would say you are one of the most inspirational coaches I've met in my 39 years of running. So athlete focussed, I wish I had that skill.

If you have time I wonder if you could answer my query. I've done quite a lot of middle distance running but entered two marathons this year. London and Berlin. Never done one before. I'd like to finish Berlin in 3.30 ish , I'm 50.

I found a 16 week schedule on the RW website for a sub 3.30. I started it early in case of injury I'm up to week 7 - ran 43 miles last week long run 18 miles which I managed ok about 3 mins less than the target time.

I have entered a 5 mile race 1/2/2015, a 20 mile race 8/3/2015 and a half marathon 22/3/2015. I'm unsure how to adapt the schedule to fit these in.

I also need to finish it about 5 weeks later than it finishes!! I was thinking of starting at week 2 again? The schedule I am following is the RW'S Ultimate Marathon sub 3.30 schedule posted 7/5/2000.

Best of luck with your athletes. Remember to look after yourself.


Posted: 16/01/2015 at 17:34

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