Nick Anderson is an England Athletics flying coach and manages Great Britain squads at various events across the world. He also leads the Bristol Half Marathon coaching team and shared with XtraTime his top tips for runners preparing to tackle their big challenge on the morning of September 13.
The final two or three weeks before a half marathon are when the gremlins start talking to you and asking: Have I done enough training? Should I squeeze in one more long run to be sure I will be okay on race day? Do I need to make up for that week I missed when I had a cold?
The answer is: It’s time to let the body start to recover and build its strength for race day.
Have I done enough training?
- What you do today takes 2-3 weeks to have a real long-term effect on fitness. A clever taper sees you protecting your fitness and feeling great on race day.
- Run your longest training run three weeks out from race day. A top session could be 90 minutes, with the final 30 at your planned half marathon pace.
- For the more experienced, a final long run of 25km run as 5km easy/5km half marathon pace, 5km easy/5km faster than half marathon pace, 2km hard/3km easy would provide that key final training test.
- A week before the race your final long run should be around 75 minutes at a relaxed pace.
- Look to maintain the frequency of your training over the final two weeks, but reduce the volume of your training by a third two weeks out and about a half in the final week.
- Look to include a 5km parkrun, such as the one at Ashton Court, on the Saurday eight days before the half – it will help you sharpen up and keep the legs turning over.
What should my final week of training look like?
- Our big tip though is don’t taper too much … you can have too many rest days and then feel super sluggish by race day.
- Our bodies love a routine so maybe run for 30 minutes at a conversational pace a few times in race week, chatting with mates or along a favourite route.
- Turn the legs over with a light session 4-5 days before on the Tuesday, this might be 30 minutes, including 3x5 minutes at threshold pace off a two-minute jog.
- We often advise runners to jog for 10-20 minutes the day before the race and stretch. It helps you to feel loose on race day and can calm the nerves a little.
- Don’t use the extra time in your week having reduced your training to do all of the DIY jobs around the house – rest means exactly that! So back off the heavy strength and conditioning.
- Sleep is your friend this week, aim for eight hours-plus a night, or as close as you can get. This will help your body adapt to the training that is now ‘in the bank’.
- Plan your race day logistics and get your kit ready the day before the race or even on the Friday.
How can I calm those half marathon nerves in the final week?
- Let’s be totally honest here, the nerves will kick in at some point and this is a good thing. It’s normal but we need to get things in perspective.
- Take time out in the week and review your training. Remember your best long runs, sessions and maybe a 5km or 10km that went well. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
How much should I eat during my taper?
- It’s all actually really simple - just eat normally and gradually reduce the volume and intensity of your training. Your body needs the quality cal-ories to keep your carbohydrate stores topped up.
- Our simple catchphrase is ‘never hungry, never over-full’ and grazing throughout the day with snacks and sensible main meals will work well for you. You don’t need to ‘carb load’ for a half marathon.
- Our top nutrition tip, though, is ‘eat your normal pre-race or pre-long run breakfast’. Don’t suddenly change what has worked so well for you in training.