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



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.

Bud joined us to mark the start of our Half-Marathon Newsletter, powered by ASICS. Our weekly half-marathon newsletter provides schedules and training advice to get you race ready for the Bupa Great North Run – or your autumn half-marathon of choice.

 Read the whole forum debate.

Q. Can you give me any advice on wearing compression socks for my first half-marathon? Wendy Edwards 5

A. It is important that you practice wearing compression socks on at least one long run before a competitive race to allow you to get used to the feel of them.

Seek advice from a specialist running store about the best ones to buy. Ensure your socks are supportive without being too tight. Good luck and enjoy.

Q. What are the best interval sessions I can do to improve on my recent half-marathon time of 76 minutes? My PB is 73:46 and I would really like to get back to achieving that. Any help would be greatly appreciated.  Neil Pendlebury

A. I would recommend you integrate repetition/interval work into your training, or even better, a mix of tempo and interval work. For example, 10 minutes tempo, then five-six x 800 at half PB speed, followed by a short recovery. Finish with another block of tempo work. You should find that this type of training is extremely beneficial and good fun.

Ensure you follow a hard day of training with two easy days to allow your body to adapt.

Q. In October I’m attempting two half-marathons, the Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon and Run to the Beat. The runs are spaced three weeks apart on October 7 and 28. I've trained for half-marathons before with a PB of 1:37 and I’m looking to improve on my PB in at least one of these races. I was wondering if you had any advice on training for this? Should I include more cross-training or strength classes to improve my core strength and recovery, or should I just focus on the running? Matthew Timms

A. This sounds like an interesting challenge. I think you need to check the profiles of the courses to decipher which race you want to target as your PB attempt.

If you choose to really push yourself for a PB in the second event, then you could perhaps use the first event as a full dress rehearsal to see what energy drinks or gels work for you and practice your pacing.

Follow the first race with a few easy days, then do a 10 day block of training which you can then taper in the lead up to the second race on October 28. Core work is invaluable and it's easy to fit in to your every day routine. Just 5-10 minutes per day in front of the TV can make a big difference. Here’s to a great PB.

Q. I can usually hold a 6:36 min/mile pace for 11-12 miles of a half marathon, but recently, after that my calves cramp and cause me to slow down. I can't seem to resolve this problem. It doesn't happen when I am running a long distance at a slower speed, so I'm wondering if it may have something to do with me pushing the pace too hard? I wear compression socks to run and cool down in. Kittenkat

A. Are you fully hydrated? I am wondering if this may be a drinks/electrolyte problem. You may also want to look at tweaking some of your training to try and face this issue. For example you may try 8-10 miles at a very steady pace, then finish with 4-5 miles at 6:25-30 pace to give you confidence that the situation is surmountable. Good luck.

Q. I have made a gradual return to running, after a stress fracture of the medial malleolus earlier this year due to over training for my third marathon. I am doing my third half-marathon on October 28 and I'm keen to get a sub-2:00 time in order to be close to my previous PB of 2:03:57.  Do you have any advice on training plans and what I should focus on during training to ensure I don’t overdo it again? Shalha

A. You didn’t mention how many times a week you run, but 28 weeks is plenty of time to get into great shape. Supposing you run three or four times per week then I would suggest aiming for:

1. A gradual increase in time spent on your feet (preferably on soft ground such as grass or parkland).

2. Good quality tempo work or a mix of tempo and faster work.

3. More gentle recovery runs.

4. If you have time, include a session of relevant longer reps. For example, 5-8 miles at a slightly faster than race pace, then as short a recovery as you can cope with.

Again, I suggest trying to carry out these sessions on grass to prevent aggravating any previous injuries.

Q. I am planning on running the Blenheim Palace Half Marathon in October, but have been dogged by injury. I am recovering from Achilles Tendinitis, which has meant I have only got back into training in the last month, after two months of not running at all. My achilles is still not 100 per cent but is improving well. Can you recommend any techniques that can be used whilst recovering from an injury of this kind? Andy Street 2

A. It sounds like you have been in the wars! A great way of staying very fit is by cross-training and lots of it. Equally, swimming, aqua jogging, cycling, spinning, cross-training and Pilates are also great ways to keep fit. You can be as creative as you like, the heart only knows its working and not what type of exercise its doing.

I hope your injuries clear. Just remember to be patient and smart – only race if you are ready.

On the next page: Read about Bud's top tips for bagging a PB and must-read advice for your first half-marathon. 


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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

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