R4YL has designed training programs for the 21.1km Zebra Zoom which offers runners looking for either the opportunity for records fast times, or just finisher the event, as well as taking advantage of a scenic course that loops “around the world” in the Dubbo Stampede.
Twelve weeks is probably the ideal time to prepare for a half marathon and allows a gradual increase in training volume to facilitate training adaptations while helping to avoid injury. The length of the programs allows for a few small training interruptions that may inevitably occur due to family commitments, work, travel or injury. But by consistently following the plans, runners will reach the start line fully prepared to tackle the course and will be proud of the work they have put in over the previous 3 months.
When choosing a program runners should take into account both their running history and goals for the race.
R4YL offers two twelve week programs:
The Finisher program has been designed for people who are currently exercising for 20 - 30 minutes 3-4 times a week and are looking for that next challenge. Over the course of the eleven weeks the Finisher program gradually builds in volume until people complete an 18km run two weeks before the event. Training sessions are scheduled four days per week with optional cross training sessions built in on other days. Weekly sessions are prescribed by time however the Sunday long run is prescribed by distance. This is the most important session of the week and ensures that runners are building adequate endurance in a quantifiable way. The long run can be completed on any day of the week - Sunday is used for convenience however pick the one day of the week where the long run is your priority and all other of life’s commitments take at least a momentary backward step. It is better for routine purpose to keep the same long run day each week but being flexible is vital for people with busy or unpredictable schedules.
In regards to the ‘training effort’, all training sessions marked simply as time or distance should be completed as an easy aerobic effort where breathing is controlled and runners remain relaxed. It is natural to work harder and become short of breath ascending hills but runners should concentrate on recovering on the downhill segments while keeping a steady cadence. Runners who are new to the sport or are struggling to complete the scheduled sessions can utilise walking breaks - the training volume achieved is much more important than the speed of the sessions.
In the fifth week of the program ‘training sessions’ are introduced; these sessions are described as ‘Relaxed Efforts’ (RE). A RE session is a series of intervals separated by a recovery where each interval is completed faster than your regular training pace – however, at a speed which only starts to become challenging towards the end of the session, but still would not be described as a difficult or hard session. RE’s challenge the aerobic system a little more than regular runs and help develop improved running efficiency. A one minute walk recovery is suggested between each RE interval and ideally you would complete a portion of the total allotted training time before the RE’s and the remainder after you have completed the RE intervals, i.e. 35 mins could be split up to be 20 mins before the RE’s and 15 mins afterwards. RE’s are optional and not imperative for the success of the program but add an additional training stimulus and challenge for runners who feel they are handling the prescribed training load.
The Competitor Program aims to give structure and progression to runners who are already running 3-5 times per week for up to an hour but wish to ramp up their running to improve over the half marathon distance. The program features two quality sessions and one long run per week and will develop overall aerobic capacity, lactate threshold, VO2max and running economy – the key indicators of distance running ability. The weekly long run increases to 24km building the strength, endurance and confidence necessary to race the 21.1km distance.
Like the Finisher program all runs should be completed at an easy aerobic effort except for the hard sessions. For all hard sessions it is recommended to complete a warm up of 15–20 mins and 3–4 strides before the session. A 10–20 minute warm down should follow hard sessions.
Descriptions of training sessions:
Fartlek sessions are harder segments of running interspersed with a period of slower recovery running. Fartlek is traditionally unstructured but for this program structured sessions are assigned. For example, Fartlek 2 x (3’, 2’, 1’) consists of hard efforts of 3 minutes, 2 minutes and 1 minute repeated twice. The recoveries for all Fartlek sessions listed consists of a fast jog half the length of the interval down to a minimum of 1 minute recovery. So for example, the recovery for the session listed would be 90 seconds, then 60 seconds and 60 seconds, followed again by the same recoveries for the second set of the session.
Hill sessions develop leg strength, speed, VO2max , anaerobic buffering and running economy – almost everything! A hill session indicated as Hills (8 x 1’) means 8 repeats of a 1 minute hill. All hills sessions feature a jog back recovery. The effort should be hard but consistent over the whole session, so that each repetition is completed at the same pace throughout the session.
For simplicity, Repetitions (reps) are prescribed by time rather than by distance. Repetitions should be completed at close to 10km race pace/effort for reps of 3 minutes or more. The important factor is that a pace faster than half marathon race pace is achieved for the rep sessions.
Anaerobic Threshold (AT) sessions are prescribed in the program and aim to increase the athlete’s anaerobic or lactate threshold - which equates to a pace somewhere between 15km and half marathon race pace for advanced runners. AT can be determined by physiological testing, measured by heart rate or pace, or simply by feel. The effort at AT should be hard but comfortable, breathing should be controlled and the effort should be at a level that could be sustained for 45- 60 minutes in a race situation. So a session listed as AT (20’) indicates 20 minutes of continuous running at a pace equivalent to your AT. Another example is a session listed as AT (2 x 10’) (2’) which means two 10 minute AT efforts with a short (2 minute) recovery in between.
If sickness, injury or demands of life cause a disruption of training, all is not lost. For breaks of up to a week, simply resume training as prescribed. If the break is between a week and 3 weeks, you should spend 3 days running easy before resuming training at 75% of the prescribed load for the next for 3 days, and then finally resuming the regular schedule.
At any point if you feel illness or injury starting to occur, it is always better to take a few days off immediately to recover and/or have it symptoms treated, rather than trying to push through the pain/illness, which will only lead to a more significant amount of time off running.
Best of luck with the training and we hope you are able to achieve a personal best.
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