Last week marked the beginning of my first half marathon training plan for the year.
I have 3 half marathons on the schedule for this year. This training cycle will prepare me for the first 2 races in April and May. The intent of the “Half Marathon Training Diaries” series is to journal my transparent training, thoughts, and feelings for each week as I go.
Why I run half marathons
Mainly, I run half marathons because I want to be healthy. I not only want to live for a long time, but I want to be agile and healthy enough to enjoy my favorite activities. Running for the long term is extremely important to me. This means I need to avoid injuries and train in a manner that will allow me to perform my best.
Second, I love a good challenge. If I were just running to be healthy or because it’s fun, I would skip wayyy too many workouts. I like the challenge of training my body to peak fitness and trying to outrun my previous self. Self-improvement is extremely important to me. When I have a race on the calendar, I’m better at sticking to a training plan. I also eat better when I’m eating and training for a goal.
Half marathons are short enough where I can train for them as part of my regular exercise routine and they don’t completely take over my life.
Actually…between this blog and training, running is a huge part of my life. BUT I still have other important parts of my life like my husband, my dog, schoolwork for my master’s degree, my job, and building our new house that require my time and attention.
I will try a marathon eventually, but it isn’t in my plan for this year. I want to get some solid experience with the half before doubling the distance and the training commitment.
This half marathon training plan is geared towards the Salt Lake City Half Marathon on April 13th. My goal for this race is to run it in 2:10:00 or less. Last September I ran my first half marathon in 2:19:41, so honestly if I beat 2:15:00, I’ll still be super happy.
Qualify for Air Force MAJCOM Challenge
One of my dreams is to run the Air Force Half Marathon as part of my MAJCOM (Major Command) team. Applications are due on May 1st, so the only 2 half marathon times I will have to put on my application are the one I ran last fall and the Salt Lake Half. Some of the previous female times for the half marathon (part of a MAJCOM team) were just over 2 hours, so I’m hoping mine is close enough.
First, I wasn’t very athletic in high school, so I’ve never really participated in a sport like this until I started running as an adult. The team usually gets cool uniforms…I guess in a weird way this would be some sort of validation that I am an athlete.
More importantly, some of my travel expenses would be paid if I get selected to run for my MAJCOM. I’m planning on running the Air Force Half Marathon in September whether I make the team or not, but since I will be traveling from Utah to Ohio, it sure would be nice to have some of those expenses covered.
Ogden Half Marathon
1 month after running the Salt Lake City Half Marathon, I’m registered to run the Ogden Half Marathon. Ogden isn’t early enough to put on my MAJCOM Challenge application, but it will be one more race for me to gain experience and get my race day fueling routine down, plus I’ve been told by some co-workers that it’s a really cool (gorgeous views) race down the canyon.
PR My Annual Physical Fitness Test
My annual physical fitness test is due in the same month as the Ogden Half Marathon, so I plan on using Salt Lake to build up peak fitness, recover for a couple weeks after, incorporate a combination of easy runs and speed work, then schedule my test the week before Ogden while I’m tapering (the test is 1.5 miles as fast as possible).
When I ran my test last year in Alabama, I finished in 12:41. This year I will run it in Utah (4700′ elevation), and I’d like to break 12:30.
The last half marathon I ran was the Huntsville Half Marathon in September. I trained using the Hal Higdon Novice 1 Half marathon plan and finished in 2:19:41. The training plan I used only went up to 10 miles as the longest long run, and I HIT THE WALL at mile 10 during the race. I detailed my struggles in my race recap, but it was basically all I could do to keep my legs moving the last 3.1 miles of the race.
After that half marathon I scaled it back and took it easy for about a month, then I worked on a Hal Higdon Intermediate 10k plan leading up to a Thanksgiving 10k. In the middle of that plan, I ran a Veteran’s Day 5k in Ohio while traveling for work and hit a new PR of 28:00.
Previous Base Training
These are screenshots of my running tracker between my last half marathon and the start of this training plan. The white rows are my planned workouts, and the gray rows are what I actually did.
I’ve been running an average of 14 miles per week, with some weeks much higher and some much lower. When I started my first half marathon training plan last June, I was only running around 6-10 miles per week. I’m starting at a fitness base of higher mileage for this plan, which should allow me to tolerate the increasing mileage better and avoid skipping workouts like I did in my first plan.
In early October, I went on vacation to Mexico…and didn’t get much running in. There was a lot of laziness on that vacation. Through the holidays I focused on just running my base miles to maintain fitness, but we also went skiing quite a bit which tampered with my total mileage. Downhill skiing (amazing here in Utah!) is a great explosive strength for extended time workout, and I was REALLY sore after skiing the first few times. Although I didn’t run as many miles those weeks, I did get some awesome workouts in.
The Hal Higdon Intermediate Half Marathon training plan is my weapon of choice for this training cycle.
Since I didn’t really follow the novice plan to the letter for my last half marathon, I could’ve repeated that plan. But like I mentioned above, that plan only went to 10 miles for the longest run. The intermediate plan goes up to 12 miles for the longest run, and I want to use that to build up my stamina and tolerate the 13.1 miles better than my first half marathon.
The intermediate also incorporates 1 speed workout per week, which I will need to maintain my speed fitness and be ready for my Air Force physical fitness test in May.
