Monday, February 3, 2014

My Spring 2014 Half Marathon training plan

Last year, I ran six half marathons. Unfortunately, I didn't focus on training for any of them nearly as much as I would have liked. This was for a variety of reasons, the most prevalent being that I just wasn't very motivated last year.

I actually became quite adept at undergoing the 4-week crash course in half-marathon training during 2013. For obvious reasons that kind of preparation is not really recommended. But in case you are wondering, this is what it looked like:

Week 1: 8- or 9-mile weekend long run
Week 2: 10- or 11-mile weekend long run
Week 3: Step back (6-mile weekend long run or less)

It's a new year of running, and I am feeling stronger and much more motivated now. This time around I plan to utilize a REAL training schedule. For once, I want to get to the starting line feeling prepared and ready to leave it all on the course.

With that in mind, here is my self-designed training plan:

Notice that the Illinois 5K and the Illinois Half Marathon are highlighted in blue and orange. Those are the school colors for the University of Illinois (my alma mater), which is where those two races take place!

This training plan is basically a hybrid of Hal Higdon's Novice 2 Half Marathon Training plan and his Intermediate Half Marathon Training plan. Here are the details:

The Novice 2 Plan:
  • Has 4 days of running a week. I could probably handle that, but it is borderline given that I am injury-prone. 
  • Includes midweek speedwork every other week. This is good, but I do feel like I could handle a little bit more of a challenge.
  • Prescribes long run distances increasing for the first five consecutive weeks before stepping back for the first time in week 6. That seemed like a long period of time without a stepback.
The Intermediate plan:
  • Prescribes long run stepback weeks every third week. That sounds perfect for me. 
  • Generally includes two speed workouts per week. That is too much for me.
In my custom plan (call it "Nov2Mediate," perhaps?):
  • I reduced the number of running days from four in the Novice 2 plan to three days, with the plan to swap out that fourth day with an extra day of cross-training (yoga in this instance).
  • I switched around the cross-training and rest days to accommodate two different yoga classes that I take every week at my fitness center. I am also giving myself the option to use those days as additional rest days if needed. If not, the Monday yoga sculpt class (which combines yoga with strength-training) is a good workout, but the Friday yoga class is pretty low-key. Therefore, I am not worried if Wednesday ends up being my only rest day of the week.
  • With the exception of stepback weeks, I scheduled speedwork on a once a week "you-pick" basis. This would give me the fun flexibility of picking the speed workout du jour amongst, say, a tempo run, interval training, or fartlekking. Or maybe even some hill work on the treadmill if I'm feeling really ambitious. (I am all about choices!)
  • I utilized the weekend long-run buildup from the Intermediate plan.
  • While I didn't list it out on the plan, I do intend to be as consistent as possible with doing my daily planks, squats, foam-rolling, and stretching. My goal is at least 5 days a week.

The Illinois Half Marathon is really the target race here, and the training plan is intended to be a 12-week plan. However, I added weeks 13 through 15 to keep myself on track for the Chicago Spring Half in week 15. Admittedly, the workouts in those three particular weeks are much more of a crapshoot, since I don't know how I am going to feel after Illinois. In general, we will see how things go and I'll definitely readjust on the fly if needed.

This is definitely more art than science. At least for me.
(Although, I think the "art" side of this picture could be interpreted rather creepily. But you get the idea.)

It is exciting to have a real training plan that I truly intend to follow! I am very optimistic that a focused training effort will really pay off for me.

I don't have to wait long to get the wheels in motion, either. The Illinois Half Marathon is 12 weeks out. This means that the training plan starts TODAY.

Here we go!!!


  1. Seems like youve got your ducks in a row and are ready to rock 13.1 this spring :) I think laying it all out like that and crossing off the days as you complete the workouts will be so satisfying.

    Good luck on your half journey!

    1. Thank you so much, Xaar! I've been so inspired by your weekly marathon training posts and seeing how much progress you've been making as the days go by. Your focus and determination have paid off big-time for you. If I can manage to accomplish even a fraction of what you do, I will be very proud. =)

  2. I'm a big fan of running 3 days a week. Even when I'm not cross training, I just can't manage to lace up my shoes more than that consistently. (Plus, I only have so many sports bras. Haha!) I think this looks great and you should be feeling good by the time race day rolls around!

    1. Thanks, Amy! 3 days a week works very well for me, too. I know many people who run 5 or 6 days a week, and I can only wish that one day I would be durable enough, patient enough, or have enough laundry to do that kind of mileage. (I only have so many sports bras, too, and it is a big consideration!!! Maybe this is an excuse to go shopping... hmmm! ;-) )

  3. Good luck with your half training and with your new plan!

    1. Thank you so much, Pete! Likewise, I wish you and your ankle a speedy recovery!!! You are being very smart to take things slowly and cautiously. It will definitely pay off in the long run (literally and figuratively).