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How to train for half & full marathons so you don’t hit the wall and “bonk”

How to train for half & full marathons so you don’t hit the wall and “bonk”

Entering a half or full marathon is for many runners the ultimate endurance achievement.

And rightly so.

It’s an incredible feat of perseverance and stamina.

The process of preparing for a long-distance event can be incredibly fulfilling on a personal level, but most importantly, gets you ready for race day.

Here are some key tips to get you ready for your first long-distance running event.

The Running Part

photo: Sunrise Events Vietnam

It goes without saying that to prepare for a half or full marathon you need to run.

However, it’s often forgotten that to get the most out of your race preparation, a range of run types should be incorporated into your training plan.

Running too slow or too fast consistently will not allow you to maximise your potential.

Let’s cover some important runs to include in your training.

Running more than 21km on race day requires regular longer runs.

Most athletes reserve these long runs for the weekend and gradually build the distance by 10% every week prior to the race.

For marathons, the maximum one should hit in training is roughly 30km

Long runs should be mostly run in what we call Zone 2 or a “perceived effort” of 4 –they help you to obtain a good aerobic base without stressing your body too much, thus, aiding recovery.

A type of run that is often neglected by many athletes is speed work.

Running faster than you normally would challenges you and eventually will make your easy runs feel easier.

Speed work could include intense, but shorter workouts of 30-45 minutes in which you incorporate 5 x 1 minute with 1 minute rest in between at a perceived effort of 8 or 9 (Zone 4+).

Interval and tempo sessions are other great speed workouts.

With an interval session of 45-60 minutes, you might include 4 x 5 minutes with 3 minutes rest at a perceived effort of 7 (Zones 3+/4), while a tempo run focuses more on running two or three intervals of 10 minutes at a perceived effort of 5/6 (Zone 3).

Speed sessions should be done on a weekly basis, but the bulk of your training should remain in perceived effort of 4 (Zone 2)

Finally, there’s the simple notion of recovery.

Allow your body to recuperate and make sure you get enough sleep on a regular basis.

Rest days are there for a reason, so don’t replace them with an intense workout. It’s okay to have your easy days while preparing for an endurance event.

The Nutrition Part

photo: Sunrise Events Vietnam

During any endurance event over two hours, your energy levels will get depleted.

To avoid hitting the wall and bonking, nutrition should be consumed at regular intervals.

Energy gels are by far the most popular fuel for runners as they are easy to carry in your pockets and can be quickly consumed.

However, not every person is able to digest these gels easily or even like the texture.

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Experimenting with these types of nutrition on your long runs is paramount.

The rule of thumb is that one gel is consumed every 40 minutes, depending on the brand and what the packaging recommends

As mentioned, some runners’ stomachs aren’t able to handle energy gels.

Good alternatives would be solid foods such as bananas, sports bars or even sandwiches with jam. Consuming a whole sports bar in one go is probably not the best tactic, though!

Taking a bite every 30 minutes allows your body to take in the necessary calories without straining your stomach too much.

Ultimately, for both gels and solid food, you want to aim to get in about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour depending on your body size.

photo: Sunrise Events Vietnam

Give these tips a try and see how you go.

All the best and if you’re participating in the HCMC International Marathon on Dec.13, remember pacing, nutrition and hydration.

See you on the course.

Words by Kristof Van Houdt

Kristof is based in Ho Chi Minh City and spends his free time as a multi-sports athlete. He enjoys sharing his passion for running, duathlon and triathlon with others and regularly participates in coaching sessions to prepare amateur athletes for sporting events. He has also acted as an assistant race director for the Techcombank HCMC International Marathon and Ironman 70.3 Vietnam

Get in contact with Kristof via

Feature photo Sunrise Events Vietnam

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