If 26.2 miles seems a bit too far…
The marathon is the queen of the Olympic distances and it is without doubt loved many thousands of runners from all over the world. Running (or finishing) a marathon is a personal challenge for each individual who takes part,and it is this personal challenge that creates the fascination for this race.
But let's be clear, the half marathon has no less charm than its bigger sister and completing the 13.1 miles can be just as challenging and motivating.
Half Marathon Training:
When compared to the training required for the marathon, preparation for the half is less demanding both in terms of time (there is no need to do the very long runs), and in terms of physical and psychological stress. The training required for a 13.1m (21.1km) race is more similar to that of a 10km - very different to that for a marathon. I personally find the half marathon to be an exciting and challenging race, where you have to give the best of yourself both in terms of speed and resistance.
A well trained runner should be able to run the half marathon at a pace of +10 seconds/km with respect to their most recent best time for 10km; for example: Best Time 10km = 45 minutes (4:30/km); prediction Half Marathon: 1:38:30 (4:40/km).
To run a half marathon to the best of your ability the focus shouldn’t only be on training to improve aerobic endurance, even if this is the keystone of the preparation. First of all, about 6-8 weeks before the race, you need to train with the objective of improving your anaerobic threshold. This can be improved (even by several km/h over time) by training at a speed that is close to your current threshold, such as running intervals of several minutes (medium intervals of 1-2km), or alternatively the short fast run. (Get an estimate of your anaerobic threshold here).
Then the objective is to work on “holding race pace” - you need to carry out specific work that improves the muscles’ ability to work in the presence of (and use) lactate. Training sessions to develop this quality are long intervals of 2-5 km run at 100-105% of your half marathon pace, with the recovery pace quicker than your slow/easy run (more efficient runners can run the recovery intervals at tempo/medium pace e.g. for a 01:15 half marathon runner: 4 x 3000m at 3:33 min/km; rec 1km at 3:45/50).
There is no need to increase your consumption of carbohydrates a few days prior to the race (as with the marathon). With the half marathon it is sufficient to simply consume a carbohydrate-rich meal (pasta, cereals, bread, grains) on the evening just before the race. Don’t binge however, and make sure that you also consume some protein, but limit this to about 20% of your total calorific intake.
Breakfast the morning of the race should also be carbohydrate based, make sure you select food that you can absorb and digest easily and have eaten previously prior to training or racing (if possible).
Enjoy the Race!