Will running a half marathon improve your marathon?

 

Running a half marathon during a marathon preparation is both a common and a logical stepping stone to the marathon. But will it help improve your running if running the marathon is your true goal?

Personally, I am running a half marathon in ten days which will feature in week 9 of my 14 week marathon preparation. Do I believe running the half marathon will help me run a better marathon?  No and yes.

The reason I don’t believe the half marathon helps improve the marathon is because the marathon doesn’t really start to well after half way. When you run through halfway in a marathon you’ll need to be feeling pretty fresh if you plan to run a solid second half. This won’t be the case when you race a half marathon, as the pace should be faster and you’ll give your best effort over the half marathon distance. You shouldn’t get to the end of the half marathon and feel like you can run it again.

Having said that, racing a half marathon gives an opportunity to have a better then race pace effort and test your fitness. If you can run a hard half marathon and finish in good shape then training must be going well and confidence can be gained from this race performance.

On the flip side, running a hard half marathon may result in you needing to take a day or two off training post race that could be used to continue to train for the marathon. You could be better advised to skip the half marathon and put in a longer then half marathon distance long run on the weekend of the race.

Running a half marathon isn’t easy though and has it’s own set of challenges. It is not half as much effort or half as hard to run a half marathon to a marathon. Naturally you will run at a faster pace when running a half marathon and being able to hold this pace consistently becomes difficult. Arguably just as difficult as holding your pace at the end of a marathon. This is where the benefit of racing can help you improve for your next race.

Ultimately when holding your pace becomes difficult during the end of a race of any distance the mind is what needs the training. Running a half marathon and fighting off the mental thoughts to give up can certainly help you run better at the marathon. When self doubt creeps in it’s important to shut that door quickly and give your best effort. Really it’s only racing where you get to test this out, you can’t get this from training.

Whilst running a half marathon won’t physically improve you on the way to a marathon, racing gives the strength and confidence that you’ll need during a marathon. Racing gives a valuable experience in staying in the moment and not giving up, this is an ingredient that has to be present during a marathon.

In ten days time I’ll race a half marathon and while I’m not expecting to gain any physical benefit that will help in the marathon the practise of racing will help when the mental battles start in the marathon. And this is the reason why a race during a marathon preparation is valuable.

Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

Run well.

 

 

Marathon Training – Week 8

Another good week of marathon training. The run is going well with six runs this week and just over 80km covered. Unfortunately the swim and bike components have not gone well and today I have made the decision to not progress with training for the Ironman 70.3 in May. Whilst I am disappointed I haven’t been able to put it together and get my triathlon training on track it gives me time to focus purely on running a good marathon in Canberra. I may revisit my triathlon goals at a time in the near future when a marathon isn’t in the midst and requiring my focus.

Running this week started on Tuesday with my usual hill session. Hills went well and half way through this preparation I can feel the strength needed for a good marathon returning nicely. Wednesday was a 10km aerobic run that helped the legs recover and be ready for intervals on Thursday. I had a real purpose with intervals this week of 20 x 1 min with 1 min rest to keep every interval under 3:30 min/km. I failed on two of these intervals and stupidly one of them was the first, the other was the last which I can cop because I was spent after this session. All the other intervals were run between 3:20 and 3:30 min/km.

Friday was another aerobic run, this time only 7km. I knew I had a tough long run planned so ticking the legs over was the purpose of this run. Long run on Saturday had a purpose of 5km aerobic then 5km at my threshold pace of 4:10 min/km x 3. Meaning every 45 min contained a 5km effort with a 3km warm down afterwards to give me 2 hours 30 min overall. Really happy with this run, the efforts felt hard, particularly the 3rd but I was able to hold the pace and finish the session feeling confident. I rounded out the week with an 11km aerobic run on Sunday over grass. The grass was nice on the legs and a good way to finish my biggest week of the year so far.

Getting through my three key runs every week is a goal for every preparation of mine. I continue to believe that developing speed, strength and endurance is the best way to run best on race day. This week i was happy with all three of my key sessions and how my running has progressed in the seven weeks of this marathon preparation so far.

Week 8

With triathlon off my mind it’s now purely focussing on running and this marathon. Working hard over the next 5-6 weeks before tearing for the race.

