Our guest columnist, seasoned runner, Anjana Mohan talks about how to transition from 10k to a half marathon
Doubling the distance you run poses similar challenges regardless of whether you’re a first time runner, a regular fitness runner, or an ultra-runner returning after a break. The biggest difference between those who have done 21.2km before and those who haven’t is simply the conviction that they can. Structure your training to slowly increase your endurance from 60-100 mins to 120-200 mins of higher heart rate activity. Those with prior experience in any continuous activity for 2-3 hours will find this jump easier than those who have to train for this in slow increments.
There are 5 major components of incremental training:
1. Learning to run longer
2. Training upper body and core muscles to support the longer runs
3. Understanding & serving your nutritional needs
4. Rest, recovery & life balance
5. Building mental toughness and practicing commitment
Many can and do get away with just the first component, allowing the other 4 to play out haphazardly through their preparation. While the first is a minimum, and with 10k training you may have gotten away with considering nothing else, a half marathon necessitates conscious attention to the other four. Training programs typically address the technical fitness components (muscle fitness, endurance), but the runner must self- address the logistical and mental aspects (Scheduling, prioritization and commitment). Nutrition, rest and recovery may or may not be addressed by technical training and require your maturity and body-attentiveness.
Training to run long distances
Training for longer distances can be achieved by running 3 days a week including a weekend long run (10% distance increments per week). While possible to substitute a cardio workout for 1 of 3 weekly runs for the same duration, it is more beneficial to add 45mins of cross training per week like cycling or swimming. Adding 1 to 2 gym sessions for lower body bulk muscles as well as upper body can yield amazing benefits of strength for any athlete and is highly recommended. And finally building and strengthening core muscles is a basic necessity to maintain positive form & avoid injury. Add 10-15 minutes minimum ab-work to runs or gym days as many times per week as possible. Rest is the most overlooked component of training. Plan this mental and physical recovery and muscle building necessity into your life. With anything less than 7-9hrs of unbroken sleep, you will perform sub-par, feel fatigue and be more prone to injury.
Runs longer than an hour need re-fueling en-route, and greater attention to protein and carb intake during the week. You should try, practice and experiment with these during each incrementally longer run and incorporate them into your training. Similarly, practicing positive thinking, and actively training your brain to believe that you can complete your distance and working to do so without quitting for each workout are the reps your brain muscle needs to learn to become familiar with that flex.
Runner’s mind- Understanding the end goal
Most runners find that signing up for an event keeps them focused to train towards that target. However, you may enjoy the longer runs and find yourself training towards a sustained higher base mileage that goes long beyond a single race. A structured program will typically have you peak and taper towards the event but as you get about three quarters of the way into your distance, you should consider what you want your post-race running to look like.
Understanding why you run and what you get from running will help you develop your running maturity and balance it with your life priorities. Seek to develop a sense of conviction for your own reason to run – be it for health and fitness, sense of achievement, recognition, competition or just the endorphin joy of each run.
Moving from ten kilometers to a half marathon isn’t about distance, it is about a new threshold of fitness in your life, learning how you want to sustain and fold that into your new normal, and believing in yourself.