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Effective Half Marathon & 10 Mile Training

The half marathon and 10mile events are very popular amongst all runners, and as soon as you have trained and race for either of these distances, you will want to be back for me.

The distance is such that it requires a good level of endurance, some speed and strength. However, unlike the marathon which relies a lot more on endurance, and the shorter 10 and 5k races, which rely on speed, this is a real race of speed endurance.

We believe that effective training needs be well planned and well thought through. It should include training that’s suitable for you and your ability and shouldn’t be at one-paced but include running sessions at varying effort levels, which will make you fitter! Effective training should also be run to perceived effort levels and not to set paces. The problem with running to a set pace is that you try and achieve that pace no matter what the weather conditions might be or how you’re feeling, whether you’re properly fuelled and hydrated or stressed and not slept properly … there are a number of factors that can mean you do not hit a set pace and only end up training way too hard and risk injury or illness.

The 10mile and certainly the half marathon is a test of endurance, however endurance can not be built up overnight, it takes years and years to build. Many people wanting to run the marathon often only give themselves 16-weeks to do it all in. In reality, we need a good period of easy running in the build-up to the marathon and you should aim to look at the training plan as the real preparation towards race day. The first thing that makes effective training is having a period of steady running and conditioning as part of a build up, before a serious build up.

The training needs to build up gradually, it isn’t possible to go from running 5 miles to 15 in one fell swoop. The training must allow for a gradual progression in pace and distance. Many runners improve their fitness dramatically in the first few months of training. Unfortunately muscles, joints and connective tissue need longer to fully and safely adapt.

If you do start to feel any aches and pains, ignore them at your peril! Your body is great at telling you what it wants so start listening to it. The key to good training is consistency and you can’t be consistent if you’re injured. Take an extra rest day and allow your body to recover. It’s much better to take one day off immediately than a week off later on.

The half marathon and especially the 10mile is not all about the Long Run, it’s certainly an important element of your training plan but there are other building blocks required, however these will depend on how advanced you are in your running life:

  • Threshold Running – Speed endurance, run at around 80 – 85% of maximum effort. These runs improve your lactate threshold, your running efficiency and aerobic capacity. All this helps to improve your race times at all distances and ultimately your marathon performance. Your 10mile race pace will be incredibly close to your threshold effort level the quicker you get.

  • Hills – During the beginning part of your training you should aim to include hill running to help build endurance and leg strength.

  • 10k work – For those at the sharper end of the race, it’s important to continue with some slightly faster paced work, to keep the legs turning over a bit faster and maintain some speed in the legs. This won’t be applicable for every runner but is an important element of your plan.

Runner’s can get obsessed with the long run. The long run is just ONE element of effective training. You should have one long run a week, ideally on the same day of the week (and at the same time towards the end of your training) as the race itself. The idea of the long run is to get your body and muscles to effectively use your body’s fat supplies, instead of relying on only glycogen (as this will run out after 90-minutes or so of running)

The long run should be run at a completely conversational effort and can be anywhere from a minute to a minute and a half a mile slower than your target race pace. At the beginning of your training, the aim is simply to get time on your feet so don’t worry about distance or pace.

The aim with our training plans is to include the long run at the end of a week and this is often preceded with a harder session the day before. The idea of this is that you go into the long run on ‘tired legs’ and therefore mimic some of the fatigue you’ll feel at the later stages in the marathon.

The training should include a practice race or two, to test your fitness levels and also make sure you are ready for race day and your preparations are all in place.

Any effective training plan will also include some race pace practice and we would include this towards the end of your long runs when you get closer to race day. This pace needs to be realistic and you need to be sure that you feel comfortable running at this pace during your long run training sessions. How are you going to race a pace if you have never practiced it?

Your training should also be supplemented with lots of rest! You don’t have to slog away every day. Try to have at least one day a week of doing no training at all as this will help your body recover and prepare it for the next training assault. And if you're on a rest day, do exactly that … don't feel tempted to build a shed or lay the patio!

Effective training is also not just about running but instead needs to include cross training (for example swimming, gym bike, elliptical machine or rower) to allow you to keep working on your cardiovascular fitness whilst not pounding away on the pavements. It’s also important to work on your core and body strength to make sure that you’re able to keep your form together in the latter stages of the race when you’re feeling tired. It’s a common misconception amongst runners that you can only run to get better at running. Whilst you need to run, you also need to be doing complimentary work, such as core training.

Try recording your training. This helps you stick to your plan but it’s also something to look back on if you’re feeling down about your training and it can provide fantastic motivation and give you a real confidence boost a few days before the race. So make a note of how you felt during different sessions, what went well, what the weather was like, your effort levels and paces.

Effective training will also taper you down towards the big day. You can’t run hard all the way up to the race so from 2 to 1 weeks out you need to say, that is where I am at, continue training but do not expect to see huge fitness gains during this time. The taper is designed for you to feel fresh and ready to run your best on race day. For some of the taper it is more than likely that you will feel sluggish, this is not surprising and you will start to pick it up towards the marathon. Our plans actually keep your training regime the same, just reduce the intensity of workouts.

Racing a good half marathon and 10 mile race is all about preparation. Not just for the 24-hours leading into the race, but ideally preparing from 16-weeks out or even longer. Get this right and everything else will start to fall in place.

Before you start the race itself, you need a plan of how you’re going to race it. The best way to run any marathon is with a negative split. This means that you run the second half of the race quicker than the first. However this requires a great deal of self-control and mental strength.

Running too fast for the first half of the race can really put you in trouble for the second half. It won’t be too bad if you go out a bit hard on a 10mile race, however, run the first half too hard with your half marathon and you will suffer towards the end.

The most sensible way to run the half marathon is to run the first 7 miles conformably, then from 7 – 10 try to pick the effort level up to threshold level, and then race miles 10 – 13. You may not be able to execute the half just like that; instead running at an even pace may be a more sensible plan.

The 10mile race is about splitting it up into two 5 miles races. The first 5 miles need to be solid and ran at an effort level that is pushing towards the upper limits of Threshold running. The aim of the next 5 miles is the try and pick it up. It is challenging because you are moving quickly but you need to retain your focus and applying the pressure.

The more races you do, the more you will understand how you have to race

To race a good half marathon (and perhaps a 10mile race, depending on how fast your are racing) you need to have your nutrition strategy nailed down to a fine art. Your pre race food needs to be worked on so you know that it won’t cause you any issues come marathon day. Practice what meal you are going to have the night before and morning of the marathon throughout your training, fine tuning this so you aren’t even thinking about it come race day.

If you plan on finishing within 90minutes for either race, you probably won’t need any carbohydrate based gel, however, for durations over 90 minutes we recommend taking onboard some carbohydrates. You need to have a gel around every 45 minutes and the important thing to remember is NOT to take one when you feel tired, you need to be taking these on board before you run out of glycogen stores otherwise it will be too late. Make sure you have practiced with the gels in training and found out which ones work for you and can sit in your stomach safely.

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