Monday – Aerobic – 1 Hour

Tuesday – Hills – 1 Hour

Wednesday – Aerobic – 1 Hour

Thursday – Rest Day

Friday – Long Run – 2 Hours 40 min (Aerobic)

Saturday – Aerobic – 45-60 min

Sunday – Intervals – 14 x 2 min with 1 min recovery

 

I have also decided to compete in the Port Macquarie Running Festival half marathon, March 11th, just two weeks away. Looking forward to a solid week of training before a race that will test my fitness. Aim of this race will be to stick to a consistent pace, quicker than marathon pace and try and hold this pace of the duration. There will be no taper for this race, it will be a good test of my current fitness deep into marathon training.

I’ll also run this race in Gladsoles sandals, most likely the trail 8mm model. Looking forward to testing my speed over 21.1km in sandals. I haven’t raced a pure half marathon for a while and I haven’t decided yet whether Canberra marathon will be in sandals or shoes. This half may make the decision for me.

Looking forward to another week of marathon training. Feeling like my fitness is coming together.

Run well.

 

Marathon Training – Week 7

Week 6 of marathon training was a disjointed week and the schedule changed from what was planned. Travelling for work early in the week left me fatigued mid week and I had to reassess the plan as the week unfolded.

Running went to plan while I travelled for work with runs in Penrith in Sydney. Aerobic on Monday and intervals on Tuesday were run to plan. After a few weeks of longer (3 min) intervals I enjoyed the shorter intervals at 1 min and had fun with this session. Albeit I ran it mostly in an industrial area as I wasn’t sure of where I was running.

Took a rest day on Wednesday as I was feeling fatigued instead of cycling. Thursday with my long run planned I woke up early with a bad headache and it was very hot and humid. Didn’t have a long effort in me this day so I took another unscheduled rest day.

From here I changed the schedule up so i can fit in my hills and long run into the week. Friday I ran hills over my usual terrain. Still hot and humid this was an uncomfortable run. Saturday I ran a short aerobic run followed by 2 hour long run on Sunday before I went to work. Normally I don’t run long runs before work but needed to get this one in. Overall this meant my running went quite good for the week but no cycling or swimming this week.

Sometimes you do have to change the plan when things don’t go to plan and taking the two rest days meant the quality of my runs was better later in the week.

Week 7 now and after this week we are half way through the scheduled plan. Starting to feel like my running is coming together. The triathlon side of things isn’t going to plan this week and I may reassess and abandon plans for the Ironman 70.3 race, will decide this in the next week or so whether to continue or whether to just focus on the marathon only.

Week 7

Monday – Rest

Tuesday – Run – Hills – 1 hour ( 3 x 2km repeats)

Wednesday – Bike – Aerobic 1 hour

Thursday – Run – Intervals 1 hour ( 20 x 1 min with 1 min rest)

Friday – Bike – Aerobic 1 hour

Saturday – Run – Long Run 2 hour 30 min (Including 3 x 5km at 4:20 min/km threshold)

Sunday – Run – Aerobic 45min – 1 hour

During Thursday’s interval session I am increasing the rest component from the previous week. Aim of this session is to run each effort below 3:30 min/km with increasing the rest to assist I am able to give my best effort every interval.

Long run on Saturday needs to hit 2 hour 30 min. Within each of the first three 45 min periods I will run 5km at my threshold pace. Will try and keep this run over a relatively flat terrain.

Looking forward to another strong week of building towards the Canberra Marathon. Feeling like my training is heading in the right direction currently and want to keep this feeling. Feeling ready to run when you step on the start line is a big advantage for later when the race becomes a mental battle.

Train well, run well.

reach out if you have any questions or concerns about your running.

Photos from week 6 of marathon training

 

Marathon Training – Week 6

Another marathon training week passed and one where I gained a lot of confidence in my running currently.

Four runs this week and two cycles. Didn’t swim this week as I just didn’t have the motivation to get to the pool on Wednesday so cycled instead. Planned to swim in Friday although motivation didn’t return and I took a rest day. This gives me doubts about whether Ironman 70.3 is a good idea as the swimming is certainly dragging to this point.

Running is going well though, my hill session on Tuesday felt great. I added a third repeat of my 2km Hill which I train on. The third was my 50th repeat on this hill over the past 12 months.

Intervals on Thursday was another strong session. 8 x 3 min at 3:30min/km with 1 min rest. Struggled to hit a couple of my splits but felt mostly good throughout.

