The biggest difference between a 10k and a half marathon is the frequency of your training, and the bump in volume. Running, after all, changes very little over distance, but your training has to reflect the final distance you are aiming for.

The half marathon is often called the perfect race distance, and there are plenty of reasons for this. Unlike a 10K, the half-marathon is a true long-distance category, and is more than double the distance of a 10K. It’s a great race to test whether you are ready to step up to the marathon league. And it requires significantly more discipline and strategy to complete, which is a challenge for the intelligent runners out there.

While a 10K plan might have you running 3 times a week, a half marathon plan will bring that up to 4-6 times a week, with a mandated long run at the end of each week. With less time between training sessions, rest and recovery become much more of a key focus than they were at a 10K level. And then there’s the training, strengthening and cross-training routine. All of these are even more important as you increase your mileage and volume.

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Increase your weekly volume gradually

If you are building your own training plan, ensure you give yourself plenty of time to ramp up your volume, and at least one rest day a week. Remember to not add more than 10% to your volume each week, and budget approximately 4 months to make the jump from 10K to half marathon. This means no impromptu decisions to take up half marathon challenges. Be intelligent about what you can achieve and what’s still a way from you. You can certainly make the move faster, but you will increase your risk of injury or burnout, and you do not want that.

Regardless of how you look at it, 21.1 kilometers is a long way to run. And if you get your pacing wrong, it can feel even longer when you’re actually running it. A common mistake is running too fast at the start of a half marathon. Your legs are fresh, you’re surrounded by the energy of the other racers, and your adrenaline is coursing through your veins. If you go out too fast at this distance, you most definitely will burn out. The best way to tackle this is through a pacer or a running coach, who can guide you on the correct path, and advise you on avoiding running injuries at the same time.

Use fartlek strategy to train. Tun the first couple kilometers slightly slower than you goal pace and then gradually speed up from there. Have spells of sprinting and fast paced running. Running the second half of your race faster than the first is known as negative splitting. It can be difficult, but it should be your goal.

Great for stretching (Image: LAFitness)
Cross-training with a medicine ball (Image: LAFitness)

During the race you will need to take in some form of hydration, especially if the weather is warm. You will probably also want to take in calories during the race. These calories can come from gels, bars, food, or sports drinks. It is critical that you train with the food and drinks your will be taking in during the race. Turn your weekly long runs into practice sessions for your race nutrition plan. This way you know what to take out before race day.

In addition to food and drinks, you may want to consider sodium/electrolyte supplements, especially if you are prone to cramping. Also, know that you will be noticeably sore for two weeks after the race. That is not uncommon at all so make sure you brace yourself for that. Roll, stretch and take it easy. You’ll have earned it!

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