Monday, February 18, 2013

Half Marathon Training, Only 3 Days of Running

It’s time to start training for my 2nd half marathon!

Training for anything is no easy feat.   If you grew up playing sports, you know the hours of dedication you had to give before or after school to your trainers & coaches.  Your parent’s probably put in long drives to track meets, swim practice, cheer competitions, ballet practices, karate competitions, etc. because they saw the love you had for the sport.  Why does that seem to end after high school for so many of us?  Where does the drive go?

Have you ever noticed how many ‘athletes’ from your high school actually went onto being athletes in college and beyond?  It’s so rare!  I stayed active through intramurals in college & that was a lot of fun, but I didn’t necessarily train for a sorority soccer game or a flag football match.  We may have gone out to the field as a group for 30 minutes a week, but it’s not like I was running stairs, kicking my butt through plyometric fitness, or doing wall sits.
It’s a rough transition from being in a team sport to being on your own.  You are now your own team, your own coach, and your own cheerleader in that regards.  You have to find your dedication all over again.  For me, I have found a lot of it through my husband, the Tone it Up community, & through fitness goals I set for myself.  It’s not always easy, sometimes you are fortunate to have a group of people to workout with (like the Tone it Up series) and other times you just have to set that alarm and tell yourself you are getting up at 5am to go to the gym.

When I started training for my first half marathon, I was a dog walker.  The couple I worked for was really big into fitness and gave me a few pointers.  They also suggested I read “Run Less, Run Faster” by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr & Ray Moss.  ­­­­­­­­­­­I am going to admit, I read a lot of the book, but I also skipped some of it. 
For my first half, I followed almost all of the running suggestions of tempo work and speed work.  I did some of the distance runs & I skipped out on most of the cross training.  Somehow, I did manage to train just enough to get me over that finish line in less than two hours.  I grew up being a competitive athlete & I think that’s the only thing I had going for me.  I was sore for about 1.5 – 2 weeks, barely able to walk, & that’s something I’d like to avoid this time around!
After committing myself fully to the Tone it Up Love Your Body Series, I have learned that I can do anything for 6.5 weeks, so what’s another half week?  I am going to be in half marathon training for the next 7 weeks!   

To do this, I have based my training schedule again on “Run Less Run Faster”, although this time around I plan on really sticking to the plan including the cross training suggestions.  During one day a week to keep my mind & body focused & grounded, I will only consider yoga as one of my cross training routines.  Why yoga?  1) I love yoga and truly have missed going to classes over the past few month, 2) I need to make sure I still stretch out enough & focus on what my body is telling me, & 3) it’s a way to keep myself accountable.  If I pay for the class, I better go to that class!  No one likes to throw their money around, right?

So drumroll please............... here's my plan!
Don’t let the wording on this training plan scare you if you are considering it.  This seriously is an easy to follow plan & I am going to explain it all!

3 Types of runs per week will get you on your way to training & running your first half marathon. 

  1. Speed work.  That’s running distances of .25 miles, .5 mile & 1 miles at a pace per mile, much faster than you plan to run your half.
  2. Tempo.  That’s running anywhere from 2-8 miles at a pace slightly faster per mile than you plan to run your half.
  3. Long runs.  That’s running distances of 6+ miles at a pace per mile slightly slower than you plan to run your half marathon.
First, choose your pace.  I personally want to beat my other half marathon time of 1 hour 55 min, thus I am aiming for 1 hour 50 minutes.  For that I divided by 13.1 and found that I will need an average pace of 8 minutes 20 seconds (8:20).  I feel that’s definitely a pace I can accomplish. To find your half marathon pace (HPM) use the following:
  • Current 10-K mile pace and add 20 seconds per mile for your HMP.
  • Current 5-K mile pace and add 35 seconds per mile for your HMP and goal time (see chart here).
Second, familiarize yourself with what your pace needs to be on the following 5 runs.  Speed work (3 distances you need to figure out), your tempo run, & lastly your long run.

