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Limited Time

The Question

This question is from Lucy, who's strapped for time:


“I have very limited time and can get in about three runs a week, each lasting about an hour at most. What sort of sessions should I be doing? I've run a few 10ks in the past, but would really like to do a Half Marathon in 5-6 months.”

Shaun's Answer

Shaun - running coach
Shaun Dixon - Team GB Runner and head coach at Let's Get Running

“Great, I love Half Marathons - a tough but manageable achievement. Yes, you can run a Half Marathon on 3 runs a week, but can we not eke one of the runs a little? If it's your first you should be prepared to be on your feet for 2 hours + and therefore need to prepare accordingly. One of your 3 runs needs be a progressively building long run. Some people recommend reaching a distance of 10 miles a fortnight or so before the big day but I prefer to base my runs on time.

No two runs are the same; the terrain, weather or your mood will have a huge impact so sticking slavishly to distance targets can be detrimental.

Aim to slowly build your longer run (adding about 10 mins each week) so you are capable of running, at a comfortable pace, for about 1 hour 45 - 2 hours. If you have 5 months you can do this slowly, progressing every third of fourth week. Make sure you run your longest run 2 weeks out from race day.”

Joel's Answer

Joel - running coach
Joel Wiles - Lead coach at Smooth Running Fitness with 15 years experience of athlete-centred coaching. Contact Joel on Twitter or by email

“Awesome that you are up for the challenge of a Half Marathon! Sure it will be a great running experience and have you coming back for more! First thing with your tight-for-time training budget is to commit that you will complete and nail every run you do! Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!!!

Fundamentally you are moving up in distance so adding distance is the key. So one run on the day you have more time will be a very easy paced long run where you add a little distance every other week before reducing or cutting back every 4th week. Remember to keep that effort really easy! It's all about time on your feet!

Second run would be a tempo or race pace effort run where you start at an easy pace and build pace up in the middle section to your goal race pace before finishing at an easy pace. Gradually build up the race pace section on the third week of the month and stick to a cut-back week on 4th.

The third run would alternate between an easy paced run on different terrain (maybe grass or trail running) and some fartlek (speed play) sessions where you run continuously but change the pace at random intervals for random durations. Find a hill or two on these runs if possible.

Remember to enjoy your running, stay positive and patient!”

Our Member's Answer

c_Dave in London suggest including something other than running.

c_Dave - from Twitter

“I'd like to suggest some body weight cross-training. On two of the days when you're not running, try doing a set of 5 × press ups, then reverse dips, then sit-ups, then squats. Wait 10 minutes, repeat. Wait 10 minutes, repeat.

I find that only allowing myself to watch some must-watch TV, and starting on the ad-breaks when doing this helps. Add one to the total number in a rep each time, and the strength gains fast.”

Thanks, c_Dave. Box-set fans will be especially grateful!

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