Long run on Saturday was my best session and the one that gives confidence moving forward. 2 Hours 20 min with 2 x 12km at 3 hour marathon pace. Felt my pacing was good for both efforts. Ran into some hills in the last 3km of the second effort close to home which slowed me down although my effort didn’t change through this period.

Running a strong long run capped off a good week. Cycled twice for an hour each time, Sunday the legs felt average so I dropped the Sunday ride back from 1:30 to 1 hour.

This week I am away for work for a couple of days so will run early in the week and may not swim again. Trying to increase my run mileage over the next 2-3 weeks so a little less cycling too.

Monday – Run – Aerobic (1 hour 15min)

Tuesday – Run – Intervals (20 x 1 min 30 sec rest)

Wednesday – Cycle – Aerobic (1 hour)

Thursday – Run – Aerobic Long Run (2 hour 30 min Last 10km at 4:20min/km)

Friday – Rest or swim (30min)

Saturday – Cycle – Aerobic (1 hour)

Sunday – Run – Hills (1 Hour 15 min)

Looking forward to this week. Main highlights are continuing to increase my long run time and also increasing the time of my aerobic run and hill sessions. Overall trying to increase my mileage.

The end of this week will mark half way to my fitness building stage of the marathon preparation. Building endurance will stop after week 9 and then the focus becomes maintaining endurance and increasing speed through tempo and interval sessions.

Run well this week.

Reach out if you have any feedback or questions.

New workout – Goal race pace long run

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I’ve been recently thinking about it and this morning completed a new workout that I plan to add to my usual schedule. Once a month I aim to complete a goal race pace long run to complement my other training.

During a race preparation training cycle I will complete my three key workouts which are intervals for speed, hills for strength, and a long run for endurance. These three key workouts are complemented by aerobic runs aiming to let the body recover and rest days.

The goal pace long run I have designed into my schedule to give a fitness test of where I am currently and also build confidence. Whilst regular, weekly long runs are completed slower at an aerobic pace to build endurance this run will have a different purpose. The goal pace long run will reach a maximum distance of close to 3/4 of the race distance. With my next goal race being the Canberra marathon I will build this run to around 32km run at goal pace. My normal long run will continue to build to about three hours.

This morning I began putting this run in my schedule with a half marathon. With my goal in Canberra to beat my marathon personal best of 2:57, I aimed this for my goal pace to be slightly better than this at 2:55 marathon pace of 4:09 min/km.  You can see from my Strava file below that I went a bit quicker than this at 4:03 min/km. I was slightly ahead of my goal pace with 5km to go and decided to pick up the pace and finish strongly.

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During my current run streak I am running at the moment, (currently at day 25) I have kept all of my runs aerobic and forgotten about pace except for a parkrun last weekend. Whilst forgetting about pace I have built my aerobic fitness and today’s run was aimed to test my progress during this run streak. I felt strong this morning and was comfortable at this pace throughout the run. Whilst any marathoner knows that the pace they hold through halfway should feel comfortable, it was good for the confidence to be able to run this pace without any focussed training over the last month.

Recently I have made a decision to not focus on pace during my runs, this was still a factor during this run and will be moving forward. I kept my watch only on the time setting of my run this morning and only looked at pace as it told me each kilometre split. This gave me the ability to focus on effort throughout the run, trying to remain consistent and evenly pace the run. This is a learned skill that every runner should concentrate on, being able to run a goal pace is great, but being able to recognise the effort it takes to run your goal pace and consistently run the pace is much more valuable.

Post Christmas, in fact 8th January marks 14 weeks to my next marathon and the time my focussed training will begin. During this time my training will focus on my three key runs every week , aerobic recovery, rest and every month a race pace long run. I believe this run adds value to my training and gives a platform to improve on my marathon result. In early December I’ll build on to todays run and extend the distance by a few kilometres and give myself a marker of progress from November to December.

Do you have a run in your schedule to test your fitness?

 

 

Yes, you can go running without technology

Its taken me two runs to confirm what I already knew. You can run without technology dictating your running and you will most likely enjoy your running more. With the decision made to let go of the reins on technology and run only with feel I set my watch with one data field set on time during my runs over the last two days.  I am wearing the watch simply to track how long I run for and afterwards to track my distance run over my 30 day run streak period.  While the jury is still out on whether it is better to divorce from technology completely, there are certainly signs to suggest it could be beneficial.

