There are so many varied half-marathons around that runners are a little spoilt for choice and might want to try them all, but how should we adapt our training plans for different terrain?
As a general rule the time for a half-marathon on the road is going to be your fastest whereas for trails, hills, mud and more, don’t be surprised if you’re one, two or three minutes per mile slower. You might even take twice the time on serious ground so be prepared to be out a while longer if there’s a mountain in the way.
Here's how to adapt your training for each surface...
Mix up your plan
Road races can seem straightforward to train for, you get out on the road and you run… simple right? Well kind of…
Running an increasing number of miles at one pace can get tedious and it also isn't the best approach.
Mix up your week with shorter faster runs, intervals - perhaps at a track - and also hill sprints for some great power-boosting work to add strength and power to your legs.
Then do long, steady runs at about 25% slower than your race pace - these are great for clocking 'time on feet' and conditioning your body to being comfortable going out for a long time. Don't feel tempted to chase the pace on these days, you don’t need a new PB every time you run, slow-paced runs are a great part of any good training plan and this applies no matter what terrain you’re on.
Core strength and stability
Strength conditioning should be a given for any runner to help condition their body and better prepare it for the roads but for trails and rough terrain this becomes even more essential.
That's because the risks of injury increase with a countless variation of foot strikes - ascending, descending and traversing over hills, logs, rocks and stones plus ducking and twisting under branches as you stride through the course.
Your joints and core will be tested along the way so strength conditioning is really going to help you avoid injury and feel stronger and more confident on all terrain.
Fit one or two core and leg circuits per week into your training plan, comprising of a variety of lunges and squats to strengthen those buns of steel. Glutes play a big role in stability as well as power. Core strength exercises such as Russian twists, kettlebell swings and, dare I say, mix in some burpees and box jumps which are great for some explosive power work and crucial stability for your trunk.
lf you face a tough trail you may have to raise your feet high over long grasses, rocks, bushes and deep mud and puddles so knee-raises or step-ups (onto a platform) to work these muscles will help you on the day.
You’ve got the miles and the conditioning planned for varied terrain, now look after your trotters as they cover the distance.
Kit check – look after your feet
At the top of your kit list must be the gear on your feet as these little treasures are your best weapons. If you’re unsure about the right shoe then for the sake of as little at £25 it’s worth getting a gait analysis to avoid buying the wrong type of shoe for 'your' feet.
One for the road:
If you’re training for a road event then good support and fit for you should do but if you over-pronate yet have neutral shoes because ‘they look great’ then half-marathon training is long enough to cause you some nasty rubbing which can ruin your experience. Your feet and your gait are unique to you so the shoes your best friend swears by may not be so perfect for you after a hundred or so training miles.
Trails wet, dry, wintery:
Trail shoes are made of tough stuff to protect your feet from rocks, stones and terrain that could damage your feet unlike a nice smooth road surface. Slipping around on a muddy trail in road shoes saps your energy, slows you down and increases the risk of injury so investing in some trail shoes will be well worthwhile. Once you’ve got reliable big lugs gripping the ground, digging in with each step it’s a great confidence booster and you can relax into the terrain with less fear of slipping into a ditch.
Charity half marathon Trail runs Multi-terrain Obstacle races/Mud runs