Here’s the link to our “Couch to 10k in 10 Weeks” training plan in case you need it.
Disclaimer: please consult a doctor before starting any kind of fitness programme.
Why do we run this distance?
This isn’t essential but it is a quick and fascinating story if you want to understand why these distances (21 & 42km) exist...
“The first thing to know is that Marathon is a place. It is a town in Greece and the site of the famous Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, when the invading Persians were defeated by the Athenians. Legend has it that a messenger named Pheidippides was sent back to Athens with the news of their victory. He ran the entire distance (42km) without stopping and arrived to exclaim “We have won!” before collapsing and dying of exhaustion.”
Quote from “How did the Marathon start?” by ASICS
Can I run a sub-1:50 half marathon?
Running a half marathon is not an easy task, especially if you’re trying to do it within a specific time period. How can you know if you’re ready? See if the following statements apply to you:
If you check all of these boxes you’re ready to start safely training to cross the finish line in under 1h50m.
In this part we’ll dive into the nitty gritty details of what you will be doing for the next few weeks. This training plan is for the intermediate athlete who already has a few races under their belt so from now on I will assume that you, the reader, already have some knowledge about the running world and some of its terminology.
Throughout these 12 weeks you’ll build strength, speed and improve your aerobic conditioning. We’ll make sure that you’re able to run the full 21km BEFORE attempting the real thing on the race day. I think it’s crucial for every athlete to know what they’re going up against - to train, to be prepared and to know EXACTLY what they will be facing.
Uncertainty creates doubt and doubt creates fear and that’s not how you want to feel when race day comes around! You’ll want to wake up and feel excited because you know what to expect and you know you can try to beat your training PR for that distance.
Feeling confident about your goals and training is incredibly important - it will literally help you reach the finish line faster. A study conducted by a group of scientists at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Kent, indicates the following:
“Consistent support was found for using imagery, self-talk and goal setting to improve endurance performance, but it is unclear whether learning multiple psychological skills is more beneficial than learning one psychological skill. The results also demonstrated that mental fatigue undermines endurance performance, and verbal encouragement and head-to-head competition can have a beneficial effect. Interventions that influenced perception of effort consistently affected endurance performance.”
Click here to read the fascinating article.
So, here’s a run-down of what you’ll be doing.
Half Marathon Focus
Despite its name, the half marathon is not just half a race! The 21k and 42k are very different events and different training methods are required for each one. In the half marathon, training is very much focused on creating a strong balance between a solid aerobic base and VO2 max/speed work while the full marathon is heavily focused on getting a lot of miles on your legs without so much emphasis on speed work.
The observative reader will notice a progressive pattern throughout this training plan - that pattern is used in order to cause the ‘supercompensation’ phenomenon. Supercompensation is a four stage cyclical reaction to a runner’s training.
There is a small time frame between stage 3 and 4 in which your body is at its optimal stage to improve further - that is the perfect time to perform another high intensity session. An important thing to bear in mind with this phenomenon is that a substantial amount of recovery is required for training sessions with very high intensity. The recovery period (stage 2) is entirely dependent on which session was done and how intense it was. This four stage cyclical reaction is used as the basis for most training plans.
Here is an image illustrating this phenomenon:
Image credit: Wikipedia
Long Aerobic Runs
Long runs will build the foundation to your success. If possible it’s best to perform these sessions on soft ground like grass, sand or dirt trails. These surfaces are much softer than concrete and will reduce muscular fatigue and risk of injury.
Keep your speed moderate during these sessions. Not too slow but not fast either, try to keep the speed balanced throughout the whole session. Keep your pace strong but make sure you’re not breathing too hard.
There are two different types of slow running in this training plan - easy run and slow jog. On an easy run you’ll run slow and breathe easy but you should focus on your technique for the entire session - keep your mind focused on running. In the slow jog sessions you may take it easy, look around and just enjoy running.
SPEED SPECIFIC SESSIONSThe key to finishing the half marathon in under one hour and fifty minutes is performing specific running sessions like fartlek, tempo and interval training/VO2 max. I’ve written an article that explains what these sessions are but I’ll give a brief overview here:
Speed sessions are usually done a couple of days apart in order to allow your body to recover from the high intensity efforts.
You’ll have one cross training session per week in order to make sure you’re keeping the rest of your body in check (not just your legs).
Each cross training session can be whatever you want - abs at home, weightlifting in the gym (upper body only please), going on a bicycle ride, a boxing lesson, yoga, etc…
Studies suggest XT (cross training) can be beneficial and improve running performance. A study released on the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology says XT is beneficial but it is equally as beneficial as running-specific exercises.
I believe that as long as you’re putting more miles in your legs than you are riding a bike (or any other kind of exercise), you’ll be improving your aerobic conditioning and reducing the risk of injury.
A Quick Note on Nutrition
Now you know the ins and outs of this 12 week sub 1h50 half marathon training plan. Take these 12 weeks as an opportunity to experiment with different nutrition/hydration options you may have available to you (like energy gels, energy drinks, etc). Find out how long you should drink coffee before running, how much water you should take with you, etcetera, etcetera. Taking a couple of energy gels on a long run will feel like a life saver at times but beware… some stomachs can’t handle them! So it’s better to experiment during training and avoid having a nasty surprise during race day!
You can find an image below with the full 12 week programme or you can download the high quality image by clicking here.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss this subject leave a comment below or join us on Facebook, links below.
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