Our expert says:
Best piece of advice - go slowly. Almost all injuries in novice runners are related to a rapid increase in the training load, and so building up very gradually is the key. This however means different things to different people, depending on what your past history is like, and how fit you are to start with. SO, it's not possible to say that you should start off at say 6 km three times a week and then build up, because to some, this is too much, too others it may be less than they can do. So, I suppose the best is to train in a supervised programme, but this is not available to everyone. Therefore, what I can suggest is finding a training programme, whether it be Runner's World, World of Endurance, or on the Health 24 site and then following it. The most important thing is to just stick with the programme and not change it midway through, because the sudden change in volume or intensity that often occurs when you do this really increases injury risk.
As for the progress once you've started, most programmes will limit the weekly increases to about 10% of the total distance. In otherwords, if you do 40 km one week, no more than 44 the following week. This is a little oversimplified, but the general idea is right, because it's trying to prevent excessive increases in distance. What works a little better in my opinion is to increase the total time or distance for about 3 weeks, and then in the fourth week, bringing the distance back down to the equivalent of week 2 or 3, before going up again. IN effect, you are going 3 steps forward, one back, and this helps give you the time to adapt better to training. In terms of the training for the half marathon, building up gradually is the key, as I've said, with the goal of getting your longest run of the week to about 18 km by race time, if you want a relatively comfortable run, although this can depend on other factors too. Remember that training has a cumulative effect, and so if you are able to run 8 km per day, five days a week, you should be able to run at least 15 km on one day. The ideal way to structure the programme then is to be consistent in the average steady days (so don't fluctuate from no running one week to 10 km per day the next, rather maintain the weekly runs at about 20 to 40 minutes on average) and then do a longer run on the weekend, where you increase over time until you are approaching 16 to 20 km. Then the race should be a piece of cake.
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