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Mar 7, 2022

How to prepare for a fun half-marathon with Paula Radcliffe

We are so proud to have Paula Radcliffe onboard again for RFR 2022, and so, we wanted to provide some exclusive content for all you RunFestRunners! We asked Paula for some insight on preparing for a half-marathon, here's what she had to say...

I am writing this training guide with a view to helping those of you, already happy and comfortable running 5km and 10km, who fancy taking on the challenge of a fun and friendly half marathon at this year’s RunFestRun.

The biggest change to your training plan is going to be the long run


You already have a good base level of running fitness and are going to benefit from the welcoming, relaxed and fun atmosphere of all the runs on offer. The course, thanks to the Events of the North team, will be interesting and testing, and there will be lots of support and no shortage of great running companions!

The biggest change to your training plan is going to be the long run. Aim to schedule this on the day that works best for you in your week. It doesn’t have to be the traditional Sunday long run, although this may well be the best day for you to set aside the time for the run and recovery. Aim to schedule a rest day after this long run as well to allow you to run it strongly and to capitalise on the training effect. Build up the distance gradually from your current long run, using a rough guide of around 10% a week. So, if you are currently at 10km/6 miles, increase gradually to 7 then to 8, then 9, 10 miles. Stick at 10 for a couple of weeks until it feels comfortable and then gradually increase to 13 miles.

You don’t need to go longer than this but adding a couple of 14/15 mile runs will help hone endurance and make the half marathon feel easier. Start dropping down the length of this long-run 2-3 weeks before race day to taper and freshen up. Aim to run this long run at a pace that feels uncomfortably comfortable! In other words, you feel you are working hard but could pick it up still further if you needed to, and you know you can complete the distance at that pace. Make sure you fuel and hydrate properly beforehand and afterwards.

The next key element of the week, for me, is a shorter tempo run, 5-6 miles is perfect.  A short warm-up and cool down afterwards and aim for half marathon goal pace or slightly faster. Concentrate on running relaxed and feeling strong, and tuning into what that race pace feels like.

Then add in a shorter, faster interval session. This can be an informal “fartlek”, hill repeats of 150m-250m hills with jog back down recovery, 2,3,4 minute reps with a 2 minutes jog recovery in-between, or you can venture onto a track. It’s often easier and more fun to join a club or group for this session. You can help to motivate and push each other. Aim for a good warm-up and warm-down and around 35-60 minutes of work out including the recovery jogs.

My golden rule is to try and rehydrate and refuel within 20 minutes of finishing a run


Intersperse these key sessions with one or two comfortable recovery runs of 4-6 miles and don’t forget to include the all-important rest days and of course stretching and strengthening time. It’s very important to support your body well as you step up the training level. Feed it well and give it plenty of rest and recovery time. It is being asked for more energy-wise, so will need to be fuelled well and to get enough quality sleep. My golden rule is to try and rehydrate and refuel within 20 minutes of finishing a run. This is your golden ‘window’ to get the nutrients into your body and muscles to start the repair, recover and regenerate process and to make the most of all the hard work you just did while maximising the recovery for your next session.

The last thing, make a rough plan to work towards race day but remember to stay flexible. If you don’t feel up for a session, don’t be afraid to move things around. It’s more important to get good sessions in when you feel strong rather than forcing yourself when you feel under the weather.

Happy running!

Paula Radcliffe

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