I’ve mentioned that we are training for a half marathon coming up in June, and our official 10 week training started 2 weeks ago now. Where does the time go?? I’ve also promised to share said training plan and my training pace calculator, so here it is!
If you’re looking for a training plan and want to know if this one could be right for you, here is why I love it:
a. It works well for someone that has at least some experience with running. First and foremost, if you are brand new to running, this plan is probably not for you. It’s not a couch to half marathon program, and it does not allow for many easy “just go out and jog a couple miles” days. However, if you have some experience running and are looking to complete your first half, or you are a seasoned runner trying to improve your time, this plan may be perfect.
b. You only have to run 3 times per week. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t fathom running 5 to 7 days a week like I used to in high school and college. It’s either that I work too many hours, that I’m slightly lazy and enjoy my free time/sleep too much, or all of the above. Being an adult is hard work.
c. The low mileage is perfect for an injury-prone runner. I’ve been through 3 different femoral stress fractures (fracture of the femur). See: “Running 5 to 7 days a week”. All of mine were in the very upper end of the bone. I would get an aching pain in my hip, that I tried to run through/ignore. Not a good idea. Eventually, the aching turned into a sharp constant pain during runs, and got to the point that I could hardly put weight on whichever leg was injured without it hurting. Turns out, at 20 years old, I had Osteopenia – a condition not quite as severe as Osteoperosis. Really, this is just a fancy way to say that my bone density is not as high as it should be, and the diagnosis is actually a bit controversial. Apparently the T-Score that is used to classify bone density “normality” should only really apply to post-menopausal women. However, some doctors do use it for other age groups – as in my case – and I was prescribed Actonel, which I later found out has not been tested long term on young women and could potentially have adverse affects. The third time I went through a fracture, I was put on crutches, and my doctor told me that if I didn’t take care of it properly, I could put myself in line for a hip replacement. Uhhhh, no thanks. I’d prefer to wait 50 to 100 years or so before I’m dealing with that.
But I digress. The point is, lower mileage works much better for my body – and my schedule!
d. You run three different types of workout every week: Intervals, Tempo, Long run. Every run is important and meaningful, and it keeps these workouts semi-interesting, which is great if you have a mild case of cardio ADD like I do. The speed work also can be really effective if you target your training paces. I’ve been able to improve my time greatly using this training plan – so I really do think it can lead you to your fastest half marathon.
Several years ago, I signed up for my first half with my sister. I found this Runner’s World article, and knew that it was perfect for what I need. I’ve now used it for all three of my previous half marathons (at least as a goal/baseline… I don’t think I’ve actually logged every run on the schedule, even once). And every race has been a success.
So, without further ado, here is my training schedule:
Now, if you’re thinking that you’d like to try this out, I have a few recommendations to set yourself up for success.
1. First, I would definitely recommend reading through the RW article, because it does a better job than I can explaining the theory behind the plan and the purpose of each run. I’ve simply made some adjustments to make the mileage and paces work better for me – and then I created this handy dandy pace calculator that I’m super excited to share with you! The basic principles behind the Runner’s World calculations are great, but it takes some serious thinking and math to figure out your paces. So I’ve taken the work out of it for you. You’re welcome. Feel free to download the google docs spreadsheet here, to find your HMP and training paces. If you like it, please share and link back to this post! The first tab is the Half Marathon Pace finder. Click on the “Kelly’s Training Pace” tab to see interval, tempo, and long run paces.
2. Choose a half marathon, and register for it. I always have a much better chance at sticking to a plan if I have a specific goal/end date in mind. I also like to find half marathons in fun or interesting locations, and make a mini-vacation out of it. Because let’s face it, the physical act of running isn’t super fun.
Sidenote: I tried my fair share of sports when I was growing up. Soccer didn’t work out because I was half the size of most the girls, and didn’t enjoy giant 11 year old girls charging at me, ready to kick me in the shins. I was on the middle school diving team, which was actually pretty fun until they wanted me to stand backwards on the diving board, jump off and flip TOWARD the board. I mean, I’ve seen it work, but standing there with your arms up, when all you can see is hard surfaces and not water, it just mentally doesn’t seem like a good idea. I also found out I was terrible at volleyball (even though I really wanted to be like so many of my athletic girlfriends who could bump, set, spike like nobody’s business and look hot in spandex doing it), and even tried out running hurdles during my first season of track.
But alas, I was
cursed blessed with a gift for distance running. So finding a fun event/location to run a race and taking a few extra days to enjoy the trip is my way of making the sport more enjoyable. And don’t get me wrong. I do actually love running, it can be super rewarding and even social and fun. But you know what I mean.
If you’re searching for a good 1/2 marathon, here is my favorite race-finding resource.
3. You should be in decent jogging/cardio shape before starting this 10 week plan. I can tell you from experience, jumping into this from scratch will not end well. I always try to get into baseline running shape by running a couple times a week for at least 2 months before starting my “race training”. The first time I went through this, I didn’t have much of a base. While I did finish my half marathon well under 2 hours (which was my goal), I had trouble walking for about a week after the race. My legs were just not quite conditioned well enough to recover from that hard work. When you’re picking out your race, plan ahead.
