Now might be a good time to consider adding distance training to your running — a 10K (6.2 miles), a half marathon (13.1 miles) or a marathon (26.2 miles) could be just the challenge you need.
But where and how do you begin training for a long-distance event? One of the most respected and popular authors on running is Hal Higdon — Google his name, or “running programs,” and you will be inundated with hits.
Higdon is a master at designing training programs for all running levels, whether you’ve been running for years or only a few months. He outlines simple strategies to get you to the starting line uninjured, and to the finish line upright and proud.
After the miserable experience of my first marathon, I used Higdon’s program to prepare for my second. In my first attempt, I had done almost everything wrong and I knew I did not want to do another marathon unless I trained smarter (but that’s fodder for another column — “What NOT to do when training for a marathon!”).
Higdon offers novice to advanced programs that are adaptable for everyone’s schedules. The key to his program is the “long run,” which for most runners is completed on the weekends. Higdon says, “You can skip an occasional workout or juggle the schedule depending on other commitments, but do not cheat on the long runs.”
Besides the necessity of getting in the long run, which builds a lot of confidence in your ability to go the distance on race day, here are Higdon’s top five pieces of training wisdom to get you ready for your first long-distance event.
You are probably thinking, “What? If I train slow, won’t I run slow on race day?” Higdon says to do your long run at a pace that allows you to talk with your running buddies. The distance is what is important, not the pace.
Take walk breaks
Seasoned marathoners might scoff at walking at any point in a marathon, but Higdon says walking is a “perfectly acceptable strategy” to get you to the finish line. He suggests you walk through the aid stations, which for most long-distance races are located every mile or so. This serves a “double function,” says Higdon, allowing you to drink more easily and giving you brief breaks. He assures runners that they will lose less time than they think when walking.
Higdon devotes time for cross training in the all of his schedules. Cross training can be anything that allows you to use different muscles than the ones you use while running. Swimming, biking and even walking are good choices.
Mileage during the weekdays builds throughout the schedule. Toward the end of Higdon’s schedule, you will be doing as much total mileage during the week as you do for the long run on the weekend.
Higdon says that rest is one of the most important elements of a training program. He says the rest period is when muscles regenerate and get stronger, and you cannot run hard unless you are well rested. “If you’re constantly fatigued, you will fail to reach your potential,” says Higdon, which is why for first-time distance runners he builds in two days of rest each week.
I have used his schedule, or variations of it, for every marathon I have done. It works. Higdon says the secret to success with any long-distance challenge is being consistent.
For complete schedules, including interactive programs and running advice, go to www.halhigdon.com.