Training a week before half marathon
What should runners do in training a week before half marathon races?
I thought this would be a great topic to write a post on considering how many runners compete at the 13.1 mile distance every year.
According to Running USA's Half-Marathon Report there were 1.85 million people who completed a half-marathon in 2012. This is a massive 14.99% increase from 2011.
I often think of how many of us, including myself, over the years have not allowed ourselves the time to back off, relax and taper for a great race.
The bottom line up front is this. There is little you can do to improve the week of a half-marathon but there are many things you can do that will possibly hinder your performances.
Here are three key fundamentals that perhaps will assist you in your training a week before half marathon races.
Over thinking the race.
Once you get to the week before a half-marathon you have to have the confidence in all of the hard work and dedication you have put into that training block.
Have faith in your efforts and try to change your thoughts from negative (if they pop up) to positive.
I'm sitting here at the Minneapolis International Airport going into a marathon this weekend at California International Marathon.
For once, I feel totally at peace. I am using it as a workout and there really isn't any pressure on me.
Is it no wonder that when we stop our cares and worries and over thinking things we usually perform our best?
I can say that in my past races I have always ran well when I was relaxed so please don't be too harsh on yourself leading into races, regardless of the distance.
Get more rest
I usually advocate a 10-day taper leading into marathons.
I do the same for the half marathon distance as well unless I am using a race as a workout like this weekend and don't drop my volume as drastically.
There are many times runners will start to taper 3 weeks out and than get to the race and feel completely flat.
I have found a 10-day taper works best but every runner is different and what works best for me may not work best for you.
Take it with a grain of salt. Follow your own intuition and listen to your body.
Try both types of tapers and see what works best for you. If you have never tried a 10-day out taper I highly recommend it.
Get plenty of sleep, rest and do your best to get your mind off of the race. It wastes precious mental energy worrying about the race the entire week.
It is normal to feel a little nervous the night before or day of the race but do your best to get as much rest as possible.
tempo 3 days before race
This is a tip I give to runners I coach. It is short enough that it won't build up any lactic acid and will remind your legs what they need to do come race day.
It is one last boost to the body's physiological systems and will make your legs feel snappy and ready to race.
Do workouts similar that will get your heart rate up over 160 beats per minute for at least 15 to 20 minutes 3 days out.
It could be a short fartlek or a few hill repetitions but you want to rev the engine just a bit a few days prior as a reminder to your body of what it needs to do.
Do a few light strides and a short 20 minute jog the day before.
Training a week before half marathon competitions is all about timing, recovery and focus.
Sunday – 7 Days Out
Long Run – drop your volume significantly.
If 2 weeks ago your long run was 16 miles, I would go no further than 9 miles today.
Pace should be relaxed but I would throw in miles 3, 6 and 9 at 10 seconds faster then goal half-marathon pace.
Monday – 6 Days Out
AM-easy run or take the day off.
It all depends on what level of runner you are or what your goals are.
We all vary in our ability and the miles we run, but like I mentioned above, there is very little you can do in the way of improving the week of a race but there sure is a great deal you can do wrong.
One of the wrong ways of training the week before half marathon races is to keep training hard and not dropping your volume.
6 days out in a not the time to be doing 6-8x1mile repeats at 20 seconds faster than goal half-marathon race pace. 2 reps would be reasonable with a shorter warm-up and cool-down that you are accustomed to.
Tues- 5 Days Out
AM – 2 mile warm-up, 8×200 meter reps at sustained, hard effort. Full recovery with an equal volume cool-down
Light stretching, cut back on the amount of calories you are taking in but eat plenty of pasta, fresh fruits and vegetables and plenty of water.
Get a massage and take some time to relax the remainder of the day.
Some runners many feel stiff if they get a message too close to their race, other runners may prefer getting a message a few days out prior to their race.
Wed – 4 Days Out
AM- easy 3-7 miles or day off
You are just a few hours a away from your gold medal race.
You may feel lethargic this week but don't read too much into it.
Your body is used to higher volume and longer workouts, don't over think it.
You will feel awesome come race day as you will have given your body the much needed time it has been yearning for and will reward you.
Thurs – 3 Days Out
AM- 1-2 mile warm -up, 3 miles at goal half-mathon pace, 1 mile cool-down
If you run a few seconds below or above goal pace don't be alarmed or think it will tax you too much.
You still want to remind your body of what it is literally trained to do on auto-pilot at this point in your training regimen.
I usually do this exact workout leading into my full and half-marathon races.
Using the California International Marathon this Sunday as a hard, long run I doubled my usual tempo distance doing 6 miles at 5.07 per mile pace (5.08,5.16,5.13,5.05,5.00,4.59) and only slightly dropped my overall training volume but if this was the goal race I would do 3 miles at or around the same pace.
If your goal is to hit 7.00 mile pace aim for 6.55 to 7.10 pace or thereabouts for that three-mile effort.
Fri – 2 Days Out
AM-off or light 3 to 4 mile jog
Disregard pace at this point. The Kenyans run slower than your grandma can run on their easy days. I have trained with 2.12 marathoners who run 15 minute mile jogs on their easy recovery days.
Remind yourself that you have done all that is necessary to accomplish your goal this week, especially 2 days out.
Stay relaxed, get plenty of sleep, hydrate, stretch and have confidence in yourself. Get your racing gear packed and stowed away so that you don't even have to worry about it come race morning. It is already packed, ready to go.
Sat – Day Before The Race
AM- Off or easy 20 minute jog
I would recommend doing 3 or 4 100 meter strides all out. They are too short to build up any lactic acid and will get your legs moving and your heart rate up.
If you take the day off spend some time stretching and visualizing your race. Immediately stop any negative thoughts that run through your mind today.
You will probably experience that weeks and many days before your race but anytime that happens remember you have the power to choose what remains in your mind for long periods of time.
Sit your gear out early, ensure you have everything you need i.e. timing chip on shoes, race number, singlet, shorts etc.
Everything in order, less hassle and one last thing you'll have to concern yourself with for the morning of.
Sun – Race Day
AM- get up 2 to 3 hours before the start of the race.
East breakfast. Giving yourself plenty of time for your body to digest your food is key.
You don't want to get 7 miles into the race and end up having to jump into a port john.
Allowing yourself ample time to digest your food by getting up earlier will ensure you are set up for success on the day of the race.
Do your best to hold back the first few miles.
If you are a few seconds off pace early on, don't worry. No 13.1 mile race is going to be won in the first mile.
It doesn't matter who is in front early on. It is where you are at, at the finish line that is important.
You want to run strong throughout so do your best to even out your overall pace.
Stay focused and do your best to relax. Be cognizant if any tense muscles in your body. If you feel your shoulder riding too high up than consciously lower them.
Keep your face relaxed.
I hope these brief ideas and suggestions for training a week before half marathon racing will assist you in the near future.