Ask a Runner: Marathon Training

How to take your running to the next level

You Asked

Hi! I run for fun but have recently decided to enter a half marathon race (also for fun, just longer-distance fun!). I have three months to train. Any suggestions on how to get to a half marathon from my current 20/25 miles a week? —Jenny

A Runner Responds

Look at your race date, and write yourself out a schedule. I recommend picking up a copy of Jeff Galloway’s “Half Marathon: You Can Do it”. You will have to run a minimum of three days a week, one run being a long run. The other 2 or 3 runs should consist of shorter, more intense runs with a focus on speed and/or hills. Increase your long run distance by no more than 10% each week. Any more and you will put yourself at risk for injury. Three months is definitely enough time to train based on your current fitness level, but a smart and consistent program is critical for success.—Ainslie

You asked

My sister and I are both rowers but are looking into a triathlon in the fall (the Mermaid Tri in Santa Cruz). Any tips on triathlons for people who haven’t done one before? The race is in September so we’ve got lots of time to prep.—Libby

A runner responds

Good for you and your sister! What a great way to test your mettle as athletes. Triathlons, while they may sound intimidating, are actually really fun and are a great goal for any fitness enthusiast. Here’s a simple yet effective training approach: practice each discipline at least once per week. If you have a particular weakness or are frightened by one of the triathlon legs (eg. swimming), practice that element an extra time per week, and seek extra help like a coach or even an experienced friend. On top of this, it is critical for you to practice “brick” workouts, where you do one discipline followed immediately by the other, eg. swim/bike, or bike/run. These brick workouts should be your longer workouts and you will be surprised how awful they feel the first few times around. This is why you should practice doing them!

As with any program geared towards a final race goal, your workouts, particularly your brick workouts, should be increased in duration by about 10% each week. For your shorter, single discipline workouts, let your focus be speed and form. A great book that I highly recommend for first timers is “Triathlon 101”, by John M. Mora. It gives specific workouts and programs, as well as sound nutrition advice.

My last suggestion is to get out into your community and join a local tri club! They will have scheduled club runs, rides, and swims for people of all levels in the group, and they can be a great way to gain more knowledge and experience in the tri world. Good luck to you both on your first tri!! Have a blast! —Ainslie

You asked

Do you have any tips about training for a half marathon? Should I bring my own energy gels? And how many should I take if I’m planning on finishing around 2h:30m? —Nadia

A runner responds

Find yourself a good half marathon program, like this one,

Definitely bring your own gels if that’s what you like to eat during your runs. A simple formula which works for many runners is to consume one gel every half hour (taken with water). If you use this technique, that would require 4 gels. One tip that I also recommend is to also take in a gel 30-45 minutes prior to your race start. This would mean you should get to the race start with 5 gels in your pocket. Of course, this gel/30 min technique should be practiced during your long runs, as to ensure no surprises on race day. Good luck girl! —Ainslie

Ainslie is the first run expert featured in our Ask a Runner series. Check out her website to get to know her better:


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