Training to run 13.1 miles is a challenge, particularly if you haven’t tackled the distance before.
The same routines and strategies that may have worked for your 5K or 10K just don't apply when training for a half marathon.
So how do you avoid the most common half-marathon training mistakes—running too fast, too soon; not enough recovery days, etc.—and ensure you run and feel your best on race day?
We asked masters runner and coach Art Ives for his strategies to avoid the most common half-marathon training blunders, and show you how to apply them to your own training.
More: 13.1 Reasons to Run a Half Marathon
Mistake No. 1: Lack of a Race Pace
In a distance race, the right race pace is often the difference between a personal record and serious injury. According to Ives, runners who try to go out too fast will often not be able to finish the race.
“I’ve seen runners spend all of their half marathon energy in the first mile or two,” Ives said.
On the other hand, if a runner takes it too slow? “He will finish the race far from his potential,” Ives said.
So what do you do? Ives believes the key is learning to pace yourself long before race day.
Ives recommends incorporating longer weekly tempo runs that are completed with an effort that’s within 30 seconds of your desired race pace.
Mistake No. 2: Too Many Miles, Too Quickly
A long run puts a lot of stress on the body. If mileage is increased too quickly, or if the body is not allowed to recover adequately between runs, it will not have enough time to adapt, and injuries can occur.
“Mileage training should be consistent,” Ives said. “Build a foundation of low and moderate mileage runs before adding longer distances to your training program.”
A good rule of thumb is to follow the 10 percent rule: Never increase weekly mileage by more than 10 percent each week.
“If runners can learn to ‘hold back’ and keep running," Ives said, "they can eventually get to wherever they want to go.”
More: 10 Long-Distance Running Blunders
Mistake No. 3: Too Many Sets of Intervals
Many runners fantasize about what it would look like to cross the finish line first. Attempt to develop speed too quickly, however, and you may not cross the finish line at all.
According to Ives, “It’s important to build speed slowly.” Choosing a training program that incorporates high-volume intervals in the early weeks of the program will put too much pressure on the body.
“Stay away from complex or demanding intervals,” Ives suggested. “I see a lot of the smartest running coaches out there suggest a high amount of intervals. But the key is to be consistent.”
Mistake No. 4: Fixing What Isn’t Broken
Before starting any training program, a runner should first make a good assessment of where he/she is as a runner. By building on the foundation that is already in place, less pressure is put on the body to change quickly, and fewer injuries will occur.
Ives suggests runners build in some transition time before starting any training program. “Allow for a 3 to 6 week window before getting into your program.”
During this transition time, the runner should focus on progressing slowly from their current running program to the start of their targeted program.
For example, if the new program requires longer tempo runs or a new level of intensity, perhaps intersperse a few minutes of these new benchmarks into your existing regimen. This will allow your body to adapt slowly from where it was to where you want it to be.
Also, by sticking with what has helped you in past races, you’ll have more confidence come race day.
“Runners can get a bit intimidated by the half-marathon distance,” Ives says. “But just remember, you’ve run races before…keep it simple. That’s how you succeed on race day.”
More: 3 Secrets to Half-Marathon Training
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