Training for a Half Marathon, The 27th Annual CBHM!

Written by Jim Burnett

Intrepid Runners,
Now is a really good a time to start thinking about June 3rd.

Think – half marathon preparation, 13 weeks to go…

Yes, the 27th running of the Covered Bridges Half Marathon is a mere three months off. Remember, back in December, when you sat staring at your computer waiting, like Gary Cooper in the showdown in the classic western “High Noon”, to pull the trigger on your mouse and register for the most coveted high marathon in New England (world)?

Well, you are “in” and now it’s time to make your journey satisfying and memorable (for all the right reasons). We can do this. I want to help.

2016's race was my most enjoyable half marathon ever. Why? I let my body do what I had prepared it to do and “I” just went along for the ride. Easy for you to say, you say? Well, I say anybody can enjoy a half marathon from start to finish whether it’s your first or your 100th. 

And, here’s the secret = set a reasonable goal, start training early, be patient and don’t over train. If there is one thing I have learned from 60 years of running, and I’m somewhat embarrassed to say it took my stubborn self a long time to get the message, it’s that recovery time is just as important as training time. The road to running fitness is not a straight line: You don’t run straight up the training pyramid to get to the top. No, like a climber acclimating herself to climb Mt. Everest, you establish a base camp and you climb up a little, then climb down and rest, then climb up a little higher, until you are ready to take one last break and then go for the summit.

“Periodization” is the fancy name for this training technique. A rule of thumb is that it takes your body about three weeks to adapt to applied stress (quality workouts). This adaptation by your body is also called “training effect”. Picture the elevation profile of an ascent up a mountain (your training pyramid). In this case it’s a 12-week climb. Within each week you schedule 2 quality workouts (intervals, hilly runs, longer runs with “tempos”) surrounded by easy runs and rest days. Within each one-month block, you increase your weekly mileage gradually for three weeks, then you back off for a week. The 3 one-month blocks (12 weeks in all) follow a similar pattern with the exception of the last week of the third block, in which you taper back your efforts and prepare for the big day.

Jimmy’s Magic Formula to Run Your Most Enjoyable Half Marathon

Monday – easy run, Tuesday - easy run or cross train (bike, hike, walk), swim, Wednesday - intervals on the road or track or do a hilly run, Thursday – rest day, Friday – easy run, Saturday – easy run or cross train, Sunday longer run.

Same as week one except your total mileage for the week should increase by 10-15%. You can switch up a rest day with an easy run day, just be sure you leave at least three non-quality workout days between your two quality days.

Same idea. Up your weekly miles by 10-15% and follow the same pattern of quality days followed by easier days.

Same schedule except run comfortably during your quality workouts (no huffing and puffing) and decrease your weekly mileage from week 3 by 20%. Be patient and let your body take a break during week 4.

Follow same weekly pattern as weeks 1 - 4, increase weekly mileage by 10-15% and cut back on quality workout effort and on weekly mileage from week 7 by 20%.

WEEK 9-12
Follow same weekly pattern for the third 4-week block except week 12 is “taper week”.

Taper Week
Monday and Tuesday – easy run < 6 miles followed by 4 - 8 x 50-100 meter “strides” (accelerations to a little faster than race pace)

Wednesday – “fartlek” = after warm-up jog of not more than 1 mile, then run alternating bouts of 1-2 minutes at race pace, followed by 1-2 minutes jogging, ending with a cool-down of not more than 1 mile, for a total of between 5 – 10 miles, depending on your fitness level. Less is always better than more during “taper week” but you also want to run short bursts at race pace.

Thursday – Saturday: no more than 3 miles easy run with 4 – 8 x 50-100 meter ”strides”. Run “tall” and relax…

Jimmy’s Magic Formula may look very familiar to you or it may look like Greek. Feel free to post questions on the “Ask Jim” blog or email me directly with questions about your training.