/ Couch to half marathon

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handofgod on 12 Jan 2017


I've been out of action since September due to a lower back injury.

The injury has now been sorted and with it being the new year and all that, I've decided to push myself and sign up for a half marathon.

In the past ( pre back injury) I walked,ran,cycled and climbed on a regular bases and my base level of fitness was ok to good. I would by no means class myself of a seasoned runner and if anything, I'm a novice.
Having said that, I have run quite a few park runs (PB 23.40 mins) and a couple of 10k races (PB 55 mins) but never a half marathon.

My question is; with the right training, do you think I could complete the race in sub 2 hrs or should I just aim to complete the race rather than target a time.
Also while I'm training should aim for time or distance as in; run for 40 mins rather than aim for 4 miles.

Any advice much appreciated.
Post edited at 15:40
The New NickB - on 12 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

Looks like you maybe have poor endurance, someone running 23:40 for 5k should be capable of running sub 50 for 10k and probably 1:50 for a half, but your 10k is a fair bit slower.

Get back running, do your parkruns etc, but start building up to longer runs and see how you get on. I tend to run based on distance, but time is fine if doing an out and back, it's good to know how far you have done though.
tony on 12 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

There are lots of decent half marathon plans available online, so have a look and see what you can make work for you. If your 10k pb is 55 minutes, a 2 hour half is just about manageable, but I'd be inclined just to do it without a target time. Just go and enjoy it, and if you do enjoy it, there will be plenty of other half marathons to aim at.

When is the half you've signed up for? You should be looking to run at least three times a week (at a bare minimum) building up gradually in time and distance. Most people measure their runs by distance, rather than time - this makes it easier to measure progression. As you're building up gradually, the rule-of-thumb is that you shouldn't increase the distance of your longest run by more than 10% each week. I'm inclined to think this is a bit over-cautious - if you can run 8 miles comfortably, you can run 9 miles and probably 10 miles at a push.

Don't make every run the same. If nothing else, you'll get bored running the same route 3-5 times each week. If you can, find a local running club or group. This can help you find like-minded people, and having some support and companionship in your training helps a lot. Not all clubs are the exclusive preserve of racing whippets, and many are very happy to welcome novices.

And, don't overdo things, and try to do too much too soon - guaranteed way to get injured.

Good luck!
handofgod on 12 Jan 2017
In reply to tony:

I'm looking to enter a race in May if poss. This hopefully gives me enough time to prepare.
What type of injuries are you referring to? I am a little apprehensive about pushing myself due to my previous back injury.

tony on 12 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

May should be fine. That gives you the whole of February, March and April, which does allow a nice gentle progression in distances.

Typical injuries would be muscle strains in the leg, heel, and foot - they'll all be under more use that they're used to, so it's not uncommon to pick up strains along the way, but if you take things carefully you should be okay. Part of the training process is learning how to listen to your body and knowing how to respond. You will ache at times, and one of the difficulties is in knowing when an ache is a sign of something more serious, and when it's just things feeling a bit tired.

Do you cycle? Mixing running up with cycling can help a lot. I've found over the last few years that a nice bike ride on the day after a long run can work wonders for easing things out, so it's restorative, and also contributes to building and maintaining leg strength. Mind you, if you don't cycle much at the moment, it'll make you ache as well, in different places.
steveriley - on 12 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

Yes, your parkrun time should get you well inside 2h for a half, you just need to build stamina. Even your 55' for 10k would get you there if maintained. As Nick says your 10k is weak compared to your 5k and there are easy gains to be had from getting some more miles in.
handofgod on 12 Jan 2017
In reply to tony:

Thanks Tony. Really helpful advice.

For the 5 and 10 ks all I ever did was just run but for all the half stuff I'm reading it all about tempo this and tempo that.
Is tempo style running advised?

handofgod on 12 Jan 2017
In reply to steveriley:

but how do i get the gains ?
tony on 12 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

Tempo runs are a part of training programme which are supposed to be based on your anticipated race pace. To be honest, I wouldn't bother about them at the moment. Just look to increase your average weekly mileage for now. You can start thinking about pace later.
handofgod on 12 Jan 2017
In reply to tony:

What average weekly distance should i be aiming for?
tony on 12 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

Have a look at the Hal Higdon novice half marathon training programmes:

Novice 2 is for people who are already running, so may be more suitable for you. You'll see that the average weekly mileage builds over a 12 week period. from 13 miles + 60 minutes cross training up to 23 miles + 60 minutes cross training. Don't worry too much about the exact mileages, and don't worry too much if you can't do the runs in the precise order shown in the training programmes. Use the programme as a rule-of-thumb to indicate roughly what you should be doing. However, don't sell yourself short - you can have one week where you might not manage the whole programme, but don't make a habit of missing sessions.

Take some time to read the programmes and work out how you can make them fit with the way you live and work - if you can't make time to fit in the runs, you may need to reconsider how you go about things.
kipper12 - on 13 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

Yes. Based on my experience. I am no runner and many moons ago now I foolishly agreed to do the Nottm half marathon. From doing no running at all since school I started slow and steady, building up to about 10-11 miles. I thought I was going well enough for a sub-2-hour time, and I managed 1.50., including the slow start and fighting the crowds.

I really had no specific training plan, just go faster and further.
steveriley - on 13 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

1. Do some more running.
2. And don't get injured

Depends what you're doing at the moment. Got any nice trails? Re: 2 don't be tempted to do too much too soon. If you're feeling invincible that's usually a warning sign
DancingOnRock - on 13 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

Have a google/YouTube for core strength workouts. Planks etc.

