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Running your first 5km/10km and Training for a Half Marathon in 6 Weeks

I can’t be the only one to notice the increase in runners on the streets. Yes, the good weather is bringing them out. But it’s also 17 weeks until the Dublin City Marathon, and it is around this time that a lot of people are implanting their training for the biggest marathon in the country.

And with it being the 40th anniversary of the marathon, more people will be running it than ever. 

Yet, you might be driving by, thinking, how can I start? Well, before you even think about running 42.2km (yep, the 0.2km counts!), let’s talk about building up to 5km and 10km runs first. 

Before you commit to running

Before we start actually running, make sure that you are running in the right runners for you. This doesn’t mean the dearest Asics. Different types of runners suit different people’s feet. If you are serious about running, I would strongly recommend you get checked out properly by a running specific shop to see the best runners for your body when running. 

And speaking about how you run, stand tall, loose and relaxed when running. Have a slight forward lean (not from your hips, your entire body) as you run. 

’Go For It’

The best way to start is to do slow jogs and walking breaks. Lightly jogging, getting used to your breathing in this movement will feel awkward at first. But you will adapt. Aim for short distances in front of you. The next tree or lamp post. Then walk a little bit and repeat. Over time, increase the jogging distances while slowing down the walking distances.

After 3-4 weeks, when you start to notice improvements in your running. Aim to complete 3-4km without stopping. If you’re looking to improve your time for these distances, I would recommend one “slow” day where you try to achieve a specific km range at a slow and steady pace while taking another day to run at a faster speed for 1km, take a quick break and then run again for 1km. Repeat the process until you hit your distance goal. This also helps keep your training interesting. 

People adapt to running at different paces. So don’t worry about what anyone else posts up on social media about their running distances and pacings. The important thing is that you see slight improvements in your running each week. 

Sign up for a Park Run

Take out the fear of you ‘not being ready’. As the most famous jogger in the world, in my book, would say: ‘Go For It’. The adrenaline will kick in, and you’ll crush 5km. I would recommend the same advice for 10km. Sign up for a race and ‘go for it’. 

Preparing and Motivating yourself for Running.

Set a routine for your run. Make a schedule for a realistic time and stick to it. Book it in like a business appointment. 

Break it down into parts. This, I find, is especially useful for when you don’t feel like running. Drink a pint of water first. Stick on your favourite feel good running song (you can probably have a good guess at mine). That will motivate you a little more. If you’re still not feeling like running, then you’re going to have to do a little trickery with your brain which sounds stupid when written down but can really help out to inch you closer to running. Get your running gear on. You’re not running, just getting your shorts and running top on. Tying up the running shoes. Organising your running playlist. And you’re just heading outside. You might only decide on a little walk. Maybe a brisk one. Then you’re not going for a big run, just a light jog. Once you’re outside and jogging, after a few minutes, you’ll start to feel better, increasing your pace. Next thing you know, you’re back on track with your scheduled run and will feel a lot better once you’re done, telling yourself that you had nothing to dread in the first place. 

You’ll probably go through that same feeling again on the next run. It happens to all of us. It takes time to build up a habit of running. 

Confession time

I had this idea float around my head a few times. I was even planning to run the Dublin Marathon last year this way. When I train clients, and in my classes, my first priority is always safety. After that, it’s building strength. And road running is not exactly beneficial for strength training. So I wanted to test how much of an impact strength training would be for doing long distance running. As well as Strength Training, I wanted to lower the overall training time that goes into Marathon Training but increase the efficiency of training and feel better and stronger after the runs as well.

After having a baseline for doing a 10km (barely), I wanted to test if I could do a half marathon, in 6 weeks, with doing the majority of my training in the gym and training strength. Except for a 14km very slow, hangover run in Mayo with a friend, the maximum I ran was 10km before attempting the Half Marathon after 6 weeks. With the strength training, a lot of the exercises involved exercises that I implement in my Personal Training sessions (especially the PT 6 weeks challenge) such as Bulgarian Split Squats, Single Leg Deadlifts and Farmer Carries along with some HIIT training involving Battle Ropes

I would run to 5kms during the week (one involving more hills) and a 10km on the weekends. The almost equivalent to a half marathon, spaced out over 6 weeks. 

Here are the results to all the runs leading up to the Half Marathon attempt.

Week 1:

half marathon 1.JPG

Week 2:

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Week 3:

half marathon 3.JPG

Week 4:

half marathon 6.JPG

Week 5:

half marathon 4.JPG

Week 6 (Half Marathon Week):

half marathon 5.JPG

Notes on the 6 Weeks:

- While Apps are not entirely accurate in their readings for distances and pace etc. they are an excellent indicator for your improvement. It’ wasn’t until after the 10km for the Bray Cliff Run that I could look back and see my own progress so far and know that I had a chance in making the Half Marathon goal work for me.

- A run was cut short on April 11th due to a mild calf strain. Something that I deal with a lot when I start running for long periods that I need to address for these next 6 weeks. I got specific runners that have a higher heel to help me (and a new pair after pushing the calf too much for the Night Run a few weeks after the 10km). But just because the runners are helping prevent injury, it doesn’t mean you should ignore the problem either.

- I didn’t get to every session I intended, and I missed the odd gym session too. Life gets in the way. When you miss a session, brush it off. I was 80% on track with my training. And that’s usually good enough for exercise and nutrition when other factors that you can never anticipate pop into your life.

And back to the story…

The Saturday of the Half Marathon I picked, turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. I planned to run late in the evening so it wouldn’t be as warm. Then I got a case of ‘f*ck it’ during the afternoon, threw on the running gear (except for a John McClane inspired tank top) and went for it. The goal was under 2 hours as I took a steady pace through the Phoenix Park. 

The last 2-3km felt like a bit of a struggle, but overall, I felt surprisingly good while doing it and achieved my goal in doing it under 2 hours. Any more than 21.1km, and I would have been in trouble.

And the legs felt great after it. No stiffness (unlike my half marathon, after longer primarily running training, the previous September where DOMS definitely kicked in). They felt so good, in fact, that I was able to go water skiing, pain-free, the next day and not even have sore legs after that despite never doing so before

This is a very long story to hammer home one point and a mistake I made when doing the Marathon last year despite knowing better; DO NOT NEGLECT STRENGTH TRAINING.

And when you are doing strength training, perform ‘unilateral’ exercises such as lunges and anything that focuses on one leg primarily. Don’t just do squats and deadlifts. When you are running, you are not going to have two feet on the ground at the same time. So why strength train that way?

I’m not saying that this is the best and only way to train for a half marathon. However, I do think there’s some merit that once you can do a 10km, you can prepare for longer distances by incorporating other methods. This can lead down a rabbit hole for philosophies such as Cross Fit Endurance.

If I had to recommend the most fail-safe way and the safest way? It would be to include your strength training and increase your long runs by no more than 10-20% each week.  

And if this post has got you thinking about doing longer runs such as the Dublin City Marathon… well, they are releasing more tickets tomorrow, June 1st. Just saying…

But I already said I was finished with Marathon running after the last time…