April 18, 2023

How to Train for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K

By Liam Rodgers
How to Train for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon & 10K

Do you want to run a half marathon, but have no idea where to start? 

Do you worry whether you’re tough enough to go the distance?

The Chicago Spring half marathon is the perfect step up for your running. We’re discussing how to train for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon and 10k – including some of the thoughts of local runners from our friends at Family Style Run Club, and their experience with the Chicago Half, to tap into that local expertise!

Disclaimer: What You Can And Can’t Do

First, not everyone can or should run a half marathon. If you’re only starting running, you may need to consider the Chicago Summer Half Marathon instead of spring – which happens on September 23rd..

Half marathons are a great longer run to target for beginners, but you still want to build up experience first. Getting more time in the gym or on the road is key to preparing yourself for this kind of longer run.

While it’s half the length of a normal marathon, 13.1 miles is still a long way. You should make sure you’re fit and healthy before you start preparation. Avoid building up your mileage on an injury or with pre-conditions that need addressing.

Anyone can enter the half-marathon, but remember that you need an experience basis or you’re likely to gas out, get hurt, or have to walk the course

Raul Urquiza
“I’ve been running for a little bit over a year. I’m newer to the sport. My favorite run event is the half marathon distance because it’s usually people’s introduction to longer distances. My routine for half [marathon] prep is a free run plan by Hal Higdon. I save long runs for the weekend. Lately I’ve been running more trails. My favorite [is] the Palos yellow trail.” – Raul Urquiza

Who Should Run A Half Marathon?

The half marathon is best as a first ‘long’, formal run for beginners who want to test themselves. It’s also a good milestone race for intermediates and advanced runners who want a real-world test of their pace.

A half marathon is enough to challenge pace and endurance, but won’t put as much stress on the body as a full marathon. 13 miles is a significant run, but within the reach of anyone who can reliably run a 10km “brick” workout on the weekends and focus on pace (instead of survival!).

A half marathon can be a big test, a pace-tester, or a normal workout. It all depends on your running experience and how competent you are.

Anchisa Pipatpinyopong
“I've been running since high school. It was the only thing I knew how to do at the gym - go on the treadmill for 1-3 mile runs. I started running as its own sport in 2021 when I was convinced to sign up for a half marathon.
My favorite run event ever was my first marathon - the 2022 Chicago Marathon. I surprisingly enjoyed the training and reached my goal of qualifying for Boston! The best part was seeing all of my supportive family and friends out there cheering me on. My favorite trail in Chicago is the Lakefront Trail. I love being by the water and the trail is beautiful!” – Anchisa Pipatpinyopong

Preparing For The Half Marathon

The most important thing is to stay safe while running and ensure that your training prepares you for the impact of running for so long. This means keeping the spine, hips, knees, and ankles healthy (1, 2, 3).

You can prepare with proper full-range mobility and strengthening exercises to help stabilize the joints and absorb shock. Common unilateral (one-sided) exercises like lunges and step ups can help here, while hamstring exercises like the “death march” and hamstring curl offer great ways to protect these hard-working muscles.

Adding light plyometrics to your training can significantly improve the resilience and ‘active stiffness’ of these joints. This helps you move faster, but also makes them more resilient to the repetitive strain of landing and striding (4, 5).

You can add these before and after your runs, or during gym workouts, to stay safe and improve the health of the muscles around the ankles and knee. This is a great way to reduce the injury risks of longer runs and prevent pain.

Running Training For The Chicago Half Marathon

The way you build up your running experience and endurance is important in the time between now and the Chicago Half Marathon. This could be as little as 4-6 weeks, which is suitable for casual runners to get ready for a half marathon.

However, the preparation for a big run involves taking things more seriously. If you want to run a race, you should prepare with the mindset of an athlete – even if you are just running for your own PB time, distance, or health!

You need to specifically improve three factors:

  1. Patient mileage overload (6, 7)
  2. Dieting for performance
  3. Sleeping for recovery

Let’s look at each of these with a bit more detail…

Overloading Mileage For The Chicago Half Marathon

Your mileage needs to increase in preparation for the half marathon. 

