Five Ways A Successful Half Marathon Will Shape Your Season

444 480 Patrick McCrann


Every winter our athletes participate in the Endurance Nation OutSeason® . This program is designed to build threshold strength on both the bike and run – your one hour power, if you will.

There are multiple tests throughout the program and plenty of quality workouts, but there’s really only one run training session that we care about: the final half marathon time trial.

I know what you’re saying, isn’t that a bit long for a time trial? The truth is, 13.1 miles is the precisely perfect distance to learn about your endurance run fitness.

While some athletes are fast twitch others are predominantly slow twitch. The half marathon incorporates both types of running and also includes demands for pacing, race execution and nutrition. In short, the half marathon may be the most important run that you do all year.

Proof Of Pacing

Fitness aside, learning how to run to your current potential is a critical skill. It’s something that most athletes don’t consider until they are well into the summer. Including the half marathon at the end of our winter training program gives athletes a low stress opportunity to practice pacing. More importantly, they get a chance to see the results of excellent pacing. Once athletes have witnessed the power of proper execution, it’s very hard for them to go backwards future races and messed things up.

We define proper pacing within the context of a half marathon as follows: 3 / 7 / 3.1

The first 3 miles – During these first three miles you will run at a pace slightly slower than your goal race pace. For example, if you hope to run eight minute miles this pace would be approximately 8:10s per mile. Instead of sprinting off the line and dashing back and forth between runners, you use this time to get your heart rate up gradually and settle into a comfortable stride while all the rabbits take off.

The middle seven miles – This phase of the races where you move into a pace slightly faster than goal race pace. If your target is eight minute miles, these miles will be 7:55s. In other words, you will slowly chip away at the extra time from the first three miles by running just a little bit faster.

Should rolling terrain get in your way, simply add a few seconds to go up and take a few seconds away when you go down so things even out. From a heart rate perspective, we are looking for a slowly building effort. Things should start to feel serious by the time you get to about Mile 8, but not that hard.

The final 3.1 miles – This final piece of the half marathon is where you get to really show what you’ve got. Depending how you feel, you can pick up the pace appropriately. The goal here is to continue building your effort all the way through the finish line.

If you’ve done it correctly, your race performance builds all day such that you begin passing lots of people by halfway and even more towards the end. Your heart rate builds steadily you remain 100% in control as you nail your target race pace.

25k Race Execution

A Really Solid 25k – Not Perfect, but Well Run!

A Unique Combination of Fast – and Slow – Twitch Muscles

Part of the work that we do in the winter is recruiting large motor units to work at higher intensity levels. As we get more comfortable using these units, they are used more frequently, they eventually transition to acting more of a slow twitch manner.

The half marathon is the perfect bridge for this type of work. Your winter training at intensity and the fast twitch muscles are ready to work. On race day your steady start builds into a solid middle and ultimately a tempo finish. This type of racing requires competency both the slow and fast twitch muscle groups. You will need them all if you’re going to remain on the gas for the full 13.1 miles!

Nutritional Plan Required

Anyone longer than an hour absolutely need some kind of nutrition. In the context of a half marathon, you will want to have a gel about 15 minutes before the race, and then the option for two more gels within the race. Depending on how long you’ll be out there these gels should be taken at about Mile 6 and then again just before Mile 10. This will give you a chance to replenish any calories and potentially top off your glycogen…or even use some caffeine to stay focused at the end.

Since you will be carrying your own hydration, be sure to time your fueling with an upcoming eight stations that you have quick fluids to wash down your food.

While nutrition isn’t an essential part of the day, creating a plan and implementing it is an important first step towards being successful at the remainder of your long course racing.

Connecting Fast to Far

Since most of the work we do in the winter on the run revolves around interval training, there isn’t a lot of time for people to run in Zone Three. We predominantly run at a steady pace to build Run Durability. We then have these hit out sessions with intensity that help them make a stronger.

As such, the half marathon is truly a test. Most of our athletes don’t have fluency running at this effort level for this long, and it becomes a really good indicator of what they’re able to do over the remainder of their season. While it’s easy to cut corners and overachieve in a 5K, there is no such thing as an easy half marathon!

Better Correlation to Race Day Performance

The most important thing we are looking for is a benchmark against which we can plan for the rest of your year. While there are mathematical models to correlate a 5K run to other distances, we have found that they fall short when talking about multisport. Rather than guessing, we can use the half marathon as a tool to predict your run potential at both the half and full iron distance.

For the 70.3® distance, you can multiply your half marathon run time (in minutes) by a factor of 1.1 to 1.2. More advanced you are the lower the number you multiply by. This will give you a good target the name for your next environment next paragraph similarly, there is a multiple for the Ironman distance.

For the Ironman® distance, you can multiply your Half Marathon run time (in minutes) by a factor of 2.25 to 2.5. Again, the more advanced you are the lower number you choose. This is a sliding scale so play with the numbers into you feel like it’s aggressive enough to challenge you, but not so hard that you will blow up.

Excellent Future Comparison

One of the best things about using the half marathon distance is a popular event, easily found, easy to register and  easy to redo each year. Almost everyone has a half marathon within driving distance. Doing it each year will give you a set of benchmarks over time which will show you a relative indicator as to how successful your winter training has been.

It will also be a good predictor of how successful the rest of your year will be with regards to the run. Do yourself a favor and include a half marathon at the start or the end of your next season. Use it well and wisely and you’ll find that you’re not only running better, but your racing smarter!

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