Every year, the organizers of the Copenhagen Half MarathonÂ assemble one of the world’s deepest fields, boasting a large number of sub-60 minute men. The womenâ€™s race has superb depth too as it contains numerous runners with personal bests faster than 68:00.Â It’s very excitingÂ to see this kind of talent assembled for a single half-marathon event.Â It makes itÂ possible forÂ a menâ€™s and womenâ€™s half-marathon world record to be run in the same race, on the same day in Denmark.
A Sister Distance
Of course, the half-marathon is attractive to marathon runners because ofÂ itsÂ ease of recovery and to classic road runners because of itsÂ role as a springboard to the full marathon.Â But the half marathon (at 13.1 miles) is perhaps even more relevant to the 10K (at 6.2 miles) than the marathon (at 26.2 miles).
Training at 10K pace works wonderfully well for the half-marathon and vice versa.Â
Some coaches advocate running 10K races at planned half-marathon pace, but thatâ€™s way too easy for a race. You can go ahead and do it on your own at some point during your build-up period. Running your best 10K pace for 5-10 minute work intervals with your form and breathing totally under control will make half-marathon pace feel slightly faster and easier to sustain.
Running a few 10K races or time trials during the eight weeks before an important half-marathon can be excellent for your preparation too.Â But no less than two weeks before the event, please. So your neuromuscular system can hold the good form and fitness youâ€™ve gained from those hard efforts.
Know Your Pace
Most well-trained half-marathoners will run around 15 seconds per mile slower than 10K pace for 13.1 miles, as long as they donâ€™t start too fast and they hold a relatively even pace throughout the race. Starting the race too fast will inevitably result in paying for that enthusiasm in the later stages.
Letâ€™s face it though, almost everyone goes out too fast. Thatâ€™s because the first mile almost always feels too easy! During the first few minutes of the race, you donâ€™t feel much of the discomfort associated with an overly fast pace because starting line adrenaline and the excitement of racing drown outÂ any possibilities ofÂ future pain and fatigue.
Once the human physiology of going out too fast takes over, theÂ negativeÂ consequences include form deterioration andÂ â€œenergy leaks.â€Â The most serious leak is theÂ negative psychological impactÂ on the nervous system. The breach in the runner’s nervous system triggers a higher than desired heart rate, accompanied by the cascade ofÂ stress hormones that occurs when someone moves into an elevated heart rate zone prematurely. As early as the third mile, the runner will be struggling to hold the overall goal pace. Positive self-talk, such as â€œIâ€™m going to do this!,â€ is replaced by the confidence-eroding voice, â€œOh noâ€¦ did I go out too fast?â€
You can avoid thisÂ trap by exercising more patience and restraint in the first mile. A quick check of the watch is advisable. Pace judgment training sessions where you work on speeding up and slowing down while concentrating on relaxed exertion, rhythmic breathing and leg turnover come into play here as well.Â
If you already know that youâ€™re reluctant to push yourselfÂ or if you realize that you have been a little too conservative in past races, hoping to save your strength for the late stages,Â go ahead and increase your starting pace â€” but by a only few seconds per mile. This pacing strategy will put you in good stead for a strong performance,Â and you will enjoy passing the other runners late in the race who were more reckless in the early miles.
Results oriented reading
Elite running coach Owen Anderson presents this comprehensive work in a compelling way for runners. A PhD and coach himself, Anderson has both a great enthusiasm for sharing what scientific studies offer the running community and a keen sense of whatâ€™s really important for todayâ€™s informed runners to know.