Tackling a half-marathon is a challenge equally suited to those with just a few short distance races under their belts and those looking towards completing a full 26.2-mile challenge later in the year. With this in mind, we put a selection of your most frequently-asked questions to GB International coach Nick Anderson. Here's what he had to say...
Can I run/walk a half-marathon?
I’ve only been running for two months – is it too soon for a half?
Remember to run frequently, rest when your schedule says to or when you’re tired, eat and drink well and surround yourself with positive people.
General TrainingDo I need to run more than 13 miles in training?
To complete the half-marathon on the day – no. To race quickly and at a pace quite near to your threshold for the whole distance – probably yes. If you have only run nine or 10 miles in training, you will manage the extra three or four on race day, provided your pace is very sensible and consistent and you have sufficient fluid and fuel.
The faster runners will, or should, run beyond 13 miles in training regularly anyway. They might put threshold/race-pace blocks into their long runs as part of their preparation, for example a 90-minute run could comprise 30 minutes easy, 30 steady and the last 30 at threshold pace. This is a great way to educate and prepare the body’s energy systems
Why should I do speedwork for a half-marathon?
Once your long runs are going well, your race pace efforts or blocks (probably threshold pace) and energy levels are good, you could consider putting in a weekly 5K- or 10K-pace session. This could perhaps become a regular weekly feature over the last six to eight weeks of your build-up.
You would also be wise to factor in one or two 10K races over the last eight weeks to help with the sharpening-up process. The 10K races and speed sessions (aerobic/anaerobic) would improve your leg speed and ability to work at higher than half-marathon race pace and heart rate. This, towards the end of your endurance training, will help to maximise your racing potential aerobically.
Yes, definitely, but you must make the three runs really count though, don’t just go out the door making it up or drifting along. With only three runs, the margins become slightly tighter and the runs must hit the spot.
I would run:
RacingShould I race shorter distances as I prepare for my half?
Yes, definitely. These will give you confidence as you practise your race routine and preparation. The shorter races will also sharpen your performance and give realistic markers for how your progress is coming along.
How much fuel should I take on during a half-marathon?
The second rule is to respect the distance. A half-marathon could take two hours or more to complete. I would suggest taking on board a quality carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement drink every 5K if possible. Whatever you’re drinking, though try to sip it gradually over the period of a mile.
Another way of taking on fuel is through energy gels. They come packed with optimal carbohydrate and electrolytes, and most importantly can be taken as you require them. They can be held in your hand, tucked into your shorts or pinned to your vest. Take a gel roughly every 30 minutes, but practise this.
How often can I race a half-marathon?
Alternatively, if you are not racing a full marathon in a season, I would suggest you could possibly race two half-marathons seriously in the spring and two more in the autumn. This is all very personal though. Most athletes require an easy week after racing their half, and after two or three big races, the body often needs a break mentally, as well as physically. I would certainly leave about four weeks between your half-marathons if you race more than one seriously.
My best advice for the experienced runner is to choose a good half four to six weeks out from you marathon and race this hard, possibly looking for a PB. If you run other half-marathons in your preparation towards the marathon, use these as marathon-paced efforts – great for confidence and fuelling practice. For the beginner to a marathon, I would only use the half-marathons as marathon race-pace target sessions. Logically, if you cannot complete a half at your marathon target pace, your marathon target pace is not realistic.
How can I save something for the last 0.1 miles? I always peak too soon.
How long should I taper for?
Your long run could reduce by 33 per cent two weeks out and by a further third the weekend before. Sessions could do the same. Elite athletes will probably put in their last really tough session 10 days before the race, then begin their taper.