Advice on preparing for a half for a begineer that is not a couch potato!


I'm a complete beginner who is going to run a half in October. My ambitions are pretty modest: I want to run it as fast as I can but I don't care how that compares to anyone else's times. So long as I run it the whole way without "hitting the wall" I'll be relatively pleased. And if I enjoy it enough I'll look to up the challenge next time.

There's a local 5k that I am going to run weekly once I am fit enough - which I hope will be about 6 weeks - and I am hoping to be up to substituting a 5k for a 10k once a month from about June.

I've got plenty of time to prepare but I don't want the programme to be too easy otherwise I know I will lose motivation. I enjoy exercise more when I'm challenged. I'm not very fit but I do walk quite a lot and I am lucky enough to carry very little weight so a programme that only has you run for a minute and then walk is too soft a start for me.

I went out for a benchmarking run this afternoon just to assess my baseline. I wanted to find out - by running at a comfortable but tiring pace:

How far I could run before I needed a recovery walk (turns out to be about a mile) and how fast I can run it in (about 8 mins).

How far I could run on a second run after a minute's walk (about 0.3 miles) and how fast (about 2.5 mins).

Whether I could run a 3rd spell reasonably comfortably after a bit of a walk (I couldn't!).

How my legs, ankles and feet felt (I'll know that tomorrow!).

Looking at the C25K week 3 is to easy for me but I don't think I'm ready for week 4 yet. My thinking is that I'll try to run the week 4 schedule 3 times a week until I can do it comfortably - stopping the running and walking home when I am too tired so I don't overdo it. Once I can run the distances comfortable I plan to drop into the regular C25K programme. Although I think I'll keep the 3 run a week programme in the latter weeks and just extend my 25min run through 28 to 30. It doesn't feel like a 5K run needs a taper and I don't want to give up the fitness that I'll need for the 10k programme.

Do you guys think that's a sensible approach?




  • Training plans are set so that you dont overdo it and do too much, too soon and end up injured

    Increasing distance or time too rapidly is never a good idea

    If you feel you have a reasonable base fitness and that part of the plans are too easy for you then start off at say week 2 or 3 and repeat those weeks twice, get used to the consistency of training and learn to listen to your body

    Dont do every run at an eye popping pace ... fast track to injury

    Enjoy the journey, there is no rush   image

  • Unfortunately it is the slow distance runs that give you the most gains - so don't be racing for PBs in the weekly 5K every week.

    I'd imagine you'd (assuming normal physiology) have to train pretty poorly, eat badly or be really slow to hit "the wall" in a half - especially with  9 months or so to go for training.  Everything I've read (and experienced) indicates that nowadays with the knowledge we have there's no excuse for hitting it even in a marathon.

    It wouldn't surprise me if you can already run 5km without stopping based on your 8 min mile (not that I'm suggesting that for a week or two) - just drop the pace down by a couple of minutes/mile which is nearer where you should be training I'd imagine.

  • Thank you both very much for the advice.

    Daeve - thanks for the confidence boost but you overstate my fitness! There's no way I could run 5k now but I hope to be able to in 4-6 weeks. I wasn't really looking for PB's in the 5k runs - just figured it would be easier to motivate myself to do the yards in a race than on a solo run.

    I didn't intend to run that first mile in 8 minutes - it just felt like a natural pace - and I'm certainly not wanting to rush it. I'm just conscious that in every aspect of my life I am not great at maintaining commitment when I'm bored!

    I've installed Run Watch Lite on my iphone so I'll see if I can pace myself a little better. And I'll run the week 3 schedule 3 times a week for a couple of weeks. It should be quite easy for me but I hadn't considered the importance of getting into a habit of training regularly so thanks for that very valuable advice.

    Thanks again.


  • Hi Matt S,

    I was in the same situation as you this time last year, I applied to run the great north run half for charity with no running background at all, unlike yourself I'm not as lucky in the carrying weight side of it lol I started in Feb at 13 stone now 12 so improved. Anyway as I was a complete beginner I was unawares of how to go about training and alto of the plans I seen sounded too complex by running to heart rate etc. I basically went out and just jogged a distance that I could manage without killing myself then walked home. I timed that distance then couple days later I went out and done the same route and just tried to better my time I carried this on till I thought could run further (this is just the way I done it , by no means am I saying this is the RIGHT way to do it). Once I had myself a base fitness I then just tried to up my distance every few weeks this worked for me . By 4 month in I was regularly running 3x 5 miles a week plus a longer run maybe 8/9/10 mile at a slower pace. Unfortunately I tore my calf a month before the great north so I didn't run till the day and managed to drag myself round in 1hrs 50! I'm running another one in April and hoping for under 1hrs 40!

    If you put the effort in and don't get bored which I'm sure if your seeing improvement you wont you will complete the half in October in a good time too! ( GEEKISH I know but I made a spreadsheet up with the date , distance, Times, pace, mph and comments on how I felt after each run so I could look back physically and read my improvements in black n white! I think that really helped me)

    Good luck!

    Hope this helped
  • Here you are. Forget c25k, complete waste of time for you, you're more than capable of following the linked plan, just slow down to an easy breathing comversation pace. If you can run with your mouth shut and just breth through your nose even better (im not suggesting running wih your mouth shut, but as a refference for breathing effort).

    When you've completed that you can either follow a more advanced 5K plan, or go for a novice 10k, or even a half marathon schedule if you want. But you have so much time you may as well lay some good foundations. Of course you can also ignore me!

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