Runners don’t always tackle goals the same way. One runner may spend months preparing for a half marathon, while others simply show up race day with little training and decide to wing it.
Unless you’re an elite athlete who logs countless miles every week, winging it isn’t a good idea.
Here are some reasons you actually should train for a half marathon.
Running a greater distance than you’ve properly prepared for is one of the single best ways to suffer an injury.
That’s why many runners follow the easy-to-remember 10 percent method of increasing their running mileage every week.
For instance, if you are running 20 miles every week, your next week’s run should be increased to no more than 22 miles. Following this simple rule helps keep common overuse injuries at bay.
Gives You Your Best Shot of Finishing
If you enter a half marathon and the longest run you’ve done before that is 8 miles, you’re in for a rude awakening. You might not be able to finish your race.
If you haven’t done a longer run, you’re going to have a much harder time getting past that finish line.
While you don’t have to run 13 miles in your training runs in order to finish a half marathon, it’s a good idea to get up to 11 miles to give you the confidence and stamina you’ll need to log 13.1 on race day.
Avoids Some Pain
Even if you don’t injure yourself by running a half marathon when you aren’t fully prepared, it’s not going to be a pleasant experience. The next day, you’ll be kicking yourself if you could just get your legs to move.
Even when you do train for a half marathon, you’ll generally be feeling it the next day, but that discomfort will be made much worse by inadequate training.
Running a Half Marathon in 6 Weeks
If you decide to go ahead with your plan to run a half marathon in 6 weeks, here are some tips you should follow to ensure your plan doesn’t evaporate mid-run on race day.
Use Caution if You’re a Rookie
If you have never even run a single mile and you’ve decided you want to run a half marathon with only six weeks of training, reconsider your plan, unless you plan to walk a good share of the distance. You simply aren’t ready for a plan this ambitious -- consider a 12-week plan instead.
Remember when we talked about injuries earlier? If you put your 6-week plan in motion, you’re playing with fire.
Running is a sport that has an incredible amount of injuries. Many of them are caused by training too hard too quickly.
Don’t Take Shortcuts While Training
You’re going to be pressed for time. You can’t afford to skip any training runs with only six weeks to go.
If you feel lazy and unmotivated, find a way to kick your own butt into gear. Find an inspirational training song and listen to it before you head out the door, or during your run.
Find Some Hills
Not all half marathon courses are flat. You need to expect the unexpected while running a greater distance.
Throw some hills into your training courses. They’ll prepare you in case your course isn’t flat.
Start Off Slowly on Race Day
If you’ve only given yourself 6 weeks to prepare for a half marathon, you’ll want to exercise caution during the first half of your race. The key to your success will be pacing yourself.
By burning yourself out early, you won’t have the stamina or the experience to come back from the edge -- you’ll simply run out of gas and start walking or give up entirely.
You Can Do It
If you’ve logged some miles most weeks over the past two or three months, you’re likely ready for a bigger challenge like a half marathon, and with dedication, you can pull it off in 6 weeks.
If you’re new to running, but you do a lot of walking, you may be able to tackle a half marathon. But don’t be afraid to take walking breaks if you need them.
Whether it takes you 6 weeks or 12 weeks to train for a half marathon is irrelevant. What matters is that you actually do it.