Half-Marathon Training: Week Six

nyc_half_w6Week six eases off a little in terms of distance and intensity. The training plan asks for a tempo run early in the week and two easy 4 miles efforts and the start and end. Luckily for me, the monotony of 4 mile treadmill runs is broken up this weekend as the NYRR Gridiron Classic takes place on Sunday morning. Meanwhile Saturday’s long run is only 6 miles.

This week also see’s a slight change in my cross training schedule. As I mentioned previously, I have started taking swimming lesson’s and that will take the place of the bicycle portion of Thursday’s strength and conditioning session.

The first five weeks of training have been a significant increase in my general workload and have taken an increasing amount of time out of my schedule. At times it’s a challenge to fit everything in, so I am going to have to start paying attention to non-running related activities to make sure they do not get neglected.

Easing Off

easing_off_001Today’s run was supposed to be 8 miles, but given that my legs were feeling like lead and my knees were a bit sore, I decided to ease off a little and stop after only 7 miles. Towards the end of the run I actually felt alright, but didn’t want to push it too much and risk injury now that I’m only six weeks away from the half-marathon.

I had also introduced swimming as a new element to my training plan, and it’s possible my body was going through some adjustments at the time. Better to play it safe and get back on track the following week.

Speed Work

speed_work_001I have found that Wednesday’s are my least favorite training day, mainly because of the intensity required for the speed work on that day. The other three runs in a typical week are paced runs, starting at 4 miles and increasing in length on Sunday’s. Paced run’s are quite easy – I tend to take them at about 80% effort, raising my heart rate to the high 140’s for the duration. The purpose of these runs is to log miles, build stamina, develop good habits, and ultimately condition my body and mind to deal with the rigors of long distance running.

Speed work is a different animal. Running at the same pace all the time builds stamina for distance. Speed work is a valuable tool in a runner’s training arsenal, and is the only way to condition the body to run at a fast pace. For anyone interested in improving their race times (and that includes myself), speed work will add an additional gear or two to the runner’s motor that they can use during races.

For the purposes of the half-marathon, my speed work consists of alternating quarter mile stretches jogging and sprinting. The following table provides a guideline for pace setting during speed work:

Distance Pace
200 meters 112-115%
400 meters 108-112%
800 meters 105-108%
1 mile 103-105%


My typical run pace is 6.66 mph or roughly 9 minutes per mile, which is equivalent to 2:15 for a quarter mile. Using the high end of the speed pace guidelines, I should be running 400 meters at 7.46 mph or approximately two minutes. Just for fun, I actually round that number up and set my sprint speed to 7.5 mph. for the jogging intervals, I tend to drop my pace to 6.3 mph to aid my recovery and ensure I have something in the tank for the next sprint. In addition, I increase the workload every other week by adding one extra quarter mile sprint.

Now that I am on week six, my interval training consists of nine quarter mile jogs surrounding eight quarter mile sprints – total of 4.25 miles. By the end of the session I am completely wiped out, I literally have nothing left in the tank. It’s a good thing that the next two days on my training plan consist of circuit training and a well deserved rest.

Note: speed work is great for improving running times, but it can also be the cause of a wide variety of running injuries. Speed work should only be added to a training plan once the runner has developed a sufficient level of strength and stamina to support intense athletic activity. The training program described here has been tailored for my personal goals. Please consult a certified coach or medical professional before embarking on a similar training plan of your own.

Half-Marathon Training: Week Five

nyc_half_w5Week four required a little more effort than the first three, but that does not mean I get to take it easy now. Rather, the training plan for week five continues to increase the workload as the second of my incremental increase weeks before a smaller workload for a week. As always, Monday and Thursday focus on strength and cross training. Depending on how I feel, I will do two circuits of the strength program or 30 minutes on the bike and one circuit.

Tuesday’s run is again 4.5 miles, while Wednesday’s speed work alternates quarter mile jogs and sprints. Given that my typical run pace is 6.7 MPH, I take the quarter mile jogs at 6.3 MPH and the sprints at 7.5 MPH. Saturday is a 4 mile run, followed by a lengthy 8 miler on Sunday morning to round out the week.

I have some personal engagements this week, so will have to work to move things around so that my training does suffer. I try to take my runs at least 24 hours apart, but have some flexibility when it comes to the strength programs.

Snow Fun

snow_fun_001Today was a day of firsts for a number of reasons. Up until this morning my training program has enabled me to take all my runs on the treadmill at my gym. I don’t mind running on the treadmill, but had set myself a limit of 6 miles. Anything over that and I figured I would be better off outside – provided conditions cooperated. With a 7 mile run on the cards for this morning, I felt like that was too much treadmill and I would get more out of running in the park. Add in the wintery mix of snow and sub-zero temperatures that descended on the city this weekend, and this was lining up to be a real thrill ride! Luckily, the conditions in the park were not too bad, thanks in part to the previous days New York Road Runner’s Manhattan half-marathon that went ahead, if only as a fun run.

I got up around 7:30 AM and decked myself out in my cold weather gear – long sleeve Under Armor shirt and Snoogi tights, in addition to a knitted hat and gloves. The park itself is just over 6 miles around the full loop, so I backtracked a half mile in a slow jog as a warm up – allowing myself to finish reasonably close to my exit. The route itself was familiar, having recently completed a similar loop during the Joe Kleinerman 10K. The Harlem Hill was a bit of a slog, as was the long drag in the East side. In both cases I managed to keep going, without the aid of pacemakers that a race situation provides – all the while motivating myself with the knowledge that completing the run would be a large step in my training and preparation for the half-marathon.