This is a balance of 2 things: increasing your mileage in preparation weeks, then taking some time with lower mileage to let your body recover for race week. You need to make sure you’re getting better and pushing yourself without injuring yourself.

This means taking steps back where appropriate, and an example 6-week training block might look something like this:

Week 1: increase 10%
Week 2
: increase 10%
Week 3: increase 5%
Week 4
: increase 5%
Week 5
: same as week 2
Week 6
: race week!

This will ensure you’re building the endurance you need, but also staying fresh for the race itself. The final week should be a few lighter runs through the week with relatively short mileage – such as a 5km 3 days out. After that, just rest up, eat well, sleep, and do your mobility movements!

Hal Higdon offers a great training program – Novice 1 – to take you from beginner to your first half marathon. This is a more in-depth training plan that runs for 12 weeks, and we’ve reproduced here:

Source: https://www.halhigdon.com/training-programs/half-marathon-training/novice-1-half-marathon/

Diet While Preparing For The Chicago Spring Half Marathon

During the preparation for the Chicago Spring Half Marathon, you want to focus on diet. This will enable you to increase mileage while staying healthy, and build the tendon and muscle to prepare them for the race (8).

Race prep diets should be rich in protein and micronutrients – vitamins and minerals. That means building your meals around a protein source (like lean meats or seafood) and vegetables. These are the top priority as they maintain your health.

Carbs need to increase, too, to match your increased mileage. This is the main role of carbohydrates, and scaling their role in your diet with your mileage is essential to fuel for the increased exercise and activity you’re taking on.

This isn’t the place to discuss how to eat before a race – but proper carb loading and hydration are key factors in how you perform on race day. Your body runs on carbohydrates and electrolytes, so get plenty of both – just make sure it’s digested properly before the race starts!

Sleep For Running Performance

Sleep is never more important than when you’re increasing your running volume. Endurance sports like running place a burden on the hormones, brain, and metabolism.

Sleep is the most important recovery time, set aside by the body for regulating these systems – as well as repairing muscles and joints. Cutting your sleep puts you at major risk of injury, reduces time to exhaustion, and limits race day mental performance.

This trio is a good example of the significance of sleep debt and deprivation. However, it also reaches into the rest of your life, with negative effects on stress management, dietary choices, and more. Sleep more and better, get your 8-9 hours, and be more strict as race day approaches. 

Chicago Spring Half Marathon FAQ

Why run the Chicago spring half marathon? How much training do you need? Is it even possible for you to run a half marathon distance?

These are some of the most frequently asked questions – and we’re going to answer them now so you have all the information you need to decide if this is the race for you.

Why should I run the Chicago Spring Half Marathon?

You should run the Chicago Spring Half Marathon because it’s an accessible entry point for running, with some historic scenes, and a great culture. The people running this half marathon are supportive and positive, offering encouragement for runners at all levels.

The half marathon is a perfect length for all kinds of runners. Casuals will be able to challenge themselves, intermediates can test race pace, and elite runners can take it as a more interesting training day for a brick workout! 

John Alcantara
“So far, I love the Chicago Marathon just because of the vibe you feel throughout the whole city. I have been taking pictures for the past two years for myself, from the start to finish, and you can feel the whole city come to life.” – John Alcantara

Is 2 Months Long Enough To Train For A Half Marathon?

2 months is long enough to train for a half marathon if you’re an experienced or casual runner with a good basis. It isn’t enough to start from scratch with your first run, as you’re likely to experience some structural problems with muscles or joints without previous running training.

However, if you’ve got some experience in 10km runs, there’s a very good chance that you can train for a respectable half marathon in 2 months. The worst case scenario is running some and walking the rest – which is still good to experience.

What Is A Good Half Marathon Time For A Beginner?

Any time is good for a beginner, on a first half marathon. For a healthy male beginner and casual runner, any time under 2 hours is a good performance. For women, anything under 2 hours and 20 minutes. 

