Half Marathon Training Begins

The other day, as I was lying around on the couch bemoaning the state of my aching lower back, I happened to see a surprising announcement on Facebook that my town’s half marathon would be taking place in just nine weeks — I knew they’d changed the date from previous years, but I wasn’t aware it was coming up so soon. “Hmmmm,” I thought to myself. “I am currently injured. What better time to start training for a half marathon, am I right or am I right?!” So that’s what I’m doing.

If that sounds completely insane to you, let me first reassure you that the injury I had at the time is completely resolved two days later (I had just cranked my hamstrings up way too tight thanks to one Ms. Betty Rocker and was dealing with the repercussions on my SI joint — I just had to loosen things back up again and now I’m fine). Also, while I know people usually go into a half marathon with more than nine weeks of time to train, I am using a ten week plan, slightly modified, and I am starting with a solid base where an 8-mile long run is already comfortable to me. So. It should be totally fine. Right?

I realized today, as I was hitting the treadmill for my first official run of the training cycle, that it’s been a year and a half since the last half I ran. It’s been even longer than that since I trained to race a half. I think I’d like to race this one, if circumstances allow. That is to say, as long as I won’t be carrying a tiny teammate along with me. If I am, well, I’ll be happy to do whatever my body allows, even including stay home on race day. But if I can race it? Man oh man, I’d really love to.

I don’t mean I’ll be racing to break the tape, of course, but I would love to be able to PR. For me, that would mean a time faster than 2:06:xx. Do I have it in me? I’m not sure. I’m heavier and arguably less fit than I was three years ago, when I got that 2:06. But I’m more than willing to work on that.

Here’s what I’m trying — the FIRST half marathon training plan. It’s set up to have you run three times a week, each workout with a specific purpose (speed/trackwork, tempo runs, and long runs — no easy/”junk” miles), plus cross-training twice per week. I like this approach because every time I’ve tried training plans that have me running four or more times per week, I tend to injure myself. As much as I’d love to be that person who can run every day (or even, say five times per week — I wish!), my body just doesn’t like it. I think this training plan could really work well for me, so here’s what it’ll look like (with the caveat that I’m not sure how Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays will shake out; I may swap those around from week to week as needed. One will be Cross Training and the other two will be rest/PT):

  • Mondays: Cross Train (probably a spin class or bike trainer workout)
  • Tuesdays: Speed Work (sets of 400s, 800s, or 1600s, different each week)
  • Wednesdays: Rest Day (should do strength/PT exercises)
  • Thursdays: Tempo Run (hitting a target pace around or a bit faster than goal race pace, increasing distance each week)
  • Fridays: Cross Train Option (probably a spin class or bike trainer workout or another cardio-based gym class) or PT/Strength
  • Saturdays: Long Run (I start with a six miler, work my way to 12, then taper. Target pace is goal race pace plus one minute)
  • Sundays: Cross Train Option (probably a bike trainer workout) or PT/Strength

The only thing I feel this training plan is missing is a hill workout. I usually like to incorporate hill repeats into my training for a few reasons: it’s a great form of interval training; it builds leg strength and cardiovascular fitness; it makes you stronger and faster overall; and, well, my town does not have a single flat race. So, I’m currently thinking about ways to work hill repeats into my training plan. I could occasionally substitute them for either speed work or a tempo run, or I could simply plan to run hilly routes for my long runs. I’m not sure what I’ll do yet, so we’ll see.

Today was the first official run of the training cycle (yay!). It was a 3-mile tempo run, plus warm up and cool down (4-5 miles total). The target pace, according to the range I’m using for my race goal, was 9:00-9:15. I had to run on the treadmill due to weather, so I just warmed up, then dialed in a pace of 9:05 and went with it. It felt okay, but definitely not easy. I knew I was working the whole time (and so, I’m sure, did everyone around me). I suppose that is the goal of a tempo run — to run “comfortably hard” — and that it shouldn’t necessarily be easy. I just wonder whether I could run the same pace on the road for three miles. I suspect not. I hope this pace will be feeling more “comfortable” than “hard” by March.

So that’s that. I’ll update on my training progress week to week. I’m pretty excited! Anyone else training for a spring/late winter event?


  1. I wanted to do the one in Montgomery this year (I did it in 2011 and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it), but I don’t think I’ll be ready. I think I’m going to try and do the Finish on the 50 this year, I think it’s April and I should be ready by then. I typically run 4x a week, and I’ll just start stretching my Sunday runs out to long runs, if I can get motivated.


    1. I did the Montgomery race their first year, when it was in October. I wish it was still in the fall! (Relatedly, I wish the Auburn Classic was still in January– fall and winter racing is where it’s at, but spring is always too warm for me.)
      Anyway! The Finish on the 50 is really fun. I might keep that one in mind as a backup race, or just do the 5K or 10K. Sounds like you’ve got a good plan– happy training!


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