4. To start out, find a realistic “goal HMP” to determine your training paces. The Runner’s World formula to determine your HMP, or half marathon pace, is actually quite good. So I’ve translated it exactly into an automatic calculator. The key is to use a current 5k or 10k race time to determine your goal HMP. If I used the time that I actually want to run for my half marathon in June, my HMP would be 1:37:00, which puts me at a 6:59 mile interval pace – and seems impossible. Using my current 5k time from the last race I ran in March, my HMP is 1:47:00, translating to a 7:45 mile interval pace. Much more doable.
Wait, what?? Why would I use a goal HMP 10 minutes slower than what I want to run?
Let me step back a minute. I haven’t maintained a consistent running schedule year-round for several years. If you do, and you are in constant good running shape, then you can choose your goal HMP and go with that. However, if you’re like me and you are more or less working up to longer distance race shape, then you’re better off starting with a more achievable training pace, and maybe adjusting your HMP and training paces half way through the program. I hope to be closer to my actual goal time paces at week 7 or 8, but would kill myself trying to hit those right now. So don’t beat yourself up if you feel like there is no way you’ll hit your goal time based on what you are able to do week 1 or 2.
Once you are ready to find your training paces, start with tab 1 “HMP Pace Finder” on my spreadsheet. Enter your current 5k, 10k, or marathon pace into the appropriate box in column B. Your Goal HMP will then be displayed in column G on that line. Simple.
5. I’ve created two different training pace calculators. One uses the recommended calculations that Runner’s World established (listed in tab 3 if you want to check it out). In my humble opinion, these are TOO FAST and not very realistic. The other one, which I of course am recommending, uses my own adjustments to the RW paces and is listed in tab 2. Basically, I added 15-20 seconds per each mile pace. I feel that these are reasonable (and challenging) training paces for myself. So once you’ve determined your HMP using the pace finder tab, go to “Kelly’s Training Pace” tab, and enter that number in the highlighted upper right hand cell. All of the other cells will calculate automatically, based on your HMP. The times you should be aiming for during your intervals, tempo, or long runs will show up on each line under “Goal Time”.
6. Decide what you will use to measure your intervals. For your interval runs, it’s helpful to either run on a track or distance marked path, or to have a gps device that will notify you when you have reached each distance. This is important if you want to know if you are actually hitting your goal training pace. Strava is a great option if you’re not running on the track, but the free version that I use only goes down to 1/2 mile notifications, so the 400 meter intervals are difficult to measure. My husband Jesse splurged on this TomTom Runner Cardio Watch, which allows you to program each interval workout into the watch, has a gps that will display your distance down to 0.1 mile as well as vibrate/beep as you reach each interval or rest segment, and displays instantaneous mile pace. Even though the watch says mens, it’s really unisex, and they do have a “slim” band that probably fits better for women with smaller wrists. I’m lucky that we both train at about the same pace, so his watch is what we have been using to measure our speed workouts –
it is pretty awesome! Edit: in the spirit of full disclosure, after using this watch for a few more interval and tempo runs, I’ve been a bit frustrated with the pace feature. It jumps around a lot, because the gps can only pull data every so often. While I’m usually pretty good at finding and maintaining my pace based on how I feel, the “instantaneous” results that Jesse’s watch gives us are actually throwing me off. After doing some research on it, he found that the watch is supposed to be more accurate at instantaneous speed (e.g. 7.5 mph) than it is with pace (e.g. 8:00 min/mile), but TomTom is apparently working on the issue and it may be improved with a software update. Currently, I trust the 1/2 mile pace updates that Strava gives me, more than the cardio watch. Will keep you posted! The other nice feature on this watch is that it reads your heart rate through your wrist, so it doesn’t require wearing a chest strap. I have to say, I’m a bit jealous of Jesse for that fact, because I’m still wearing my basic Polar heart rate monitor which does have the chest strap. Still works well for time, calories burned, and heart rate, but the strap sometimes slips down or becomes annoying to deal with during a race.
7. Do your best to stick to the plan, but know that it’s ok to make adjustments or miss a run! Even with the 3 day/week plan, sometimes life gets in the way. And that’s ok. Hey hey. I can rhyme. But seriously, I haven’t ever hit every run on this 10 week plan, and it’s really not the end of the world. In fact, this week I already missed my tempo run, because winter decided it missed us, and came back for a quick and dirty little visit. It’s been thundersnowing/sleeting/causing 70 car pileups all week. And since we cancelled our gym membership at the end of March, I chose to skip a run rather than taking my chances outside or paying $10 for a one-day gym pass to run on the treadmill. But I’m pretty sure I’ll live, and haven’t lost too much traction in the overall scheme of things. And finally…
8. Listen to your body. Because this plan only requires 3 runs a week, each run is fairly high-intensity. If you find that your initial pace is too much for you to handle, adjust to a slower pace for now. If you’re hurting after a speed workout, take an extra day off (see #7). Push back your Wednesday tempo to Thursday, substitute an easy run for your tempo, or skip it altogether. It’s better to miss a training run or a few than to end up with an injury that prevents you from completing your half marathon. That’s the whole point of this, after all.
So that is it! I hope you find this helpful in your training. Anybody have a training plan that has worked well for you? Any tips I’m forgetting? I’d love to hear about your experience with 1/2 marathon training!