Meet the new boss of racing in the U.S.: the half marathon. Over the last 12 years, the half marathon has exploded in popularity for recreational runners, weekend warriors and age-group veterans. Once reserved for only the highly competitive and seen as the ugly stepsister of the "more glamorous" marathon, the half has metastasized into the largest growing segment of the running industry with more than 1,500 events offered annually.
For many, 13.1 miles is the perfect distance—it's an aerobic, strength-based event that will not tear you up for weeks or even months after completion the way a marathon can. The best way to train for a half marathon has been the subject of some debate over the last few years; however, there are a handful of tried-and-true measures used by many of the best in the sport that you can apply to better prepare yourself to attack the half-marathon distance.
Long Runs With Surging
A weekly, or at a minimum bi-monthly, long run is a training staple of virtually every long-distance runner. Typically 25 to 30 percent longer than your other runs, long runs provide numerous positive benefits, including gains in overall aerobic capacity and connective tissue strength. One way to maximize the benefits of your long run: throw in some surges throughout the workout.
Legendary Greater Boston Track Club coach Bill Squires would often have his athletes toss in surges of 1:00, 2:00 and 3:00 with 7 to 8 minutes between each surge throughout the longest run of the week. The surges are intended to be assertive, but not so quick that you can't return to your original pre-surge pace—without slowing to a recovery jog—for the interim period before the next surge.
Fartlek workouts are ideal for athletes who prefer to run based on how they feel that day versus on a pre-prescribed pace. They're also ideal for introducing (or re-introducing) faster running at the beginning of a new training cycle.