As many of you are aware, Isaac and I are running a half marathon in March. It’s actually the second time for us to run this race, and we are excited to go back and run the Alamo 13.1 (check out my race report from last year’s race!). We started our training last week, and so far things are going pretty good. We had to modify our schedule a little bit, due to me feeling yucky, and having to ease our bodies into running so much again. The past six months we really slacked on maintaining our stamina and speed, so it’s definitely been tough getting ourselves back in shape. But we’ll get there, there’s no doubt about that!
When it comes to training for a half marathon, one of the hardest decisions (besides actually picking race you’re going to run) is deciding which training program to follow. And this honestly goes for any race, be it a 5K, 10K, full marathon and everything in between! If you’re planning on signing up for a race soon, I hope to help you out by sharing what to look for when choosing a training program, as well some programs that we’ve either done ourselves or recommend for you to check out.
Picking the Right Training Program
What is your current level of activity?
This is a big one, y’all! If you can barely run a mile before beginning your training, then picking an intermediate or advanced program where you run over 20 miles in the first week probably isn’t the best idea. Instead think realistically. Ask yourself: “Will this be feasible?” “Will it challenge me?” And (most importantly) “Am I going to burn out after three days and give up on my training?” Be honest with yourself and pick a program you know you can stick to, and one that will push you to improve.
For our first half marathon, mine and Isaac’s goal was to simply finish, and since we had never run more than 6 or 7 miles at a time before we began training, we decided to follow a beginners program. It was intense, but exactly what we needed! Last year for our second half, we decided to kick it up a notch. We already knew we could do the 13.1 miles, but we wanted to beat our previous time, and incorporated a lot of speed work. I was sore the entire 12 weeks, but it was well worth it when we nailed our goal time! This year we are following another intermediate program, and we hope to beat our PR from last year. My personal goal is to get through these next nine weeks without getting sick, so fingers crossed! Last year I had strep and bronchitis, which was a big hit on our training.
How much time can you dedicate to training?
This is a big one for me, since I get to school at 7 in the morning, and we try to run before leaving for work. I always look for programs that never have runs that are more than 5 or 6 miles on a week day, simply for time’s sake. So think about your daily schedule and how much time you are willing to dedicate towards training. Do you have time (or want to get up) before work to run, or will that happen in the evenings after work? There are so many different programs out there, and I know you will be able to find one that fits your schedule! You can also find programs that incorporate more or less speed work, depending on your goals for your training. I would recommend finding programs that include some weight lifting or toning days, because it makes a lot of difference in your strength and endurance when your muscles are toned outside of running (at least from personal experience!).
How far out is your race?
When you start looking for training programs, one of the first things you’ll notice is that there are so many different lengths you can pick! 8, 10 and 12 week long ones are the most popular, but it all depends on how far away your race is. Last year we began training a LONG time before the race. We did an 8 week long couch to 10K program to get back in shape, then a 12 week long intermediate program. This year we lost track of time, and realized just two weeks ago that our race was only a little over 11 weeks off. So a 10 week program it was, and we’re going to push through it!
If you’re running your first race, I recommend a longer program (if possible), just so you can ease your body into the routine of distance running.
Make sure you listen to your body during training, and don’t burn yourself out by trying to do every single thing in your program. It’s okay if you miss a day here and there as long as you are consistent and faithful the rest of the time. You can probably run a half marathon (or any race really) without putting forth much effort, but it will make a world of difference when you follow through with a program. Just ask Isaac about the difference between our first half and our second one!
If you have any questions or need some more advice about picking a training program, let me know. I’d love to help out in any way I can!
Now it’s your turn to talk! Answer one of the following questions in the comments below:
Are you training or about to start training for a race soon?
What are some tips you’d like for me to share about running half marathons?