Marathon Blog

3 Months Until Race Day – Finalizing Your Plan


Interested in running the Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon or 5K this fall? With three months until race day, it is time to get started on a running plan. Here are the key steps to consider:

Get medical clearance. Check with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to train for to a fall race. This is especially important if you are older, have cardiovascular risk factors, bone/joint issues, are taking medication or have other health concerns. If you have had the COVID-19 virus, it is important to work with your doctor to get the appropriate testing and health screening done to ensure your safe return to exercise. In general, when in doubt, check with your doctor. Once you have your doctor’s approval, it’s time to get to work.

Choose the right footwear. Before you start your program, make sure you go to a reputable running shoe store for a professional shoe fitting. You’ll use these shoes a lot in the next few months, so it’s worth investing in a well-fitting pair (or two pair if you can – alternate them throughout your training plan). Good shoes go a long way toward preventing unnecessary injuries.

Choose a distance. The next step is to decide on a race distance for your goal race. Based on your current training level, make sure you have enough time to complete the required training before your goal race. You don’t want to try to shorten a training program to fit it in with your race. If you don’t have enough time, choose a different goal race. If you aren’t currently running at least 8-10 miles per week, consider running the 5K this fall. If you are already running 8-10 miles or more per week, you can target the Naperville Half Marathon if you like.

Choose a training plan. Now that you have decided on your distance, how do you train for it? There are many online training programs available for the half marathon and for the 5K. Alternatively you can work with a running coach who can formulate a custom plan for you. Here are a few considerations for choosing a plan and training for your race:

  • Starting point: Make sure the first week of the training plan you choose is consistent with your current mileage base. Most half marathon programs assume a “beginner” runs 8-10 miles per week. Don’t choose an intermediate program if you are really a beginner. On the other hand, if you have raced the half marathon distance before, choose a more advanced program that will give you the challenge of speed work and hill training so you can race more aggressively and better your previous time. If you are targeting the Naperville 5K and currently aren’t a runner, choose a beginner or walk-to-run program. If you are already running several miles per week, you can choose an intermediate or more advanced 5K training program.

  • Race conditions: Train on surfaces and terrain that are similar to your goal race terrain. Find out if your race is hilly or flat, asphalt or crushed gravel, hot or cold temperatures, morning or evening, and train under conditions as similar as possible to your goal race. If you can’t do all your training under race conditions, at least do your long runs that way.  For the Naperville Half Marathon, choose training routes that are slightly hilly and on asphalt. Be prepared for a variety of weather and temperature conditions since the race is in October and it could be cool or warm on race day.

  • Weekly running program: Choose a program that includes one longer run per week and at least two shorter runs per week. If you are running a beginner program, the two shorter runs will be at conversational (easy) pace. If you are running an intermediate or advanced program, expect to do some speed work and/or hill repeats as part of your shorter runs. The long run should ramp up to a maximum of around 12 miles or two hours of running (whichever is smaller) for the half marathon and a maximum of 3-6 miles (depending on whether you are a beginner or advanced runner) for the 5K. Your last long run should be approximately two weeks before your race. After you complete that last long run, your program should include a taper; a reduction in weekly mileage while maintaining the speed/intensity of the runs.

  • Fueling and hydration: For the half marathon, you will need to come up with a hydration strategy that works for you. Determine how frequently you will consume fluids and how much fluid you will consume. It is usually best to drink at the frequency at which water stops will be available on your goal racecourse. This information should be available on the race website. If you are running the Naperville Half Marathon, there are six aid stations approximately at miles 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 that will offer water and Gatorade Endurance. For the Naperville 5K there is one aid station at mile 2. You may find you perform better by ingesting some carbohydrates during your long runs. Experiment with Gatorade Endurance and/or other sports drinks, gels, blocks, etc. to see what works for you. Practice and refine your hydration and fueling strategies during your long runs. Just keep in mind that if you don’t use the carbohydrate source the race provides, you will need to carry it or arrange for someone to give it to you on the course.

Now that you have chosen your race distance and running training program based on the above info, it’s time to put your training runs on your calendar and get going. I will be here all summer with tips and advice on overcoming obstacles and challenges that you might face along the way. Good luck with your training!

Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness