Back again with more running stuff! I mentioned in my last running post that I’ll be running the NYC Half Marathon on March 18th. I may or may not be even more excited that I’ll get to eat a green NYC bagel the day before on St. Patrick’s Day. Carb-loading at its best! Anyway…
I ran the race two years ago and enjoyed it a lot, so I’m pretty excited. Unlike the NYC Marathon, which travels through all five boroughs of New York, the half marathon is entirely in Manhattan – starting with a full loop of Central Park, then running right through Times Square and all the way down to the bottom of Manhattan, ending at the South Street Seaport. Who needs a double-decker bus tour when you’ve got two legs and a pair of running shoes?
Why I’m Running the NYC Half
Knowing I wanted to run an early spring half marathon, I initially had my sights set on the National Half in DC. But after giving it some more thought, I decided to give the NYC Half a go and try to run it fast. As in, qualify for the NYC Marathon fast. Luck has gotten me into the NYC Marathon the past two years, and with the qualifying standards getting very tough for 2013, I know 2012 might possibly be the last time I can run it by qualifying. While part of me wants to branch out and try other fall marathons (Chicago!), another part of me wants to even the score a little after this past year’s NYCM experience.
My best half marathon time is a 1:42:14. To qualify for the NYC Marathon, I have to run a 1:37:00. I’m fully aware this might be too much of a reach, but I also know that my 1:42 was run during marathon training, and I didn’t really push the pace much. Anyway, we’re talking about a five minute drop — going from an average pace per mile in the 7:40′s, down to the 7:20′s. Actually, when I look at it by the mile, it doesn’t seem as bad!
The thing is, when I usually run races, I never let myself get too uncomfortable. If I start to get really tired, can’t breathe as well, etc., I just pull back the pace a bit (NYC Marathon 2011 doesn’t count here, I had to slow down). One could say I wimp out, and I sort of agree. I think I’m completely capable of running a 1:36 half marathon, but I’m going to need to get tough in order to do it. In the words of my sister (and an old favorite Speedo T-shirt), No Pain, No Spain. And in the words of my former marathon running (3:03) mom, the faster I run, the sooner I can stop.
So with that in mind…
New Training Plan
The past two marathons I trained for, I basically just did “solid” runs during the week (i.e., 6-8 miles at what I thought would be my marathon pace). I’d take Friday off to recover — well, I actually went swimming but you know — and then do my long run on Saturday. It worked out pretty well, but I did always sort of feel like every week focused heavily on long run Saturday.
About a month ago, I stumbled upon an article on the Running Times website, Marathoning the Hansons’ Way. In the article, Kevin Hanson (Desi Davila’s coach, coach of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project) explained his belief that no training run is more important than another, and that several marathon training programs place too much emphasis on the weekly long run. I have to admit, whenever I see training programs where people run a few easy runs during the week, then log a 20-22 mile run on Saturday, I think to myself, “really? That’s it?”
The Hanson approach to marathon training rarely puts you above a 16-miler for your long run, but there’s one caveat – no rest day before your long run (or the day before that). The idea is that you’ll get to your long run on fatigued legs. So while you might not be cranking out a 20 mile run, the fatigue from the previous few days allows you to simulate the back half of a marathon (let’s be honest, only the back half of a marathon can simulate the back half of a marathon).
As soon as I read this, I was more than interested in the somewhat non-traditional training approach. Obviously, I’m not training for a full marathon right now, but I decided to incorporate the Hanson way of thinking into my half marathon training. I figure it’ll be my Hanson method trial — if it works well in the end, I’m definitely interested in giving it a try for a full marathon training program.
That said, here’s a rough layout of what my current half marathon training is looking like on a weekly basis. I’m still using my “no-plan plan” mentality to a certain degree, since I think that keeps me running smart from an injury prevention standpoint.
Monday: Speed work. Depending on what I’m in the mood for (seriously) this can be anything from 1/4 mile to 1 mile sprints (or semi-sprints for the longer distances) with 1/4 to 1/2 mile jogs between. Usually totals about 5-6 miles.
Tuesday: Easy run. I keep it really easy, 8:30-8:45 pace. 5-6 miles.
Wednesday: Hills. I’m only doing this because the half marathon I’m training for goes through hilly Central Park, and I want to be prepared (mostly from a mental standpoint). Some weeks this is short, steep hill repeats, other weeks it might be setting the treadmill to 4% and just running. Again, 5-6 miles.
Thursday: Easy run. I keep it really easy, 8:30-8:45 pace. 5-6 miles.
Friday: Tempo run. This is quickly becoming my favorite of the week! I’m doing tempo runs at a pace I hope to maintain in the half marathon, so right now that’s 8.1mph on the treadmill. So far I’ve done 4 miles at this pace, with the thought that I’ll gradually tack on more miles and pick up the pace. Again, usually end up doing about 5-6 miles after warm up/cool down.
Saturday: Long run. Per the Hanson way of thinking (and most other training programs…), I don’t set out on these runs going for the gold. Just a nice solid pace. I’m definitely feeling a bit more beat down on these runs since they follow my tempo run day, but I do love the feeling of fatigue (crazy runner alert). These runs will range 10-12 miles, anywhere from 7:45-8:15 pace (depending on winter road conditions).
Sunday: Nothing!! I rarely take a full day to recharge, but it sure does feel great to wake up and be able to just drink coffee, eat pancakes, and not put on my running shoes.
Total mileage is putting me anywhere from 35 to 40 miles in a given week. I’m not sure if that’s normal for a half marathon raining program or not. Basically, I looked at where my mileage was for full marathon training in the fall — 45-50 miles in my highest weeks — and figured it out from there.
So far, this training approach has been a nice change of pace that I’m really enjoying. The easy and recovery days are good for mental breaks, while the tougher/longer days leave me feeling like I really accomplished something. I’ll definitely have to do a full recap/assessment after the half marathon!