The following numbers are going to be based on the pace I would like to keep.  8:20 (8 min 20 sec) mile pace for a total race time of 1:50:00 (1 hour 50 min)
Speed work
You will run a specific shorter distance at a quicker pace anywhere from 3 – 6 times.  In between each run, take a 90 second recovery walk and/or stretch.   For example, week one is 3 x 1600m.  That means you are running 3 separate miles with a 90 second break in between.

You need to find your pace you should be running each distance (1/4 mile, ½ mile & 1 mile), use the below method to find your time:

  • 400m (1/4 mile) subtract 1min 15 sec from planned mile pace time & divide by 4
  • 800m (1/2 mile) subtract 1min 5 sec from planned mile pace time & divide by 2
  • 1600m (1 mile) subtract 45 seconds from planned mile pace time
  • My speedwork
    400m -> 7:05 ÷ 4 = 1:46
    800m -> 7:15 ÷ 2 = 3.57
    1600m -> 7:45

Tempo runs

Take your planned half marathon pace per mile and subtract 15 seconds.  For me, that’s an 8:05 mile pace.

Tempo runs train you to run at a faster pace while reaching slightly beyond your comfort zone because lets face it, you are going to be pushing yourself on race day due to adrenaline!

Long runs
Take your planned half marathon pace per mile and add 30 seconds.  For me, that an 8:50 pace.
These will allow your endurance to build not only within your body, but also with your mind, knowing you can make it to 12 miles makes that last 1.1 mile feels less daunting.
Cross- training days

Mondays, Wednesday & Friday are all cross training days for this plan.  As stated earlier, I am choosing to make Wednesday cross training strictly for yoga.  Monday & Friday will consist of some other sort of cross training.

Your activity you choose for cross training should not be strenuous on your legs.  They need a bit of a break so you don’t put more stress than needed on them.  However, using the elliptical trainer, even though it mimics running, does so in a non-impact way and is a suitable cross training workout.   Other workouts I will likely be doing are strength & weigh training & spinning.  I would love to have swimming in my cross-training days, but I sadly do not go to a gym with a pool!

For a list of great cross-training activities as well as effective cross training advice for when you are are running a half marathon, visit this link.

Yes this is a lot of information, but like I said earlier, training for anything takes time & dedication!

As you can tell, I have done a lot of research and am really excited to get the ball moving toward my 2nd half marathon!  Having this goal keeps me focused on being healthy, happy & fit!

Questions of the day:
Have you ever trained for a half marathon?  If so, did you follow a plan where you ran only 3 days a week?  If not, what did your plan look like?


  1. Good luck with your training! I've decided, after a few attempts, that I'm just not a runner. It doesn't seem to give me the joy that it does others, but I so admire those that stick with it and train for big races. So impressive!

    1. I know many agree with you! Running was my first love, and I fell out of it for a few years. I am so happy I am again enjoying the clarity I get from a run! Thank you!

  2. Great Read- thanks for the info. I am not a marathon runner myself but I have been working on some really awesome training plans for thru-hiking in 2014. It is so much fun to organize your fitness schedule and so rewarding at the end of the week to look back at it and see what you accomplished. Much better than just flying by the seat of your pants and not having a list of accomplishments to look back at. Good luck! ~Mary Lane

    1. I would love to learn more about thru hiking! I agree, it helps me to plan out the weekly schedule. Today, I had a 6 mile run that I DID NOT want to do, but I know on Sunday when I look back at what I have accomplished, I will be happy!

  3. I ran two half marathons. The first was right after I came off cruise. I practiced by running on steel beach(the flight deck) as we came off station and headed back to San Diego. The second was about a year later and I did long runs on the weekend and tried to run at lunch during the week. Not very scientific back then. Good luck. Love you!

    1. I would be afraid of falling off the flight deck :) We will have to run together again! Love you dad!