Fitness Friday

How Should You Train for Houston's Biggest Races?

An expert breaks it down.

By Abby Ledoux September 27, 2019

Maybe you want to be the one chuckling at the kind of witty yet encouraging sign you held on the sidelines of a major race last year. Maybe you just resolved to be more active in 2019. There's still time! If you want to pound the pavement, consider this your official starting point. Orangetheory Fitness trainer Ezra Richards—also a private running instructor and high school track coach at St. Thomas Episcopal—breaks down exactly how and when you'll need to prepare for some of Houston's biggest races this year, from beginner-friendly 5Ks (starting as early as next week) to the big leagues like the Chevron Houston Marathon.

Happy trails!

Warming up

  • Try: Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure (Oct. 5), iGoPink's Pink 5K (Oct. 5), Hess Corporate Run (Oct. 22–24), West U Halloween Dash 5K (Oct. 26), Rear in Gear (Nov. 16)
  • Richards says: There are plenty of 5K options all over the city—ideal for those just getting into running. You'll need about a month and a half to train, running four to five days a week.
  • Weekly breakdown: Complete one long run (4-5 miles), one speed run (your fastest pace for 1.5–2 miles), and two recovery runs (a steady pace for 1.5–2 miles).


Gaining speed

  • Try: Firefly Run (Nov. 16), Houston Turkey Trot (Nov. 28)
  • Richards says: You'll need at least 2.5 months of training for a 10K, and recovery becomes increasingly important with distance running. "Make sure you take your rest day, and consider taking up yoga and cross-training like Orangetheory," he adds. "These will allow you the flexibility and give you diversity in muscle movement to feel strong on the weekly long run."
  • Weekly breakdown: Similar to 5K training, you'll only need to run long distances once a week—but put in 6-8 miles on those long run days. (Pro tip: The Buffalo Bayou trail goes for 10 miles with amazing views of the city.)


Hitting your stride

  • Try: La Porte By the Bay Half Marathon (Nov. 17), RunGirl Half Marathon (Dec. 1), Santa Hustle & Half Marathon (Dec. 15)
  • Trainer says: You'll need three to four months of training—six days a week—to properly prepare for a half marathon. To work up to that level, start with 10K training methods. By the fourth or fifth week of that, you should be ready to train all-out for the full six days and remain healthy. Yoga, cross-training, or even swimming is essential for half-marathon training, and remember to use your day off to fully recover.
  • Weekly breakdown: Recovery day runs should occur three times a week and increase in distance to 4–7 miles. Maintain two speed days and one long run; the latter will range from 9–15 miles and should increase as race day gets nearer.


The big finish

  • Try: Cypress Half Marathon (Nov. 11), Chevron Houston Marathon (Jan. 19), The Woodlands Marathon (March 7)
  • Trainer says: If you want to run a full marathon, you need to train for a full four to six months and run five to seven days a week. Alternate weeks with yoga, swimming, and cross-training to diversify joint movements and avoid common runner's injuries like shin splints or patella tendonitis.
  • Weekly breakdown: One long run, one speed day, and three to four recovery tuns for 3–4 miles at a 10K race pace. Long runs should start at 6 miles and work up to 22 miles, with distance progressing by about 1–2 miles per week as you get closer to the race. 
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