These times are good goals for beginners, but they’re not set in stone. Surviving a half-marathon should be your primary goal – you can worry about speed after you’ve completed the first one!

Eddie Estacio
“Get out there and run, it doesn't matter how slow or how fast you are. Comparison is the thief of joy. Show up and show out for yourself. [My] Favorite route in Chicago is the Lakefront Trail, hands-down, without a doubt.” – Eddie Estacio

Can I Run A Half Marathon?

Anyone can run a half marathon with a little training. Marathons are typically run bi-annually to give runners 3-6 month training blocks between them. This means you’re always able to do the one after next.

Anyone can run a half marathon with appropriate training, even if they run it slowly. Half marathons aren’t superhuman bouts of endurance – most casual runners are able to post good half marathon times within their first year of running.

You may only be a few months of dedicated training from a decent half marathon!

Keegan Kok
"I've been running for about 1.5 years. I started in Dec 2021 at age 41. As a newbie runner, I haven't ran enough events repeatedly to say I have a favorite. (About 7x 5Ks, 3x 8Ks, 2x 10Ks and 1 marathon). But I will have to say that I really enjoy events that have a large crowd/spectator support like the Shamrock Shuffle and the Chicago Marathon as I feel feeding off the spectator energy gives me a boost in my performance." - Keegan Kok

Final Thoughts: Should You Run The Chicago Spring Half Marathon?

You should run the Chicago spring half marathon: it’s the perfect introduction to longer races, or a great training staple. You can prepare for this event as a beginner, or set your sights on a target pace and run your best half marathon.

The important thing is taking care of your body, improving your mileage patiently, and recovering properly. Focus on good training, good food, and plenty of sleep - the other stuff is just details.

If you’re thinking about running the Chicago Spring Half, you should. Even if you go slow, it’s a great experience that has made plenty of people fall in love with longer runs and racing!

Strength and injury risk

  1. Esculier, J. F., Roy, J. S., & Bouyer, L. J. (2015). Lower limb control and strength in runners with and without patellofemoral pain syndrome. Gait & posture, 41(3), 813-819.
  2. Yamamoto, Linda M; Lopez, Rebecca M; Klau, Jennifer F; Casa, Douglas J; Kraemer, William J; Maresh, Carl M. The Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Distance Running Performance Among Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 22(6):p 2036-2044, November 2008. | DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318185f2f0 
  3. Leetun, D. T., Ireland, M. L., Willson, J. D., Ballantyne, B. T., & Davis, I. M. (2004). Core stability measures as risk factors for lower extremity injury in athletes. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 36(6), 926-934. 
  4. Al Attar, W. S. A., Bakhsh, J. M., Khaledi, E. H., Ghulam, H., & Sanders, R. H. (2022). Injury prevention programs that include plyometric exercises reduce the incidence of anterior cruciate ligament injury: a systematic review of cluster randomised trials. Journal of Physiotherapy.
  5. Lundstrom, C. J., Russell, H. C., O’Donnell, K. J., & Ingraham, S. J. (2019). Core and plyometric training for recreational marathon runners: effects on training variables, injury, and muscle damage. Sport Sciences for Health, 15, 167-174.
  6. Mousavi, S. H., Hijmans, J. M., Minoonejad, H., Rajabi, R., & Zwerver, J. (2021). Factors associated with lower limb injuries in recreational runners: a cross-sectional survey including mental aspects and sleep quality. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 20(2), 204.
  7. Fields, Karl B.1; Sykes, Jeannie C.2; Walker, Katherine M.3; Jackson, Jonathan C.4. Prevention of Running Injuries. Current Sports Medicine Reports 9(3):p 176-182, May 2010. | DOI: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e3181de7ec5 
  8. Doering, T. M., Reaburn, P. R., Phillips, S. M., & Jenkins, D. G. (2016). Postexercise dietary protein strategies to maximize skeletal muscle repair and remodeling in masters endurance athletes: a review. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 26(2), 168-178.

By Liam Rodgers