I’ve had a few people ask me about my half marathon training plan, and what kind of runs I do to train. Please remember that I am not a personal trainer or a running coach, and each plan needs to be fit to the individual. Please consult your doctor and/or personal trainer / coach before beginning any athletic program or running plan. Special thanks to my sister and “coach,” Kristen. She wrote the initial plan for me, and I have tweaked it to fit my needs.
My current “base” for running is about 4 miles. That means I can go out on any given day and run 4 miles easy, with no walking, and have no issues. My goal for this training cycle is to build that base to about 9 miles, meaning I could relatively easily run 9 miles with no walking and have it not be a great struggle to complete the distance. Of course, a half marathon is 13.1 miles, so I will work up to long runs of about 12 or 12.5 miles during this cycle.
I have a very long training cycle, with about 22 weeks until my half marathon. In my previous 2 half marathons, the Eisenhower Half Marathon and the Kansas City Half Marathon, I also had long training cycles, but my base was lower, and my long runs did not reach as high as they needed to be, which resulted in using a run walk run plan to complete both races. With my training plan below, I hope to not only PR the Rock the Parkway half marathon in April, but to increase my mileage and become healthier and happier in the process!
A typical week of my training plan looks like:
Monday: Tempo Run. This run will include a 10-15 minute warm up run at a slower pace, followed by 10-60 minutes of tempo paced running (starting with 10 minutes and working through the plan to build to an hour of tempo), and a 10-15 minute cool down at a slower pace. A tempo run is defined as a “comfortably hard” run. Talking in short phrases should be possible, but sentences should be difficult. Sometimes instead of a tempo run I will do a progression run, where the goal is to negative split, or run the second half of faster than the first half. In my progression runs, I will typically run each mile 20-30 seconds faster than the previous mile. This teaches my mind and my body to “finish fast” and to conserve energy by not going out too fast.
Tuesday: Easy Run. I use this run as a recovery from Monday’s tempo run, and to shake out my legs. Tuesday’s will typically be 3-4 miles at a relatively easy pace. If I run with a friend or my running group, I should be able to hold a conversation while running. Toward the end of my training cycle I may build this run up to 5-6 miles.
Wednesday: Intervals or Hill Repeats. Wednesday is “speed day.” Now I’m not by any means a speedy runner, but intervals or hill repeats are helping my overall pace drop, and they are making my legs and lungs (and mind) stronger in the process. All of my intervals or hill repeats start with a 10-15 minute warm up run at a slower pace, the interval or hill workout, and then a 10-15 minute cool down run at a slower pace. Interval runs are short bursts of speedy running followed by a recovery of equal or slightly less time. Interval runs should be fast enough that talking, even in short phrases, is very difficult. The runs should not be so fast that running form suffers. The recovery between intervals should lower the heart rate and breathing enough that the next interval doesn’t seem impossible, but not so long of a recovery to make the next interval feel easier than the previous. My intervals vary greatly, from 1 minute intervals at a very fast (for me) clip, to 3-5 minute internals at a fast but not sprinting pace. The number of intervals will increase throughout my training cycle, and the speed for each interval will get slightly faster as the cycle wears on. I alternate intervals and hill repeats on Wednesdays. My Hill repeats include a warmup of 10-15 minutes running at a slower pace, followed by 5-12 runs up a 200m hill, followed by a 10-15 minute cooldown run at slower pace. If I am doing fewer hill repeats, I try to pace the hill at my 5k pace, which is the average pace of my 5k run. If I am doing more hill repeats, I try to keep my speed consistent and simply not slow down up the hill. Hill repeats are often labeled as speed work in disguise, because you do not feel speedy running up a hill, but the leg and lung strength it takes to propel yourself up a hill builds endurance and speed that is unmatched by other speed workouts.
Thursday: Easy Run. I use this run as a recovery from Wednesday’s internal run or hill repeats, and to shake out my legs. Thursday’s will typically be 3-4 miles at a relatively easy pace. If I run with a friend or my running group, I should be able to hold a conversation while running. Toward the end of my training cycle I may build this run up to 5 miles.
Friday: Off. No running! Day off to let my legs rest and recover. I try to drink extra water, and I usually wear my compression sleeves all day.
Saturday: Easy Short Run. I use this easy run as a preparation for Sunday’s long run. This run is the shortest of the week, around 3 miles, and it serves to shake out my legs and rev my body up for the long run. This run will be at a relatively easy pace. I should feel like I could run forever. If I run with a friend or my running group, I should be able to hold a conversation while running. Toward the end of my training cycle I may build this run up to 4 miles.
Sunday: Long Run. The long run is meant to prepare you for what race day will be like. My long run will be building from approximately 5 miles up to around 12 or 12.5 miles to prepare for race day. By spending hours on your feet, running many miles, you prepare your mind for what race day will be like, and you prepare your legs, lungs, arms, and feet for spending that much time and effort propelling yourself forward. The long run is also when you nail down your pre-run and mid-run nutrition and hydration, and when you figure out what kind of outfit you will wear on race day (NEVER try something new on race day! No new food, no new shoes, no new shirt, you never know how something new might affect you. Will it chafe? Will your stomach revolt?). I will add 5-10 minutes to the length of my runs each Sunday to build up my distance safely.
My mileage will hopefully increase from about 70-80 miles per month to about 120-140 miles per month through the next 5-6 months. For me, I have found that I need the consistency and accountability of a training plan, it keeps me on track to reach my goals. After each workout, I write down how I felt, what my paces were, my mileage, and any other factors that went into the run. Having all the past training information on paper allows me to look back and see how I am progressing, and I can determine if changes are needed for the future.
Now that I’ve explained my running plan, please remember each plan and each person is different, and my plan might not work for you. You have to experiment and find a plan that fits your needs, your mileage and race goals, and your fitness level. Good luck with your training!
Do you use a running plan to train? Are you training for any particular race or just running for yourself? How many days per week do you usually run?