Why does it take so long to train for a half marathon?
When you’re a beginner runner training for your first half marathon the upper end of training schedules can look a little intimidating. Most half marathon training schedules, especially for new runners, fall between 10 weeks and 16 weeks in total duration. Why does it take so long to train for a half marathon if you’re a new runner? The most important reason why it takes so long to prepare for a half marathon is that new runner’s bodies aren’t conditioned to run for a duration of 2 to 4 hours. If you slowly increment your total mileage on a week by week basis you can and will prepare your body for the 13.1-mile distance.
No shortcuts exist.
If you don’t believe me, go ask any marathon runner. Your body has to learn how to store glycogen. The basic process of building up your glycogen store looks something like this:
- run a long duration run of X miles. (x being the number of miles needed for the week).
- your muscles break down and rebuild within 24-48 hours.
- The ability for your legs to store more glycogen slowly increases on a week to week basis.
- Food and rest help refill your newly expanded energy stores so that you can run a little further each week (this is why rest is important).
- Repeat step 1 the following week.
Does it really take at least 12 weeks to train for 13.1 miles?
No, not if you’re an experienced runner. Let’s say that I run 3 miles 4 times a week. Could I go out and run a half marathon at any given time without long distance training? Yes, however, I would be putting my body at extreme risk of injury and possibly worse. There is a reason why there are thousands of half marathon training plans on the internet. The truth of the matter is that most half marathon training plans have a “buffer” baked into the training plan.
What happens when you get sick or injured and miss an important run during a half marathon training cycle? (I’ll cover this in more detail in a future part to this post). If for some reason you get sick and can’t make a long distance run (for a half marathon anything above 9 miles), as long as you complete at least three runs at and above 9 miles, then you should be able to finish a half marathon. This by no means is an excuse or reason to slack off and not run all your long distance runs. 3 runs above 9 miles would be the bare minimum I would allow myself to skate by with so that I could run a half marathon without injury.
Scott Morton is the author of, Beginner’s Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon #1 bestseller.
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