Running a Half Marathon Requires Careful Training

Runners in a raceCredit: wikipedia commons public domain -

Running a half marathon is a daunting task for most runners.  Pushing the distance envelope is even more challenging for larger competitors.  Before I ran a half marathon, when I saw a 13.1 bumper sticker on the back of someone's car I thought running over thirteen miles seemed impossibly far.  Running and enjoying a half marathon is possible for a clydesdale runner if you train with care.  A newer clydesdale runner needs to train with care to avoid injury and chronic fatigue.  I'll give you some tips on how to train.

Plan Ahead

Look at How Far You Can Go in Your Long Run of the Week

When you decide you want to test yourself running a half marathon or even a marathon you have to evaluate your current mileage capability, then pick a target race and count backwards.  What do I mean?  Your current mileage capability is how far you can comfortably go on a long run.  This sets a baseline to begin additional training for your 13.1 mile race.  Let's say you can easily accomplish five miles right now.

Next, check the upcoming local race calendar to see what competitions are on the horizon.  You should preferably look at races at least two months ahead of the current date.  Hopefully, you have some options in your area.  As part of this analysis, consider the time of year.  Longer races such as half marathons tend to occur more often in the cooler months.  Remember, cool weather is your running friend.

Increase One Mile Per Week 

A 5k raceCredit: wikipedia commons public domain - U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chelsea KennedyMost experts recommend doing one long run per week for half and full marathon training.  Your other training runs should remain three to five miles. You should add no more than one mile per week to your long run in order to comfortably reach your race length.  For a 13.1 mile race, you need to have at least one 12 mile run in the bank.  Using the example of currently going five miles in your long run, you need at least seven weeks to prepare for finishing a race over thirteen miles.  This is the minimum amount of time to be able to finish and not be entirely miserable.  To achieve a good finish time, you need to allow for more race preparation.  A clydesdale sized body may not tolerate adding mileage faster than one additional long run mile per week.

My First Half Marathon: Know the Weather Conditions and the Race Course

I can tell you from my own experience that proper planning is a necessity.  I didn't plan well prior to running my first half marathon.  In fact, I hardly planned at all.  I was driving through a nearby city and saw a large banner sign advertising the race in just over a month.  I decided right then I wanted to enter the race.  I had been running ten to fifteen miles a week and my longest runs were generally about four miles.  

Looking ahead and counting backwards as I recommended meant that I would need to add Competitors in a 5k raceCredit: wikipedia commons public domain - USMCabout two miles a week over the next month to even get to one twelve mile training run.  Over the next four weeks, my long run for the week progressed upward two miles each week.  I was able to manage one training run of twelve miles.  I knew I could finish the 13.1 miles, but I didn't have much of a feel for how fast I might go.

The race started off well for me.  The weather was cool and crisp.  Unfortunately, when the sun came out the temperature was unseasonably warm.  My training runs had almost all occurred in cooler weather.  Best to train in similar weather to the actual race conditions.  That may not always be possible, but try to train under race temperatures and sunlight if you can.  Also, while I did some hill training and was generally aware of hills for the race, the actual race course had steeper hills than I anticipated.  If the map of the race course is posted online by the race promoter prior to the race, you should at least drive the course if you don't have a chance to run it in training.  Experience the hills first hand so you can develop a plan on where to conserve energy and where to perhaps speed up.  Knowing the course is helpful for a comfortable and fast run.


As you add mileage, your body will scream for more calories.  Trying to use long distance training for your first half marathon in order to lose weight is very difficult.  You should keep your total calorie count per day at least even with your current levels.  Besides the goal of Fruits and Vegetables Cut and Cleaned for JuicingCredit: Wikipedia commons - US Air Force/TSgt Samuel Morsefinishing a 13.1 mile race, adding a second goal of losing a specific amount of weight while training could drive you crazy.  Try to become a smaller clydesdale with your training after you've done at least one half marathon.  

You will need to stay fueled with adequate carbs to provide energy for the additional training load.  Limiting calories will leave you chronically tired.  Stay away from foods with high sugar content.  Lots of sugar will lead to energy spikes and valleys.  Additional training stress on a larger body is tough enough even with reasonable daily energy.  

Weight Training

I do weight training and running on a year round basis.  Although both are regular activities, I tend to change my emphasis between summer and winter.  I live in Florida and summer running can be miserable.  I train more with heavy weights in the hotter months and run a bit less.  In the cooler months I add running mileage.

Man bench pressing with a spotterCredit: wikipedia commons - US Army/ training for a longer run, I recommend backing off from lifting heavy weights.  You should still weight train some, but use lighter weights and higher repetitions each set.  Training your legs should be closely monitored for soreness.  Don't schedule a long run if your legs are still sore from leg training with weights.

Your muscles are activated with different energy sources depending on whether you are doing short burst activity like weight training or long duration running sessions.  All muscle contractions are due to a molecule called adenosine triphosphate or ATP.  Stored ATP provides the energy for very short duration exercise such as low repetition heavy weight training.  An oxidative chain reaction produces the ATP for long duration exercise.[1]  You can maximize your body's ability to produce energy through these methods by concentrating on one or the other.  Further, I find it uncomfortable to engage in heavy weight training if I am also running at a higher mileage level per week.

Clydesdale runners can comfortably compete in half marathon races if training is well planned.  Take the time and effort to do it right.

Timex Men's T5E231 "Ironman Traditional" Watch
Amazon Price: $74.95 $37.49 Buy Now
(price as of Sep 18, 2015)
Use a good watch to time your training runs!