Overall, I am training to be healthy, build my fitness, and avoid injury.
I just finished listening to Matt Fitzgerald’s book, 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower, and I loved it. I looked back at my training records for the past several months and found that I sometimes skipped scheduled runs because I felt too tired and exhausted. Interestingly enough, I was also running too fast in my easy runs.
This book gave me the permission I needed to slow down on most of my runs and save my speed energy for scheduled speed work. I started implementing the idea of slowing down more on my easy runs over the past 2 weeks, and it has already helped keep me on track and do all of my scheduled runs. While increasing mileage as I work through this half marathon training program, it’s going to be important to stick to the 80% slow miles rule.
For a more in-depth look at 80/20 Running and Why You Should Slow Down Too, head to my post dedicated completely to this training philosophy.
How I’m Tracking My Training
I have a confession: I’m a bit of a spreadsheet nerd.
When I started training for my first half marathon and my puppy ripped up my paper training plan, I was furious. But I also blamed myself for leaving my plan vulnerable. I also had to write all over that plan and move my workouts around. Hal Higdon’s printable plans are designed with a long run Sunday and rest on Monday, but I wanted to shift the whole plan by a day so I can do my long run Saturday and rest Sunday.
So I created a spreadsheet where I could put all my workouts on the day of each week that works for me. It also allows me to plug in the miles I run, and it creates a running total of weekly miles in the far right column. I upload this spreadsheet to Google Docs so I can access it from my phone and plug my run miles in right after I finish each workout.
First Training Week Recap
Whew, now that I’ve laid all the groundwork, I can share how my first week went! The first week on this plan was actually a little easier than my previous weeks, but I’m ok with having a step-back week because I know this plan is going to ramp-up quickly.
Scheduled: 3 easy miles
What I Did: This was the last day of our trip to Minnesota, and we stayed at a hotel the night before we flew home. I did an 3 easy miles on the hotel treadmill before our flight.
Monday night I had to make a really hard decision to say goodbye to my 15 month old puppy, Ziva. I used to take her running with me on easy runs, but we had to put her down when we got home from Minnesota due to paralysis.
She was fine when we left (we had a trusted dog-sitter watch both of our dogs), and when we got home she couldn’t use her back legs or tail. The vet said it was likely due to either a spinal blood clot or herniated disk, both of which are very expensive to treat with low chances that she could ever walk on her own again. We have stairs all over our split level house and it would’ve been impossible for her to get around.
It broke me to see her that way.
She was an amazing dog and great at running with me. Ziva could run for 5 miles, get back and look like she was just getting ready to head out. She was like the energizer bunny. I can’t come close to expressing in words how emotional this was for me. Ziva will be missed so much <3
Scheduled: 5 x 400m Repeats @ 9:00 pace
What I Did: I usually do my repeats on my treadmill at home, because it’s easier for me to track specific distance and pace. My workout started with a slow jog for 0.50 miles to warm up, and then I started my repeats with 0.10 miles walking in between each repeat. The week before, I did an 8 x 400m repeat workout at around an 8:10 pace while I was in Minnesota (lower elevation!). Therefore, I didn’t want to drop my speed for this workout.
What a mistake. I struggled through this workout and had to vary my paces for each repeat. It might have been due to being emotionally drained from the night before, or all the junk food I didn’t manage to avoid in Minnesota. Not good. I ran for a total of 2.30 miles with warm-up and cool-down.
Scheduled: 3 easy miles
What I Did: 3.08 miles at an easy pace. I brought our other dog, Bruno with on this run because he loves getting out of the house, but he really sucks at running. He kept me at a slow pace because he felt the need to stop, sniff, and pee every few strides.
Scheduled: Rest day
What I Did: Well, I didn’t run…that’s for sure.
Scheduled: 3 easy miles
What I Did: Wow, it seems like 3 easy miles is the foundation of this half marathon training program!
I took Bruno on a different route Friday, and he again frustrated me with his stopping to sniff and pee every few strides. He even had the nerve to stop and poop near the end. Doesn’t he know I’m trying to hold a steady pace? Good thing I had a dog baggie tied to the leash.
Ziva would always relieve herself before or after the run, and just focus on running while we were moving. This was really hard for me emotionally. Ziva was a perfect running pal and Bruno…not so much.
Oh, I ran 3.03 miles an embarrassingly slow pace due to all the stops.
Scheduled: 5 mile long run
What I Did: 5 miles slow, out and back. I listened to my new audiobook, Running Is My Therapy, and reflected on how great running is for my mental health.
Scheduled: 30 minutes cross-training
What I Did: 30 minutes on my new spin bike. I bought it off the Facebook Marketplace for $150 right before the new year, specifically to help me cross-train during this half marathon training cycle. Today was the first time I actually climbed up on this thing, and it’s not a cushy ride. I do have a pair of biking short, and I will be sure to put them on before my next cross-training session.
This wraps up the first week!
Keep Reading –> Week 2: Feeling like less than Superwoman
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About Me: I’m Alexis, Founder of RunningMyBestLife! I am an avid recreational runner, half marathoner, wife, dog mom, busy professional, downhill skier in Northern Utah. My mission is to help new enthusiasts fall in love with the sport of running. I believe that running is a catalyst to taking control of your life and living your best life by design. Learn More –>