Half Marathon Training Plan for the Not-So-Detail-Oriented

So I FINALLY have a race coming up.  Been kind of a slacker this year...  This spring, my only race was a 10k, the Bolder Boulder.  I didn't realize how much a spring half marathon jump starts the whole year for me.  Late this summer, I started going through withdrawals.  Crazy Ass was injured and so was Flash.  In order to keep motivated, I took the plunge and signed up for the Denver Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon.  Of course, you can't do a half marathon without a training plan; so, off I went to find the latest Runner's World and see if there was a good plan inside.

If you have ever looked at one of these magazine training plans and had your eyes glaze over, then you totally get me.  LSD, Tempo, Speedwork, HMP, cross-train what?!??!!  Let me take a moment to decrypt some of this for you.

There are three basic running workouts you need to try to get in each week if you want to perform well in  a half marathon.  These workouts don't have to be on the same days each week, but I find that there are certain days that typically work out better than others.  I try to be flexible, though.  I have three kids...  I never know, from week to week, what craziness might come up.

LSD - Long Slow Distance run.  This is the cornerstone of half marathon training.  If you do nothing else in your training, be committed to your weekly LSD.  I usually do this on Sunday morning.  I set aside an hour or two to go out on a run that will eventually be twice as long as a run I might do during the week.  I start out by adding a mile to my typical weekday run.  Each week, I add a mile more.  After 10-12 weeks, I have the endurance for a half marathon, allowing for a slacker week or two. 

One mistake I sometimes make on my long run is going too fast.  It is SO important to go nice and slow.  There is absolutely no point in torturing myself for two hours every week; so, I try to focus on slowing down and enjoying the moment.  A few weeks ago, I went out too fast, and by the second half of my run, I started feeling overwhelmed by how much distance I still had to cover.  At that point, all I could do was keep running - one mile at a time.  At mile 7, I told myself, "Just keep running until you get to mile 8."  After a walk break at mile 8, "Just keep running until you get to mile 9."  By the way, I am totally ok with walk breaks, too.  I try to limit them to one minute every mile or two when starting out, and spread them farther apart as my training progresses.

Speedwork - There are a lot of ways to do speedwork.  It's essentially any workout you do with the specific goal of increasing your speed.  It can be a tempo run, interval training, hills, mile repeats, you get the idea. 

A tempo run is one in which, after a warm-up, you run at a consistent pace for 20 minutes, about 30 seconds slower than your 5K pace.  If you run a 5K in 30 minutes, then your tempo pace will be a 10:30 mile.  The important thing is to keep the pace consistent.  Then be sure to allow yourself a cool down after the 20 minutes.

Interval training allows you to run at a faster pace for a short period of time.  You might try going a minute faster than your 5K pace for two minutes and then walking or jogging for 2 minutes and repeating for 20-30 minutes.  Fartlek - yeah, I said "FART-lek" - is a kind of interval that has no prescribed pace, but instead you play around with different paces throughout your run.  Crazy Ass got me hooked on fartleks on the treadmill last year.  Our treadmill workout went like this:

Warm up - Set at a 4 for 5 minutes (15 minute pace)
Increase to a 6 for two minutes (10 minute pace)
Back down to 4 for a minute (15 minute pace)
Increase to 6.5 for two minutes (9:30 minute pace)
Back down to 4 for a minute (15 minute pace)
Increase to a 7 for two minutes (8:45 minute pace)
Back down to 4 for a minute (15 minute pace)
Increase to 7.5 for two minutes (8:00 minute pace)
Back down to 4 for a minute (15 minute pace)
Increase to 7 for two minutes (8:45 minute pace)
Back down to 4 for a minute (15 minute pace)
Increase to a 6.5 for two minutes (9:30 minute pace)
Back down to 4 for a minute (15 minute pace)
Increase to 6 for two minutes (10 minute pace)
Back down to 4 for a 5 minute Cool down (15 minute pace)

This workout lasts around 30 minutes, and it is SO exhilarating and really helps improve speed.  Adjust to fit your pace.

Another great way to improve speed is to do hill repeats.  Running hills works the hamstrings much like faster paces do, plus it helps teach your body how to deal with higher exertion-levels.

Regular Run - The third piece to half marathon training is just getting out doing regular runs of say 4-6 miles.  I try to fit at least one run in per week, in addition to the LSD and speedwork.  I'm sure a lot of people run more than three times per week, but as a running mom, three works great for me.  I don't worry too much about my pace on this run, but it's usually not quite as relaxed a pace as my LSD.  Where an LSD might by 11 minutes miles (remember I'm a tortoise!), my regular run is between a 10 and 10.5 minute pace.

Cross Training - My cross training consists of a little strength training each day.  I focus on core strength exercises, including plank, side plank, back bridge, chair raises.  I do calf raises, squats and lunges as low impact leg strength work.  As I have time, I throw in some swimming and yoga.

This is half marathon training for the not-so-detail-oriented.  Be as consistent as possible, while allowing for slip-ups too.  You can train in as little as 10 weeks, but for the best experience, try to allow 16 weeks, in case there are weekends you just can't get your long run in.  So many factors can get in the way - weather, birthdays, travel - I've found allowing myself to skip a long run gives me the opportunity to enjoy my life, too!

I'd love to hear about your race training.  Give me some tips...  My race is in two weeks, so I still have a little time to fit in some new ideas!


Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

I've used the Runners World race plans before, they're solid.

I'm toying w/ the idea of running a half in November, but I haven't decided yet. I'm still nervous over my injury I got last winter - but realistically I'm probably ready for a longer race at this point.

Tortoise said...

Hi Lisa! I think you should go for it! You've been running; so, you have a solid base. Good luck!! I'm looking for a November or December race... Such a great way to stay motivated to keep running as the weather gets colder and schedules busier!

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