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Ask The Experts: How Many Half Marathons Are Too Many?

Hello Mario,

I have been running now for two and a half years. In those two and a half years I have run fifteen 5K’s, six 5-mile races, and one half marathon, with the break down of races being five the first year, nine the second year (with one of those being the half marathon) and eight so far this year. I am currently training for a half marathon race on Sept 19th in Philadelphia. I live in Lancaster, PA, so I was also going to sign up for a half marathon in Lancaster for the Hands on House that is on October 2nd. Then, I also noticed that on my way home from vacation there happens to be a half marathon in Virginia Beach on September 5th.

So my question to you is: Do you think I would be pushing it if I signed up for all three half marathons? There would be two weeks between each of them — 9/5, 9/19, & 10/2. I would be hitting the first one when my training would be at about the 12- 13 mile distance for my long run of the week. I was curious what your thoughts would be for this and what my training should be in between these weeks.

Thanks for your time!

Terry L.

Hi Terry,

Congrats on catching the running bug! Sounds like your training is right on track for completing the first race on your schedule (Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach on September 5), so cramming in extra mileage to be ready for it shouldn’t be a concern. And while I would exercise caution in trying to contest all three half marathons you mentioned in your e-mail, running all of them isn’t the worst idea in the world if you play your cards right. Running 13.1 miles all-out three times in less than a month is a surefire recipe for disaster, so I would pick one of the three aforementioned races as the place to go after a personal best and use the other two as supported long runs. Your original goal race, Philadelphia, is known for having a fast course that is conducive to personal bests–and is also sandwiched between the other two races you’re considering–and is my recommendation as the best place to put forth your best effort.

That said, you need a focused plan of attack for each race if you plan on doing anything more than jogging them. Assuming you will run all three half marathons–with two weeks between each one–and hope to run a personal best somewhere along the way, here’s the approach I would take:

September 5, Rock ‘n Roll Virginia Beach: Treat this race as a dress rehearsal for your goal half marathon in Philadelphia two weeks later. Run the first half of the race comfortably and aim for goal half marathon pace–no faster–during the the second half. Wear your race-day attire and practice taking fluids and nutrition at the time intervals you plan on taking them when you go for it in Philly. Have fun, soak up the electric atmosphere and leave with the confidence that a PR is only two weeks away!

Training Between Sept. 5-Sept. 19: Easy does it. With your goal race right around the corner, the hay is in the barn as they say. I would give yourself plenty of time to recovery from Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach and eliminate any “long” runs before the next event in Philadelphia. Once you get your legs back under you from the first half marathon ( itshould take 4-5 days) perform a short fartlek session of six to eight 1 to 2 minute pickups just to stretch your legs out a bit and keep your neuromuscular system firing.

September 19, ING Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia: This is it, the race you’ve had circled on your calendar for a while now. It’s time to execute! Give yourself plenty of time the morning of the race to wake up, fuel properly and perhaps most importantly, relax for a few minutes. Once the starter’s gun goes off, let your confidence kick into high gear. Trust your training and carry out your pre-race plan to the letter. Expect the last few miles to be uncomfortable, but keep in mind this is just part of process of running a personal best.

Training between Sept.19 and Oct. 2: Recover, recover, recover. You’re likely feeling a bit beat up after laying it out there in the City of Brotherly Love, so I recommend laying low for a few days. Take a day or two off, go for a short run or try some low-impact cross training to get the crap out of your legs. Again, no long runs are necessary before your next race and I wouldn’t do anything faster than an easy jog until your legs are feeling fresh again. You’re in maintenance mode.

October 2, Hands On The House: This is your hometown race–enjoy it! With two half marathons already under your belt in the last four weeks, use this race as an opportunity to have some fun. Find a friend and take a tour of the town without the pressure of trying to run a personal best. Of course, if your body is feeling wrecked from all the races you’ve already run, don’t feel bad about bailing on it, either. Use your judgement.

Hope this helps answer your questions, and regardless of which race(s) you choose to run, always remember to listen to your body along the way.


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