Athena All-Women's Run: On and On

Ask Kikay Runner: Half-Marathon Training

This is a section on my blog where I answer questions people ask me. If you have any questions for future Ask Kikay Runner entries,Β email me or leave me a message on the Kikay Runner Facebook page.

Today I’m pleased to be answering two questions about half-marathon training. The 21K or half-marathon is a challenging distance in itself. When I did my first 21K, it was the first time I had to start being smart and specific about my run sessions. I couldn’t expect to do well at a half-marathon with unstructured training.

Athena All-Women's Run: On and On
Be smart about half-marathon training.

Kathrina writes:

I am very much inspired on your motivation and determination on working out and being healthy. I would like to ask your advice as to how many KM I should be regularly running if I am going to join a half-marathon on Oct. 6? I run 3x a week only. Should I be adding more days to these prior to Oct. 6? For the past month i was running 9KM minimum – 11KM max.

Karen writes:

What would be the best training to meet the Milo cut-off and have a medal. Its my 2nd attempt this coming September and hoping to beat the cut off time of 2.5hrs 21k.

21K PR – normally between 2:50 to 3:00 depending on my pace
10k – normally 1 hour to 1:15
5K – normally 30 minutes

I am only running 5k twice a week then long run on weekend.

Karen‘s PR’s show that she has a big drop-off in speed from 10K to 21K. Based on her 5K and 10K times, she should be able to run a 21K in less than 2 hours and 30 minutes (the Milo Marathon 21K cut-off), so I think her issue here is building the ability to maintain the same pace (about 6 minutes/km) for longer than 10K.

Kathrina‘s run scheduling is good. What she needs to do is increase the distance of her long run to prepare her for the distance on October 6 (Run United Philippine Marathon). It’s about six weeks away and she needs to increase her long run by 10% every week until she peaks at 17K at the least. So from 11K, she should increase to 12K this week, then 13K, then 15K, then 17K, then 19K. After this, she can taper for two weeks so she can be fresh to run that 21K. Of course, if she starts feeling pain in her knees or feet, it could signal that the mileage increase is too rapid, so she needs to assess the increase on a weekly basis.

I usually just run 3x a week as well — 1 intervals/hills, 1 tempo, and 1 long run. I take my cue from triathlon training, which needs to be time-efficient (since we juggle training in three sports instead of just one) so these three runs are quality must-do sessions.

The speedwork run can be quite short as long as I’m really pushing the pace to slightly faster than current race pace. Hill repeats build strength (it’s like doing squats, only with your body weight!) and speed; I don’t have the patience to run around a 400-meter track, so doing hills is less mentally fatiguing. Runners’ World has a great interval workout.

A tempo run is one that’s done at a “comfortably hard” pace, slightly below the pace you feel your legs starting to burn or get heavy. According to this Runners’ World article, tempo runs improve the body’s ability to use oxygen for metabolism more efficently by increasing lactate threshold, or the point the body fatigues at a certain pace. This means you can run faster, longer. My tempo runs for a half-marathon race are usually 10-12 kilometers in length, and I like doing these with a group that runs at the same pace or slightly faster.

The long run should be easy, but I try to incorporate some race-pace efforts near the end of the long run so my body knows how it feels to run at target pace even when tired.

Karen and Kathrina, thanks for asking your questions. You’re being smart about your half-marathon training. Wishing you well on your upcoming races!

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About Noelle De Guzman

Noelle De Guzman is a freelance writer and recreational athlete with over 12 years of experience in wellness and endurance sport. She believes sport and an active healthy lifestyle changes lives.

4 thoughts on “Ask Kikay Runner: Half-Marathon Training

  1. Hi Kikay! It’s funny that you shared this older entry on your FB page since I’ve been meaning to ask you about something 21K-related.

    I have joined two 21K races so far. My normal 5K time is 33 mins, so average pace is around 06:36/km. I was aiming for a 2:30 time for 21K, which seemed achievable for my pace. My actual time for the two races are: 2:44 and 2:50.

    I usually start out pretty good during the races. I manage to maintain my pace for most of the race, but things start messing up when I reach the last 4-5 kilometres.

    1) I eventually throw up whatever I ate or drank during the race. I thought it was because I drank too much water per station during the first race. I intentionally drank less water during the second race and just had half of a banana, but I still threw up at around 16K.

    2) After throwing up, I feel myself getting significantly weaker and my hands go super numb. During the second race, I also experienced severe cramping on both legs.

    What should I do to keep the same things from happening? Is it a hydration issue? Or am I running too hard?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Ley,

      1) Pacing. You may be starting too fast and the pace isn’t sustainable throughout the distance. Is the pace you’re running the same pace as your 5K pace? You should expect to go slower over a longer distance. My 5K pace is around 4:30 min/km. For 21K, my best pace has been 4:55 min/km.

      2) Nutrition. Do you practice eating during training whatever you’re planning to use for the race? If so, and your gut problems happen no matter what you’re eating, then it’s possible you are going too hard, which causes your stomach to shut down and not absorb the nutrients properly.

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