Whilst not focussed on pace, you’ll automatically focus your run on feel and effort. Focussing on feel and effort allows you to not be a slave to the watch and the pace you are trying to stick to. If you feel good you will likely run faster, if you feel a bit off it’s likely you’ll slow down. However you’ll understand how you feel from the effort you put into each step of the run.

If you are not tracking pace, you’ll look at your watch a whole lot less. This is allows you to focus on running and being outside. Enjoy the scenery, fresh air and the reasons why you enjoy running in the first place. I’m guessing you didn’t start running so you could look at your watch, be easier to do this at the pub with a cold beer.

Looking at pace may in fact slow your progress towards your goals. You may be capable of running much faster then what you think and sticking to your goal pace may be limiting you. Run with feel and put in your best effort and who knows how fast you can go.

Take a break from technology, you don’t have to completely stop looking at pace but choose some runs to simply enjoy running and teach yourself to run with feel.

Stop looking at your watch and you may see some beautiful scenery out there.

The top 4 reasons you should be barefoot running

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While barefoot running has faded somewhat from the mass media attention it was receiving a few years ago there are still some very valid reasons why you should be running barefoot.

By barefoot running we mean running without shoes or in minimal footwear. By minimal footwear we mean shoes with the following attributes. Low heel to toe differential or heel drop, wide toe box and less cushioning and flexible materials. There are many different minimal footwear options available today.

Transitioning to barefoot running takes time. If you try to rush the process, you may suffer injuries in the calves or achilles. Be sure not to rush the process, it may take months or even years. Once your transition is complete your running will benefit.

The four top reasons you should be barefoot running are;

  1. Reduced injuries

Once you have transitioned to barefoot running you will likely run lighter, with a forefoot landing over a bent knee. This will ensure that you suffer less lower limb related injuries related to running. While barefoot running is not a panacea to injury free running it will go a long way to helping you run consistently more without injuries. Cushioned shoes won’t stop you getting injured, most likely they are the cause.

     2. Stronger feet

Running in an inflexible, cushioned shoe will inhibit the natural movement of your foot. The shoe does the work which the foot is designed to do, this will weaken your feet over time. Running barefoot or in flatter, more flexible footwear will build strength in your feet and lower limbs.  With strong feet comes a strong platform to run successfully and run injury free.

    3 Better awareness

” The more minimal you are the more aware you are” Chris McDougall

With more awareness comes better ground feel. While running you will become more aware of your posture,  foot landing, surroundings and effort. More awareness of your foot landing means you will be aware of every step and how and what you land on. This is a key reason why accomplished barefoot runners can run injury free as their awareness for where their foot lands is greater. Simply put running barefoot allows for more sensory feedback which increases awareness.

    4. Get faster

Forefoot running is faster than heel striking, pretty simple. Landing on your heel with a straight leg gives a braking effect, landing on your forefoot with a bent leg is faster and a more efficient way to run. If you want to get faster barefoot running can help you achieve this.

Transitioning to barefoot running is important, be patient and don’t rush the process however slow it may be. Once you successfully transition you will be free of heavy, inflexible running shoes and your running will become transformed.

If you wear traditional cushioned running shoes and have suffered injuries, it’s time to rethink your running footwear. Taking them off or replacing them with minimal shoes could be the answer.

 

 

 

 

The first week of a streak

When I committed to a run streak last Tuesday I made a goal to run all my runs outside and not let the treadmill in my garage allow me to avoid any inclement weather. Running in the rain is a part of running and usually not bad once you get started, especially in October in Australia where the weather is starting to warm up before summer.

During the first seven runs of my run streak I have run 63km over the seven days. All of them at an aerobic pace and all of them forgetting pace on the watch. Longest run has been 11.7km and shortest was this morning at 6km in heavy rain. The first four days of my running were in Sydney where I was having a short holiday and used these runs to explore the northern suburbs of Chatswood, Artarmon and Willoughby as this is where we were staying. Running in different surrounds allowed me to find some new trails around this area and was a nice change of scenery. There is some great running terrain around these areas which I wasn’t aware of before.

My challenge of not avoiding rain may have jinxed me to some degree as three of the first seven runs have been held in relatively heavy rain. My last run in Sydney was wet, my Saturday run including my local parkrun was wet and this morning was particularly wet. For this mornings run I had just gotten out of bed and started getting ready to run when the rain started making a jinx even more believable. Good to get the job done in the rain though, on a normal week I may have skipped some or all of these runs and stayed in bed.