In the end, I completed the 7 mile run in 61 minutes – a couple of minutes better than my typical pace of 9 minutes per mile. I felt good at the end, the cold conditions definitely made it a little easier than a run in hot or humid weather. My recovery times continue to get better, with my heart rate and breathing having returned to something close to normal by the time I doubled back and exited the park. I even managed to jog back to my building from the park, rather than walk as would normally be the case.

Mentally, I had overcome a big obstacle in managing a long run by myself. With many more to come between now and November, today’s run gave me the confidence to push on to the next level.


obstacles_001According to my training schedule, tomorrow should be a 7 mile run. Interestingly, we got hit with a few inches of snow last night which promises to make conditions a little treacherous in the morning. Today’s Manhattan half-marathon was essentially wiped out by the snow, with race management removing the clocks and turning it into a non-scored, non-timed event. The morning also promises to be pretty cold – altogether just the kind of conditions I was hoping to avoid as I progress through my training. Running is hard, especially when it entails pushing myself to run farther and longer than I have ever done before. Throwing snow and frigid temperatures into the mix does not help with the motivation, but at this point I am committed to following through on the plan and determined not to let these little obstacles get in the way.

Half-Marathon Training: Week Four

nyc_half_w4Following a relatively easy week three, week four’s training schedule steps things up a bit. Tuesday’s short run increases to 4.5 miles, while Wednesday’s tempo run is a full 35 minutes. Throw in a lengthy 7 mile run on Sunday and we have the toughest week on the plan so far. Luckily for me, this week looks like being pretty light in terms of work commitments, so I can split my time between training and spend plenty of time with Jess to celebrate our first year together. To round out the week, I’ll also step up the workload during the strength sessions, in terms of adding more reps to each set rather than increasing the weight.

Half-Marathon Training: Week Three

nyc_half_w3Let’s not forget the upcoming half-marathon, scheduled for March 18. To say I’m looking forward to that event would be an understatement, but there is still a long way to go to get myself ready. Although I am reasonably fit and at a good weight, I don’t know if I have the strength or stamina to push myself for thirteen miles and complete the run in a reasonable target time.

This week’s training incorporates three 4 miles runs on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday; some speed work on Wednesday; and two strength session on Monday and Thursday. Sunday’s run, typically the longest of the week, is actually shorter than the previous two weeks to give my legs and body a chance to recover. As the training plan prescribes, every third week the long run is two miles shorter than the previous week. I don’t know if that’s the typical approach, but it’s something I picked up while reviewing some training experts websites and compiling my personal half-marathon training plan.

Joe Kleinerman 10K

kleinerman_10k_001This race was always going to be a challenge when you consider that it was the longest run I have ever embarked on, in terms of both time and distance. As a relative newcomer to the ranks, I have built my stamina and endurance over the last year from almost nothing to where I can now run four or five miles at a comfortable pace and recover within a few minutes. Hardly surprising then that I was looking forward to seeing how I would manage with pushing myself an extra mile. This was also the first time for me to complete a full loop of the Central Park circuit, including the dreaded Harlem Hills. In the past I had taken in the reservoir and lower loops, but never had the courage to extend myself to complete the entire thing.

My preparations were not ideal. My sister was visiting from out of town that week, and we had been out with Jess and some friends the night before in Brooklyn. I only got home around 12:30AM and had to work with six hours sleep. Thankfully, I had no hangover when I woke up and was able to get to the start at East 102 St. with plenty of time to spare. In the week leading up to the race, I mapped the course so I knew what to expect in terms of hills. I picked a bad spot to start and got caught up in the crowd, which meant my first mile took around ten minutes. By the time we got to the top of the Harlem Hill the field had thinned out somewhat and I was able to step up the pace to just under nine minutes a mile. All the way down the west side of the park I maintained a healthy pace and as we swung across Central Park South I was feeling very strong.

I picked up the pace, intent on clawing back the time I had lost during that first mile, and even the slight inclines on the way up the east side did not deter my spirit. As I took the bend at 86 St. and reached the plateau that would take me all the way to the finish, I found an extra gear and challenged myself to really push it. Crossing the line in just under fifty five minutes, I was delighted by the result and still felt very strong. I could definitely have done another mile or two.

Half-Marathon Training: Week Two

nyc_half_w2My training plan is consistent for a reason – working to a prescribed plan will help condition my body and limit the risk of injury. If you have looked over the training plan I posted, you will know that Monday and Thursday are non-running days where I focus on strength and conditioning. Typically, this involves some bike work and either one or two circuits of the weight machines at my gym to help build muscle.

This week’s Tuesday run is 4 mile runs, while Wednesday is a 4 mile tempo run at race pace. For me, that means starting out at my usual pace and then pushing myself to about 7 MPH for the majority of the session. This weeks see’s a chance in schedule because of the upcoming 10K in Central Park. Instead of running another 4 miles on Saturday followed by a longer 6 mile run on Saturday, the two are flipped around. This is not ideal, as longer runs are easier following a tempo run rather than before it. However, I want to keep to my plan and I would rather rotate the two days than chop and change my rest days.