Training for your first half marathon

Running coach Patrick Flückiger explains how the right training will help you complete – and enjoy – your first longer race.

Text: Clau Isenring


Should beginners start with a shorter run or aim straight for a half marathon?

Anyone just getting into running should start with shorter distances. For example, you could do 5 km runs in the first season before switching up to a 10 km or 16 km run, e.g. the Bern GP, when you feel comfortable.


How long do you need to prepare for a half marathon?

It all depends on the individual. For example, two years ago I started training an older beginner who wanted to run a half marathon. Last autumn she completed her chosen race with flying colours! Someone who runs regularly and also tackles longer distances would be ready – with serious preparation – to run a half marathon in three or four months.


Is it a good idea to run the whole half-marathon distance in training before the actual race?

With your first half marathon, I think it’s a good idea to wait for the day of the race to run the whole distance. This way, you can experience success as a “finisher” and really enjoy the race. However, some people want to be sure before starting the race that they’ll actually be able to reach the finish line. In this case, I’ll plan to cover the whole distance in our training schedule.


Does everyone need a training plan?

Anyone who wants to work seriously with a training plan needs time to train at least three times a week. Anyone who can only train twice a week doesn’t need a plan. There are various customisable plans online that you can download free of charge. One good website is www.lauftipps.ch.


Is it better to do interval training or long, slow continuous runs?

Slow continuous runs are perfectly fine for runners interested in keeping fit by running three times a week. In this case, heart rate zones aren’t particularly important either. All these runners have to do is make sure they can talk normally while running. However, interval training is important for runners who want to get faster and improve their times. High-intensity sessions should be integrated into their training plan, but should account for no more than 25% of the overall training time.


Why is rest and recovery so important?

Rest is physically necessary so the muscles can repair, rebuild and strengthen. The body uses recovery time to implement the improvement facilitated by the initial training. The real training effect takes place during the recovery phase.


Should runners follow a special diet during training?

Healthy eating is important not only during training but also as a part of everyday life. If you stick to a healthy diet, you don’t need supplements at all. A healthy diet involves eating local, seasonal products that should be as fresh and unprocessed as possible, plenty of fruit and vegetables, and everything in moderation.

5 tips on buying running shoes by running coach Patrick Flückiger

  1. Try on running shoes in the evening as your feet expand during the day. This is important, because your shoe size can increase from anywhere from a half to a whole size while running.   
  2. The length of your stride is not important when selecting a running shoe. There are no special shoes for half marathons. Your feet and shoes adjust to the strain and stress during training.   
  3. Changing shoes is good for your feet. I keep my old shoes so I can switch between five or six pairs. It’s best to choose different brands and models.   
  4. The brightest and most expensive shoes are not necessarily the best. Ask the advisor in a specialist store which shoe best suits your feet and running style.   
  5. I like to wear running socks with support in the right places.

Pat Flückiger, Swiss Athletics A trainer (medium/long-distance running), functional trainer A licence, www.runningtrainer.ch

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