10mins a day will have marked improvements and 'injury proof' you. Especially if you have a bad back.
JMGLondon - on 13 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:
Just had a very similar question from a colleague. My advice:

1. You're coming back from a tough injury. If you can complete a half in May you should see it as a really great achievement, regardless of time.

2. Look after yourself. Don't push it too hard. If 55 mins is your 10k pace then don't magically expect to run faster than that. Endurance is built on years of running. Spend time working on your core strength.

3. Forget mileage (sorry guys). It's all about time on your feet. You're aiming to be able to run for two hours without stopping. Start with your comfortable weekly base and build a plan from there. My colleague can run for 20 mins before he has to walk. His target is to get to 30 minutes by the end of Jan, three times per week. That will amount to 90 minutes spent running every week - a great target.

4. Throw in the occasional Parkrun to check your progress but don't flog yourself in a 5km every week. You should see the times coming down between now and May.

5. Be patient. Take it easy. Commit. You'll smash it.

EDIT: I forgot to add 'enjoy your running!'. My big issue with novice half / mara plans is they strip out the fun of throwing on your shoes and getting out for a run. Run for fun, not for time. Better times come as a result of consistent running. Consistent runners enjoy running.
Post edited at 15:33
Y Gribin - on 13 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

I'm in the same position as you - just returning to running after a back injury (in my case, 10 months off after a slipped disc). There's some excellent advise here, some of which I'll repeat based on my experience:

- You'll probably have already learnt to 'listen to your body' through your recovery.....but keep listening!

- Occasionally throw away the tech, and just 'go running'. It reminds you that it's meant to be fun.

- The cycling tip is great. I did a run the other day which set off all sorts of aches. 50m on my bike the following day completely sorted it out (I also throw in some swimming and gym work). In retrospect, I wasn't doing enough variety in the past.

- I've started yoga and find it great. But finding the right class and instructor is key. I also do 10mins of strengthening exercises every day - it quickly becomes a routine that you just do.

- I've increased my cadence (yes, there's loads of other things you can look at) and found this has reduced back-related problems. Admittedly I do need the tech for this!

I agree with the advice to making 'completing the half' your target - succeed and you'll be over the moon. And next time, you can focus more on your time.

Siderunner - on 15 Jan 2017
In reply to JMGLondon: great advice there.

I ran my first half marathon last September, so might be well placed to answer. I got really into it and was running up to 50k a week in the peak weeks about 6-8 weeks beforehand. I had a background of running 2x a week of 6-8k each for a couple of years, on and off, beforehand. But since completing the Sydney half I have been unable to run due to plantar fasciitis, in spite of a fair bit of physio.

My two biggest mistakes were:

(1) stepping up my long run distance way too fast. Just because you CAN, doesn't mean you should. I did an 18k the week after a 12k, basically cos I felt fine and was lazy about planning the route ( it ended up a bit long and I didn't want to walk home). My ankle niggles started the next long run, and I think led to my current long term injury. The message here is that there is a lot of connective tissue in your legs that takes a battering, and it can turn into an overuse injury without much warning. Next time I might consider long runs on alternate weekends, and do moderate length Saturday *and* Sunday runs on the other weekends.

(2) just running. I put all my time and energy for sport into the run sessions, up to 5 a week. Pilates or yoga once a week, or a couple of half hour lower body strengthening sessions, might have left me uninjured. If I'd run 2h and been uninjured it would have been a better outcome. The time means nothing, esp if you haven't done a half before.

One good thing was doing a 10k a good while beforehand - useful to get accustomed to running and esp pacing yourself with all the other runners around. It's useful to do some tempo running mainly to get used to practising keeping the effort constant and stay at a given pace; also I found it helpful to do 2x3k at target race pace around 10 days before the run, to get used to that exact pace (and to decide if it is the right pace).

I reckon keeping it simple and focussing on run time, and gradually increasing time per week, while running varied terrain (rolling hills as well as flat runs), and doing some supplementary lower body strengthening, would be a good way to go.

Enjoy it and good luck, Andy
NathanP - on 15 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

I did my first half, starting a year before, as a non-runner in my late 40s and got just under 2 hours so I would think it is a reasonable objective for most people with no underlying problems. The main thing, I found, was to build up the distance gradually (+10% per week, for me) to near (preferably over) 13 miles on your weekly long run so you aren't worrying about the distance. I was only doing a couple of other runs each week of 4-5 miles, so not a huge weekly mileage. My other bit of advise is; on race day, have a pace chart and take care not to hare off too fast and keep to a fairly constant, achievable pace.

As others have said, your 5k pace is fine for well sub 2-hours - you just need to sort out the stamina. There is a predicted time calculator here: http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/general/rws-race-time-predictor/1681.html which calculates 1:48 based on your 5k time - my 5k PB and half PB work out to within a few seconds on this.

Go for it, but don't think its a failure if the first one comes out at 2:00:01 or more - finishing is an achievement in itself.
Tom the tall on 15 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

I did a 12 week plan from nothing (generally active but never running) ,and ran sub 2 hours for a hilly half (Keswick) without too much bother. The key isn't staying free of injury.
handofgod on 16 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

Firstly, I’d just like to say a big thank you to all who have replied.
Some really useful advice and I think the common consensus is to enjoy it and not get too hung up on times.
I have to say though, running after work in the cold dark miserable evening is proving a real test for the old motivation.

JMGLondon - on 20 Jan 2017
In reply to handofgod:

ha - yep, pulling on the shoes on a wet, cold, dark evening after a long day doesn't get any easier for me. I do love the saying 'You never regret a run'. That gets me moving.
handofgod on 20 Jan 2017
In reply to JMGLondon:

Once you're out its fab. Its just finding that initial motivation to overcome the burning desire to just vegetate on the sofa.

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