Half Marathon Training Re-cap

Yesterday I was literally cold all day. ALL DAY sat in my office cold – huddled over my laptop hoping to absorb some of its heat. This is because I work with evil people men who never feel the cold. Men with thick skin and beards. OK only one has a beard, but that’s not the point. It might look a bit warmer and sunnier outside but it is still March and it is still Britain. The air con does not need to go into artic mode.

To rectify this (or at least try and get a bit warmer) I was drinking herbal tea like it was going out of fashion. God forbid I touch the air con to make it warmer. I get the Death Stare from like 10 men if I dare.

So I wanted to do a recap of my half-marathon training as it is now almost one week until race day. I feel confident and ready for it, but I am nervous. Nervous in a good, excited way though.

When I first signed up for the half-marathon it was quite scary. I think the longest run I’d ever done was 9 miles once. I rarely ran longer than 4 miles regularly as I’d been focusing on my strength training and just generally trying to keep to shorter sharper runs with intervals.

**I just want to add: I am no expert and this is what worked well for me. I do hope it helps people but please don’t think I’m dictating that this is the best and only plan. There’s probably a million better ways to train than this!**

With my training I vaguely following THIS plan:

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I think with all training plans you align them to what you can realistic achieve in a standard week and what works best for you. Straight away I changed the timings to be miles. So for a 40min run I’d see that as (at first) being about 4 miles and then later 5 miles. I prefer to hit miles rather than times and see how I improve through the weeks with beating previous run’s times.

I also found that I usually wanted to run more than 4 times a week so I added in another run. I think if I was to sum up what my usual week looked like it would be pretty much what I did this week:

Monday – 6 mile tempo run

Tuesday – 4 mile interval run

Wednesday – rest

Thursday – another 6 mile tempo run

Friday – 3 mile easy run

Saturday – 9 mile long run

At the beginning of my training, my tempo runs were shorter. A tempo run is basically maintaining a hard but controlled pace over a length of time. It’s not going max out but maintaining a pace which is tricky and gets you breathing hard. To begin with I could only run for a short period of time at that pace. As the weeks went on I increased the length of these runs and how long I could hold a hard pace became longer. Also the hard pace at the beginning of my training became less hard, and so my pace started getting quicker.

These are my times from Monday’s 6 mile tempo run:

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I tried to maintain a difficult pace (for me this is 7.30-7.45mins/mile) for at least 4 miles of the run. On the last mile I started slowing at the end as it just got too difficult to maintain and I didn’t want to rinse myself completely.

These runs generally were the runs I least enjoyed. They were hard and mentally tough to keep going. But I know that by doing these sorts of runs now means that my race pace (just under 8mins/mile) will feel easier.

I tried to do at least one interval run a week to purely work on speed. This is basically running max effort for a set time and distance (typically 400m/0.2miles). I’d run max out for a distance (at first it was barely the distance between lampposts) and then slow right down to a nice and easy pace. At the beginning I couldn’t do an interval run longer than 2 miles. It was just too hard. As I continued though the interval distances became longer, my actual pace became faster and I could maintain a longer run with these intervals. Here is my 4 mile interval run from Tuesday:

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It doesn’t look too different from the tempo run but remember these are averages. I ran flat out for around 0.2 miles at I’m guessing around 6.30min/mile, and then slowed right down again. And then repeated. I don’t use a heart monitor but the idea behind intervals is to get your heart rate up, and then down again.

These runs have been the best for increasing my speed.

I don’t think it’s necessary to have an easy run in your plan, but most weeks I had one. You could always do some other non-running work out or just take a rest day. For me, I love running and mentally I needed a run where I literally didn’t have to worry about the pace or times. I didn’t want every run to have to mean something. I certainly didn’t want running to be hard all the time. So my easy runs were just nice and simple running at a pace I was comfortable at. Today that was between 8mins and 8.30mins a mile for 3 miles.

The most important run of the week though is the long run. This is the one run you don’t skip. Before starting bigger distances (for me this was 8 miles plus) I was really worried about them. But after doing a few of them I started to find that these were my favourite runs. I always did them at the weekend after a good night’s sleep. I set my alarm for early-ish (weekend early, hello 8am) and it was a brilliant start to the weekend.

The long runs have been where I’ve had to learn the most. Most important advice (which I am still trying to learn): start slowly. You’ve got a long way to go and though it feels good at the beginning, that pace is not going to feel as good in 5-6 miles time. But importantly, just enjoy that run. Take it slowly, this isn’t where you need to prove your speed. This is where mentally and physically you need to get used to running for such a long time.

One of my friends asked me when I told her how long it took to run 12 miles: what do you think about for that long? Honestly, no idea. I let my mind wander: I plan things for the day or the next week, I work out what I’m having for lunch, I listen to a podcast, or I just take in the surroundings. It’s perfect ‘me’ time.

So tomorrow I have my last long run before the actual race. Though the plan says 6 miles race pace I’d rather do a longer run (9 miles) but slower. I don’t want to burn out because I know what I’m like. Also, I love my long runs!

And next week is tapering. No craziness. A shorter tempo at the beginning of the week, a short interval and then two easy runs.

I hope that was helpful for anyone training or just running in general. I stress again that this is what worked for me. I’m not saying that any other way of doing it is wrong. But I’ve honestly loved my training and I wanted to share my experience. It’s been hard as hell don’t get me wrong but these past weeks have improved my running hugely.

If you have any questions, let me know!

Or if you have a different way or doing things, please share them.

Or any running advice in general is always welcome.

14 thoughts on “Half Marathon Training Re-cap

  1. How exciting! Not long to go now!
    I think you have followed a really structured plan- esp with all the tempo and interval runs etc.
    I know what you mean about having an easy run too- I like to run to unwind after work, so I do like to have a run to just enjoy running, and not worry about times or pace or anything.

  2. Wow this is verrrrry helpful, especially since I am only finishing up my second week of training. My plan has four runs a week right now and I usually use one or two of the rest days to do some strength training. It’s been going great so far, but this makes me want to work on my speed more. I was thinking about doing some interval runs but I didn’t know that much about tempo runs so this is really helpful. I’ll try to incorporate some of those into my training next week (tomorrow is a long run and Sunday is an easy run so this will be perfect for Tuesday and Thursday). Thanks, Anna!

    Also, I’m at work and FREEZING. My fingers are numb. Great.

  3. Loved this post Anna!! Totally fascinated by the training process, and love your explanations of how you improved your speed and time gradually throughout training, you’re not gonna be able to start right off at race pace. Great job with your training, I can’t wait to see how your race goes!

    • I’ve found that having an actual goal in the future has really helped kick start me into actually thinking about how I run. It’s really made me use my time wisely and made sure that I’ve got a good focus.

  4. I’ve never trained for a half marathon, but really enjoyed reading about your experiences thus far! I think it’s great that you adapted to program to fit your own fitness style–I’m a firm believer that we should listen to our bodies, and if we feel like doing more or less on a any given day, that’s what we should do (within reason, of course!)

    I can’t wait to hear about the race next week! You’re going to be a half marathoner before you know it!! Happy weekend! <3 xoxo

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