The Average Runner: Training to Take the Next Step and Run Long-Distance Races

About the Average Runner: John C. is a Life Fitness employee who ran his first 5K more than 15 years ago and has been hooked on running since. He’s not particularly fast or svelte, and he’s proof that you don’t have to be to an incredible athlete to put in the miles. Starting is the hardest part.

One great thing about running, besides the health benefits, is that it provides a challenge. And meeting that challenge can be incredibly fulfilling.

After you’ve run in a few 5K races, think about challenging yourself to go farther. If you’ve had no problem completing 3.1-mile runs, then you should be able to finish a half marathon. I know that adding 10 miles on to those casual 5Ks sounds daunting, but with effort and a couple months of training, it’s not out of reach.

I ran nearly 10 short races before deciding to try my first half marathon in Chicago. I finished the 13.1 miles without much trouble, except for some leg soreness, which was replaced by the thrill of personal accomplishment when I crossed the finish line. During my training, there were three big considerations that helped get me to the finish and should work for you too.

Commit to a Specific Goal

Find a half marathon that’s three or four months away and sign up for it. Once it’s on the calendar, and paid for, it becomes real and gives you a time frame for training. If a half marathon seems too daunting at first, try running a 10K.

Believe That You Can

Distance running is certainly a physical challenge. But a strong mental outlook makes it much easier. Don’t let the miles intimidate you because with slow and steady improvement you can conquer plenty of them. If you’re a competitive person, get into the mindset of beating the distance. Some runners refer to it as “fighting the beast.” Don’t let the beast—fatigue, distance, etc.—beat you.

Find the Right Training Plan

Of course, the first two considerations are great, but won’t matter much without a solid training plan. There are plenty out there. Remember that the work you put in beforehand, makes race day easier. Try not to cut corners. 

I referenced Hal Higdon’s training plans before when talking about how to train for a 5K. I used the training schedule at HalHigdon.com to plan for my half marathon. Take a look at Higdon’s plan for novice runners below. Note that “cross” refers to cross-training like swimming, biking, strength training or similar activities. Try to incorporate a cardio activity that has low impact on the joints.

Hal Higdon Half Marathon Training