Could I tempt you with a half marathon this summer?

Training for a half marathon could make your summer if you have the right mindset

As the summer passes you get stronger, fitter and more confident; you hit new milestones and best of all you get to run the longest run of your life each week. Photograph: iStock

As the summer passes you get stronger, fitter and more confident; you hit new milestones and best of all you get to run the longest run of your life each week. Photograph: iStock

 

Could I tempt you with a half marathon this summer?

If you have ever considered moving towards long-distance running, this summer could be a great time to test the water. If a marathon is hiding somewhere on your bucket list, please don’t rush into it, instead take yourself halfway there first. At 13.1 miles or 21km a half marathon is the perfect distance to experiment with endurance. You get to see how your body adapts to the longer time on your feet, you learn discipline, build mental and physical strength and most importantly you find out if you actually enjoy running longer distances.

Is it for me?

Realistically if you can run 45 minutes and have been running for a few years you could have a half-marathon medal around your neck by the autumn. If that excites you and possibly makes you a little emotional, then please read on. Alternatively, if you have been hovering between 5km and 10km for a while and feel you have stagnated in your running, this could be the summer to change things up and try running long. A half marathon is indeed a challenge but very doable if you have the right attitude and good running base. But don’t commit to the distance unless you feel enthusiastic about it. Running long distance is not for everyone so don’t feel like you need to run long to be a good runner. There are plenty more challenges out there for you.

What’s involved

You might be pleasantly surprised to hear that training for a half marathon doesn’t have to take over your life. In fact, it could make your summer if you have the right mindset. Each weekend you will hit the road for a running adventure adding about 10 minutes to your current “long run”. Memories are made on these long runs as you learn more about your own body, have extra time to think and maybe even share the miles with some partners in crime. Apart from the weekend long run, two to three short midweek runs are required to help with strength, speed and hill preparation. Other than that, your time is your own.

The only extra commitment involves spending a little time looking after yourself – strength, sleep, flexibility and eating well. But I’m hoping you are doing some of that already!

Find your destination

Now the fun part. Think about what half marathon you might like to take on. It’s your reward for all your summer of running, so find a run that is going to keep you motivated to train. It could be local or even international. Consider the weather, the route, the atmosphere and general logistics before you sign up. A local event has the benefit of allowing you to know the route and the area, while the more exotic locations are more anonymous but can feel very emotional. Ask other runners for their favourite events, bearing in mind that a first-time experience is very different from someone looking for a flat course to run a personal best. Personally I would choose somewhere scenic with big crowds of cheerleaders to help carry you along the route.

Step-by-step plan

It is important to have a clear path of what is involved. I have created a 12-week half-marathon training plan that will help you train sensibly, respect the distance and check in regularly on your progress. Starting out at a “long distance” of 8km it builds you gradually towards your race day. With three to four runs a week and plenty of variety, you might surprise yourself and enjoy the weekly training. Take one week at a time and chip away gradually, appreciating every run, learning every lesson and writing down all your progress. As the summer passes you get stronger, fitter and more confident; you hit new milestones and best of all you get to run the longest run of your life each week.

Next steps

So, do you want to finish the summer having achieved something you may not have even thought possible this morning? Are you more positive about a half marathon since reading this article? If so, go for it. Take a look at my training plan to see what’s involved. If that doesn’t scare you off, the next step is to find your race. Once you have a race date in the diary, go back to the training plan and work back from race day to today, making the training plan your own. Find a few 10km or 10-mile runs along the journey to help race practice and include them in your schedule. Before you physically start training make sure you have your fully personalised training plan on paper. Once it’s all written down you will be surprised at how manageable it will feel.

Keep it simple

Don’t worry about what’s in the second half of the training plan right now. The unknown is the scary bit, but by the time you get there you will be a different runner than you are now. You only need to think about the next few runs in your diary. Keep the focus on the week you are in and before you know it the summer will fly by. You might just achieve the impossible in 12-weeks’ time. It’s hard to see any downside in that.

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with ForgetTheGym.ie. Her new book Get Running published by Gill Books is out now. Download Mary’s Half Marathon Training Plan.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
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Best of luck!

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