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Can I run other races while on the road to my first half marathon?

YES!

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.

Why run other races during a first half marathon training cycle?

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:

Fun Run

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.

Tune-Up

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.

Long Runs

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:

  • if your scheduled weekly long run is greater than your 10K race. For example, you need to run 8 miles per your training plan and you are running a 10K race. Simply treat the 10K races as your long run (6.2 miles). You can then run one mile before your 10k race at a long run pace and then run 1 mile after the race as a cooldown. Another alternative is to run the 10K race and then run for two miles after the race to log your miles.
  • Another option is to simply just run the race and forget the rest of the miles. The time that you don’t want to do this would be when your long runs are in excess of 10 miles. You would want to forgo the 10K race and simply log your long run miles or follow the above example by adding the additional miles to your 10K race.

All Out

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.

First time half marathon runners

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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