Bath Half Marathon training – Part 2

I guess there’s no right or wrong time to start a structured training programme for a half marathon (whether that be the Bath Half or any other half marathon). Normally, training programmes start for real around 12 – 16 weeks ahead of your event date. Sixteen weeks before an event seems like ages – plenty of time to start! – but without wishing our busy lives away, time has a habit of whizzing by and before we know it, a few weeks will have ‘evaporated’!

For some unknown reason, many people – myself included – seem to suffer from (what I call) ‘mañana syndrome’, as in “I’ll start mañana”, aka never. Mañana is Spanish for tomorrow and the English definition when used in this context is ‘in the indefinite future’, i.e. procrastination! Or we like to put off doing things until after a major event – “I’ll start after Christmas”, “I’ll start in the New Year”. Why??? If you do wait until after the New Year to start the programme, you will have missed the first 4 weeks of the 14-week programme which might be tricky to claw back. Or you may be tempted to increase too quickly and risk injury.

get the running started image

Similarly, we seem to completely throw our schedule out of the window for the 2 week ‘Christmas holiday’ period. Yes it’s nice to have a change and a bit of a break, but really no exercise at all?? For 2 whole weeks? Christmas is JUST ONE DAY and New Year is JUST ANOTHER DAY (albeit maybe a bit of a hungover one). In fact, there are 3 bank holidays in the space of 10 days over Christmas / New Year meaning 3 extra days off so it’s actually the perfect time to get on with things. You may be travelling to see relatives or friends, but don’t assume you can’t go for a sneaky run whilst there. Take your running things with you – you only need half an hour and it’s good to explore some different locations and routes.

Or if you’re struggling for motivation and accountability, why not arrange to run with a friend or in a group – there are lots of running groups out there if you do a quick Google search, and parkrun is always a fantastic way to get in a cheeky run on a Saturday morning.

Enough ranting, but I think you get the message that we need to get on with this half marathon training, sooner rather than later! The ‘official’ start week for the two 14-week programmes attached is the second week of December (for a March event), but there’s no harm in getting ahead of the game and locking in some good habits right now. If you’ve already been running regularly, then you have done well to put down some base-level fitness on which you can build. If your running has been sporadic, there’s no need to feel gloomy – there’s still time, but you do really need to start getting those regular running habits in place.

I’ve taken the two training plans here for the Bath Half Marathon directly from the Bath Half website, so credit to them. The ‘Beginner’ programme is designed for people who haven’t done a half marathon before, or haven’t done one for ages, and who would be targeting a time of between approximately 2 hours 15 and 2 hours 30 minutes (6:24 – 7:07 min/km) if all goes to plan. The ‘Intermediate’ programme would be for people who are probably aiming for a finish time of between 1 hour 45 minutes and 2 hours (4:59 – 5:42 min/km).

My top tips when it comes to half marathon training programmes:

  • use it as a GUIDE, not the law! Everyone is coming at it from a different ability. If you’re already way ahead of week 1, then don’t regress and do what the programme says – adapt it to suit and follow the general progression. Likewise, if you are late to the party (!), then don’t jump straight to the relevant half marathon training week – adapt your training to cover the missed weeks, build up slowly and maybe adjust your finish time expectations.
  • feel free to move the days around – after all, you may not be able to go out running on a Monday, but maybe Tuesday instead. Likewise, Sunday may be your ‘long run’ day, rather than Saturday. It really doesn’t matter as long as you roughly stick to the pattern and keep the rest days between runs (see below for more on ‘rest’ days).
  • adjust the various timed efforts depending on what you are doing. For example, if you attend a run training session that involves hill intervals, substitute this for one of the higher effort sessions for that week – you don’t want to overdo the effort.
  • learn your pace and learn your effort. Don’t overdo either but make sure you can feel the difference between ‘easy’ running, ‘tempo’ (sustained) running and ‘race pace’ (just what it says, but of course this would vary depending on what distance race you were doing). Ideally as you train, your pace should increase for the same effort.
  • remember there will likely be set-backs. Try where possible to stick to a good routine but don’t beat yourself up if you miss a session, or you cut a session short because you’re just not feeling it. You won’t fail to finish the Bath Half marathon because you didn’t do the long run in week 7. Likewise, an illness may set you back but if you’ve been consistent up to that point, you will get back relatively quickly to where you left off. On that note, if you are ill and have time off running, don’t be tempted to start back where you should be according to the programme. Dial down the effort a bit and build back up gradually (but quicker than the first time round).
  • don’t be a slave to the programme. It’s about enjoying the process, and the end result should not be the only goal. Hopefully the Bath Half marathon will be an event that you will enjoy and will not mark the end of your running career!
  • ‘rest’ days aren’t really rest days! Yes it’s important to rest in between run days – the recovery is vital – but you could include another form of exercise on these days – a swim, a bike ride, a game of tennis for example. Not compulsory but don’t think you need to be completely sedentary when not running, nor do you need to avoid all the other activities that you may enjoy during a run training programme.
  • include some strength and conditioning work every week. This ideally should be a core or legs, bums & tums type class. Perfect if you can get to a class in person or online, but if you can’t then aim to spend a bit of time each day doing some simple squats, lunges, planks etc etc to strengthen your core. You will certainly reap the rewards of this as you get into your longer runs.
  • Finally – don’t sweat the small stuff. Take it in your stride, literally. Learn to live with the programme and make it part of your life, not something that rules your life.
Bath Half Marathon Training
Bath Half Marathon Training Programmes - let the fun begin! 1

Good luck with the programme – print it out and stick it on your fridge! We’ll discuss race ‘tactics’ and controlling the controllables on event day in a future post…