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Runners begin the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon on Sunday, May 5, 2013. (Matthew Sherwood For The Globe and Mail)
Runners begin the Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon on Sunday, May 5, 2013. (Matthew Sherwood For The Globe and Mail)

How should I train for a half-marathon? Add to ...

The question: I want to run my first half-marathon in the fall. Any suggestions for training?

The answer: I am excited for you. I will never forget my first half-marathon! Throughout the race I cursed my running partner, telling her that I hated her for making me run.

Roughly three seconds after crossing the finish line, I started smiling and said, “That was awesome! What race will we do next?” That was 12 years ago and I haven't stopped running since.

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If you have moments while training, or during the race, where you feel like you hate running and want to give up, know that the feeling is part of the process. Crossing the finish line feels amazing. It makes the entire experience worthwhile.

Don’t, however, underestimate the importance of strength training and stretching. When runners start to train for longer races, they often skimp on weights and stretching because their legs are tired and training is time-consuming. I get it – I have been there – but it’s when you’re building toward a long-distance event that your body needs the strength and mobility workouts the most, so that it’s strong enough to handle the stress of high-intensity training.

Make sure you’re also progressively increasing your mileage to give your tissues time to adjust to the extra training. Aim for one long run and two to three shorter runs a week. Initially, your long run should be three to six miles, depending on your current running ability. Add to the distance of your long run by roughly 10 per cent a week, and alternate hill and speed workouts during one of your shorter runs each week.

A great beginner speed workout is a 10-minute warmup followed by five sets of 30 seconds at your regular speed, 20 seconds slightly faster and 10 seconds sprinting. Walk or jog for two minutes, then repeat the five minute set one or two more times. Cool down with a light jog for 10 minutes.

Trainer’s tip: Most half-marathon programs call for three to five days of running per week. If you are prone to injuries, stick to three quality runs. Prioritize strength training and stretching. Replace the two lost running days with other forms of cardio like cycling or swimming.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

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