First of all, How long is your half marathon training plan? 10-weeks being very aggressive for new runners and 15-weeks being very conservative. As long as your training plan gives you the opportunity to run at least three long runs at and over the distance of 10 miles you should be fine.
Running other races during your training for a first half marathon get you ready for the big race day. 5K runs and 10K runs should be treated as fun runs, tune-up runs, or long runs. Running other races gets your body and mind used to the “feeling” of running in a race. Also, it simulates the night before preparation of running for a race in the morning, including, setting out your clothes, gels, sunblock, shoes, etc. This also includes getting rest before your race both physically and mentally. Let’s take a look at three different types of races:
A fun run is just how it sounds. Treat the 5K or 10K race as a fun run with your friends and family as well as the community. Take it easy and put in the distance at an easy to medium pace. You’re still getting in some of your miles while participating in the race for a worthy cause.
A tune-up race is basically giving your body a mental and physical fitness test at least 4 weeks out before your main race. Tune-up runs are roughly half the distance of your main race. If your main race is a half marathon, then your tune-up race would be a 10K. These races are usually run at about 80% effort. After running the tune-up race you should feel like you could have run faster.
Since you probably have no control over when the date of a 5K/10K race is, you more than likely will not align a 10K race on the actual day of a 6-mile long run. What do you do if your long run mileage doesn’t align with a race? Follow this advice:
Your “all out” effort is what you want to save for your half marathon race. This is the time to run your half marathon pace and give it all you’ve got. This doesn’t mean sprinting out of the gate at a pace you didn’t train for. Run the race like you trained to do.
For most first time half marathon racers, I wouldn’t recommend messing with tune-up races at all. Yes, they can improve your performance, but the problem is that as a new runner in order to improve you need a consistent running history to help make the necessary adjustments. Most first time half marathoners should only be concerned with finishing the race. Save the tune-ups for the next half marathon.
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