How to run 2 half-marathons 3 weeks apart

After setting a personal record at Disney’s Princess Half Marathon, Karla Bruning is running the NYC Half just three weeks later. But running two half-marathons in three weeks takes special training. Photo: Associated Press

NEW YORK, March 13, 2012—Back in November, I set out on a crazy quest to run at least a mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s with the Runner’s World Holiday Running Streak. Come Jan. 1, I’d accumulated 100 miles in 40 days and had a solid training base.

So I decided to merge the end of the streak with the beginning of half-marathon training. I earmarked Disney’s Tinker Bell Half Marathon on Jan. 29 as a training run for a personal record attempt at Disney’s Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 26. Somehow, everything went according to plan. I crossed the finish line at the Princess Half two minutes faster than my previous PR.

Now I’m looking to capitalize on all that training and fitness by squeezing out one more race—the NYC Half on March 18. New York Road Runners and Motorola invited me to be a MOTOACTV NYC Half Marathon Ambassador for the race and give the new MOTOACTV device a test run.

But with just three weeks between Disney’s Princess Half and the NYC Half, I knew I’d be treading the thin line between capitalizing on training and courting injury. How can a runner prepare to tackle two half-marathons in three weeks?

I turned to my favorite online resource for training tips: RunnersWorld.com. I’m following the advice of Runner’s World blogger Susan Paul, an exercise physiologist and coach, who writes the For Beginners Only blog.

“Spacing events close together often allows runners to use their training for more than one race, but this requires adequate preparation, recovery between events, and knowing your body well,” Paul writes.

Paul outlines a three-week recovery and training program for runners attempting to tackle two half-marathons three weeks apart. I’m giving it a shot:

Week 1: Rest and active recovery, such as walking, stretching and swimming.

After taking three days off from running, I logged a very easy 20-minute jog just to loosen up my legs. The next morning I got slammed with a major cold and took the rest of the week off. That’s one way to make sure you take it easy. The most strenuous thing I did was walking my dog every day.

Week 2: Active recovery plus two or three easy runs of 30-45 minutes.

After I got over my cold, I eased back into running slowly with another 20-minute jog, followed by two 35-minute easy runs later in the week. Add in walking my dog every afternoon, plus one horseback riding session, and my legs feel pretty good.

Week 3: Two to three 45-60 minute easy to moderate runs plus two days of cross training.

That brings us to today. With gorgeous spring weather in the air, I’ll aim for exactly three 45-60 minute runs, pushing the pace just a bit, plus some yoga and swimming before race day on Sunday.

MOTOACTV is a GPS device and MP3 player all in one. (Photo: MOTOACTV)

I’ve found MOTOACTV to be helpful in my recovery by logging my training runs with the new GPS watch and MP3 player all in one. Knowing my pace while I run helps me make sure that I’m truly running easy and not too fast; I’m aiming for 2-3 minutes per mile slower than race pace, per coach extraordinaire Jeff Galloway’s seasoned advice. Come race day, I’m hoping the device will help me run an even pace in the hilly early miles through Central Park so I can gauge how hard I want to push in the later flat and fast miles down the West Side Highway.

As Paul points out in her post, the general guideline for race recovery is one day per mile. So if you race 13 miles, you should plan for 13 days of rest and easy running. On this plan, you have exactly that, plus another seven days to ramp up for the next race.

The key is going into the race ready for anything. At one end of the spectrum, I’m ready to just have fun. I’ve already got a new half-marathon PR to my name, and I’ve never run the NYC Half. So I might just enjoy it.

But on the other hand, if my recovery from Disney’s Princess Half goes well and I’m feeling primed on race day, I might give a second PR attempt a shot. No, I’ve never run the NYC Half, but I do know every curve and dip of the course very well.

The first 6 miles are one loop of Central Park, otherwise known as my home turf. I know every inch of that road and how my body likes to run it. I’ll aim to hold a steady, moderate pace through the rolling hills of the park.

The course then runs down Seventh Avenue through Times Square, out to the West Side Highway and around the tip of Manhattan to South Street Seaport. When I’m not running Central Park, I’m usually running the recreation path that lines the West Side Highway, eventually making a ring around the island of Manhattan.

Finally, when I’m pinched for workout time, I literally run my errands through the city, including Seventh Avenue and Times Square.

Since I have home-court advantage, I just might make a go of it. If I’m feeling good as I exit the park and head for the flat and faster miles in the back half of the course, I might pick up the pace and push hard.

But there’s plenty of time to decide that later. For now, I’ve got my MOTOACTV strapped to my arm and I’m jogging it out gently. Come March 18, we’ll see if running two halves three weeks apart really is a good idea.

Karla Bruning is a veteran journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at RunKarlaRun.com, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.


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Karla Bruning

Karla Bruning is the host of On The Run, a TV and web show from New York Road Runners. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, American Athlete Magazine, RunnersWorld.com, Active.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Orlando Sentinel, and two dozen other outlets including ESPN2, Universal Sports and ABC in New York. She and her work have also received mentions from The New York Times, Runner's World, Fox Sports, Canadian Running, The Baltimore Sun, and PBS among others. She also covered the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver for The Washington Times.

 

A former Newsweek reporter, Karla has won a Fulbright scholarship for American journalists and reporting grants from the Scripps Howard, Carnegie and Knight Foundations. Karla holds degrees from Amherst College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.

 

When not pounding the pavement as a reporter, Karla is pounding the pavement as a runner. She has completed seven marathons, four triathlons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. She is a writer, editor, and on-camera reporter dedicated to covering the sport of running from a runner’s perspective. Find Karla on RunKarlaRun.com, Twitter@KBruning, Facebook and Google+.

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