I have two half-marathons a month apart from each other. What is a good strategy for my long runs in the weeks between the two races? I'm not sure how to best lay out some rest from the first one, some decent mileage to build back up, and then a taper in the three weekends in between.
Excellent question. I am going to take the liberty of reinterpreting it to ask: How do I run well in both races? Sometimes runners overlook the obvious when trying to fit in two races so close together. The bulk of the work will have been done leading up to your first half, and there will be benefits from this residual fitness. It’s not as if you are starting from zero when you take a week of recovery afterwards.
The enemy of good running is the thought “I am not doing enough.” My athletes are tired of hearing me say it, but “under-trained and nervous” beats “over-trained and injured,” any day. Whether you’re pacing Kenyans, or hanging out at the back of the pack, races take a lot out of us. You want to recover both physically and mentally in order to make the second race a success.
As soon as you finish that first race, make sure you are refueling your body with fluids, and some carbs and a bit of protein. Instead of relying on the post-race buffet, ensure those muscles are getting what they need by bringing along a recovery drink like Skratch Endurance Recovery or Hammer Recoverite. If they are offering massages, take one. If not use a roller or Addaday massage stick to begin reviving those muscles for your next big effort.
Even if you feel great afterwards, take an active recovery week that uses low-impact activities. Cycling, walking and swimming are excellent recovery activities. Many devoted runners think these sports are of little use to improve their running, but exhaustive research has revealed that we actually use the same heart for all these activities. Added fitness, low impact and a mental break from running is a good thing.
The recovery week may include walking for 30 to 45 minutes the day after the race, a day off, a cross- training day at an easy pace (45 to 60 minutes) and four days of running in which you aim for about half the mileage of your biggest mileage week prior to that first race. Your longest single run might be 5 to 6 miles the following weekend.
Now you have two weeks to go. You want to get in one more confidence builder and be rested for the second race, so logic dictates that you fit in your long run on this week. The total mileage that week should approach about 75 percent of your biggest week prior to your first race. The longest run should be 8 to 10 miles. If you can fit in easy-moderate effort, aerobic cross-training sessions on your off days, it will boost your recovery and your confidence.
The week before your race cut down the previous week’s mileage by about 10 percent with a long run of 6 to 8 miles. Again, any easy to moderate intensity aerobic cross-training you can do will give you a sense of continuity and keep you mentally occupied as the running mileage dwindles. Limit those sessions to 30 to 45 minutes.
The final week, simply follow the taper plan you used for your first half-marathon.
The Law Firm Rule: Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. There are so many factors—weather, course profile, how life treated you that week—that impact our performances. A great first race does not ensure a great (or better) second race. And the opposite is true; don’t let a subpar performance in the first race diminish your enthusiasm for the second race.
Keep things in perspective; although it seems everyone is doing half-marathons these days (and most of them seem to be standing in your line for the porta-potty on race day), the fact is that only about 3 percent of Americans have achieved that goal. You, Kristin, are doing two in a month. Revel in that fact.
- Coach Brendan