Next Sunday will be the second Big FM Chandigarh half marathon. Two years ago I did it and blogged about it here. I lost count of the number of half marathons that I have done until today. I suppose it will be around 25 if you take an average of two a year since I started running. There were years where I did many more than that, but then there were years when I did only 1 or none at all. So this is what I do to prepare for a half marathon.
It is too far to think that your general fitness will carry you through. I tried it once, made it, but had to shuffle like and old man with a walker for a week afterwards. So it is better if you are a regular runner. You can do less, but about 3 weeks before the race I like to average around 50k a week. (The general rule is that you have to run the race distance X 2 in a week comfortably) I also like to do at least 15 a few times during my preparation, speed being not important.
So if you are a very casual runner and ask me a week before the event how you should prepare. Um… you should have asked me at least a month ago.
If you are aiming for a personal best or as in my case a RPB (the R is for recent, since I will probably never again run a PB) then you can do some speed work. 400 meter repeats on a hill is my favourite. Do as many as you can endure and do not rest too long in between. Warm up first. Then go up as fast you can, jog down, repeat. Sometimes I do 200’s or 400’s on the track or just sprints from one telephone pole to the next. This practices different muscles which you will need during your PB attempt. About 2 weeks before the race I like to do a shorter time trial at race speed. This can be a 7 or 10k. Your muscles will remember this speed on race-day.
Remember to stretch well to avoid injuries. Do not run through sharp pain or pain that gets gradually more intense. Walk, stretch and see if you can carry on, if not, walk home. Eat enough fruit and vegetables. With intense training one’s immune system can also come under pressure and you do not want to get sick before the race.
Rest the week before the race. I will have my last long run a week before. Then I will do low-intensity running for the rest of the week. If the race is on Sunday then I will not run at all on Friday and Saturday. Currently carbo-loading is under dispute, but I love pasta the day before. I usually eat a light meal the night before and make sure I have everything ready. This includes the moon bag (or fanny pack as you may call it in the US) for carrying a chocolate, some cash and my phone, tape against nipple chafing, the race number on my club shirt, etc. Take something warm for before the race. No use wasting energy to keep your body temperature stable! I wear a cap when there will be sun or a chance of rain.
On race-day I get up early enough to be able to eat breakfast two hours before the race. Again light and something that I am used to – in my case that is usually oats. No coffee on race-day for me. Some people say you can eat a banana right before the race. I tried it once, but suffered for it nausea, heart-burn, stomach cramps. I go early enough because invariably I need to go, you know… It also helps if I can start close to the front. I use my smartphone app whenever I think there may not be kilometer markings. It helps me to make speed corrections early on. I try to run my race at a steady energy output. Starting too fast results in suffering at the end and losing a lot more time. Starting too slow will leave you with lots of energy at the end, but your previous PB still intact. Do not be lured by faster runners to abandon your race plan.
Drink a bit at the water stations even if you are not thirsty. It helps to feel less thirsty closer to the end. Drink too much and you may have to go… again.
I usually try to enjoy the race, but the best is crossing the finish-line, receiving your medal and know that you are (still) strong enough to do this.
There are many books written about this subject, of which I have read some. This post just contains my way of doing it. Anyway, please give me your opinion in the comments which may also help others.