Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How To Run A Great Half-Marathon

Just kidding. I doubt I know any more about running a great half marathon than you do.

Which is kind of cool because it means I don't put a ton of pressure on myself about it. I think there are people out there who are fast enough & fit enough that it's really, really important for them to find just the right training program, do just the right speed workouts, tempo runs at just the right pace, etc. etc., or they won't improve.

I am (obviously) not one of those people. (I can tell because there is no one paying for my running shoes who is not related to me.) Where I'm at, I figure that if I'm a) running consistent mileage, b) doing some kind of speed work, c) doing some kind of tempo work, d) running at least 12+ miles a few times a month, I am all good, and the bulk of my progress is going to come from increasing mileage & pace when I can. (Oh and also not taking giant chunks of time off due to bad injuries or feeling smug about marathon cycles).

The COOL part of that is that I don't actually believe that what specific training plan I use (or, let's face it, fabricate whole cloth) actually makes a difference as long as all the elements mentioned above are involved. I have no training plan loyalty. In fact, I actually really enjoy hunting down different ones & trying them out just to see how they work out for me, and several times that's how I've discovered new workouts that I've come to love.

For each distance I've raced, I have a folder of bookmarked web pages. Some indeterminate amount of time ago, I found and bookmarked this one on half marathon training, which I found really interesting & informative. (It's particularly relevant, given all the recent lab testing.) I'd never actually tried following the program it outlines, but I stumbled onto it again back in January when I was trying to make decisions about how to prepare for Oakland, and figured why the hell not.

So here's the plan. Note that it only includes the "quality" workouts -- these guys figure you know to intersperse them with easy runs that put your mileage where you want it.

(PHMP = planned half marathon pace & LTRV = lactate threshold running velocity, btw)


  • Toughie No. 1: Three 10-minute intervals at 10-K pace, with 5- minute recoveries
  • Toughie No. 2: Three miles at PHMP
  • Toughie No. 3: A 5-K race or time trial


  • Toughie No. 1: Four 6-minute intervals at 10-K pace, with 1- to 2-minute recoveries
  • Toughie No. 2: Four miles at PHMP


  • Toughie No. 1: 3.5 continuous miles at LTRV (10 to 12 seconds per mile slower than your current 10-K PB)
  • Toughie No. 2: Repeat 800s at a pace which is 6 seconds per 800 faster than current 5-K pace
  • Toughie No. 3: Six miles at PHMP


  • Toughie No. 1: 10-K fartlek session (alternate 2- to 3-minute bursts at 10-K speed with one minute or so of easy jogging over a 10-K distance)
  • Toughie No. 2: Seven miles at PHMP


  • Toughie No. 1: Moderate hill session (on a tough, steep hill, do six or more repeats, but not enough repetitions to induce soreness)
  • Toughie No. 2: Three 10-minute intervals at 10-K pace, with 5-minute recoveries
  • Toughie No. 3: 5-K race or time trial


  • Toughie No. 1: Nine miles at PHMP (early in the week)
  • Toughie No. 2: 5-minute intervals at 5-K pace, with 3- to 5-minute recoveries. Leave the workout feeling fresh and charged-up, not mentally and physically drained.


  • Taper properly during the seventh week by trimming mileage by 65 to 70 per cent. Focus on short, fast, but non-soreness-inducing sessions (repeat 400s at 10-K pace). To run a great half-marathon on Sunday at the end of this taper week, complete six 10-K paced 400s on Monday, do a three-mile PHMP effort on Wednesday, and run three 400s on Friday.

I haven't followed it to the letter, but I've been trying to more or less hit the high points as much as I can. (The main difficulty for me is that I am still not *really* back in HM shape, so running for 6-7 miles at that pace isn't really happening yet. I'm more doing interval HM pace runs like 3 x 2 miles or whatever.)

So here's the thing about using a new training program you're not used to -- There are all these WEIRD ASS workouts you're not used to! Like 10K fartlek bursts. Who does that??? (I mean, other than Beth, *obvs*.)

(But seriously. It took me like 3 days to work up the guts to try the fartlek session. I was. Not. Into it.)

I'm an adventurous eater, but I think that when it comes to running I have to admit that I'm the equivalent of that one guy you know who's past 30 and still only wants to eat pizza and mac & cheese for dinner every freaking night. I want to do what is familiar and comforting. I understand 5 minute repeats at 5K pace. They get me.

This week, the new & frightening thing on the schedule has been this "moderate hill session" from week 5. I mean, it's not like it's logistically hard. I live at the bottom of like 5 "tough, steep" hills. Even going uphill, 8-10 repeats can only take so long. So why do I feel like hill repeats is some awkward, unattractive dude that keeps asking me out, and I keep being like, "Ummmm, I'd LOOOOOOVE to, but I'm SUUUUUPER busy washing my CDs & rewinding my cats"?

As we say in karate, I must study this deeply.

1 comment:

  1. "I'm too busy washing my CDs and rewinding my cats." That is awesome! I really, really need to remember that one for a future excuse.