I am back to Sydney this week for work on Wednesday which may cause a challenge fitting my run in. With an early 6:30am flight I’ll either be up very early to run or running later in the evening after dinner. I’m leaning towards a late evening run backed up by an early morning run on Thursday. Otherwise the normal challenges of work and life are present but I’m confident they won’t get in the way of my continuing the streak.

This is now a run streak

When I woke up this morning and went for my morning run I hadn’t planned it being the beginning of anything. I’m in Sydney for a few days and i just woke up and went for a run. Later in the day it came to me to start a run streak, there were two good reasons;

  1. I’ve never tried one before
  2. Why not?

I’ve given myself a short term goal of 30 days – 17th October to 17th November and a long term goal of 100 days 17th October to January 25th. We will start with plan A of 30 days and see how it goes till November 17th.

A couple of self administered rules;

  1. Minimum run is 5km
  2. All runs are outside ( no treadmills)

One other thing I’m going to concentrate on for at least the first 30 days is to keep all the runs aerobic. 30 days without hard training, all my runs will be easy aerobic efforts designed to be relaxed running and enjoy what it is about running that I love. The aim is to reconnect with running and enjoy my running, nature and the outdoors. It’s not that I need a jolt of motivation, just that I want to try something slightly different.

I would like to have less reliance on technology during this time. I am not currently training for a race, there is no need to monitor my pace and complete any specific training aimed to peak for a race. Therefore there is no need to look at my pace for any of the runs and just enjoy 30 days of relaxed running. For these 30 days I will wear my watch, however set it to not show me pace or distance through the runs. The only data to measure is time and later distance as I log my miles for the streak period. I have a belief that most runners including myself are over reliant on technology and this has taken away some of the simple joys of running.

The reason i’ve chosen to avoid treadmills during this time is to harden my resolve in times of poor weather. It’s time to get tougher, no hiding from the weather.

I’m looking forward to noticing what I learn from a 30 day run streak and whether i can continue further than this. Something often gets in the way to stop us running even when the best intentions are there. I’m also looking forward to how I react to a different, more relaxed form of training during this time.

Have you ever attempted a run streak?

If so, how did you go?

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My week in running

My running week was mostly casual and relaxed with five runs completed for 41km overall all completed in my hometown. Started the week on Tuesday with a solid interval session, decided to break my intervals into two sets of 6 x 2 min with 1 min recovery, this gave me five minutes of easy running between the first and the second set which worked out fine and allowed me to push through to the end of the second set harder.

Most of the week saw me complete aerobic runs over a variety of runs with an undulating terrain. Didn’t have a specific hill session so added some hills to my aerobic runs for some variety. On Saturday morning I abandoned my aerobic run after 4km after being in a wild lightning storm, probably wasn’t in too much danger but for a short aerobic run I didn’t feel the risk was worth the reward.

I’m not normally a big fan of tempo runs during race training blocks as I feel I get more value from other training. However I decided to run a tempo on Sunday and went through a 2km warm up, 3km at 4:10min/km, 2km easy and 4km at 4:10 min/km. This run felt good and I enjoyed the tempo run for some variety. It might be something I revisit during my next marathon training block on semi regular occasions.

Mixed my footwear up for all these runs with Gladsoles trail sandals, Carson footwear Iguana racers and Salming Race 3 all being used during the week. Really enjoy the difference nuances of running with different footwear throughout the week.

There were a couple of performances on the international stage which really caught my eye over the weekend too. Both inspiring performances, one to win the world championship and another a rising star of Australian running.

Patrick Lange at the Ironman World championships in Hawaii, to run 2:39:59 for the marathon and run from 11th off the bike to not only win the world championship but break the course record was an outstanding achievement. Most of us don’t know what running a 2:40 marathon which is averaging 3:47 min/km or 6:06 min/mi feels like, it’s quick by any standards but at the end of an ironman is even more impressive.

Celia Sullohern won the Melbourne marathon in Australia on Sunday and ran 2:29. this is impressive running for a 24 year old. Into the top 10 all time Australian womens marathon times and putting her hand up for a Commonwealth Games birth on the Gold Coast early next year.

Hope you had a happy week of running.

 

Here are some places I ran this week.