How (Not?) to Train for a Half Marathon

Last year I ran in the PF Chang’s Half Marathon. It was so much fun I’m doing it again this year. This post takes a look at how I trained to run the 13.2 mile race last year and compares it to the way I’ve decided to train this year. The fun part? I’m making it up as I go.

2010 – My training last year took a minimalist approach. I ran only once a week. Say, what? That’s right. Of course, that’s not to say I only exercised once a week. Fooled you. I only did one (what folks training for a race of this sort call a) long run per week.

Starting thirteen weeks out, the training looked something like this.


What did I do the other six days during those thirteen weeks? Pretty much stuck to my normal exercise routine. Wanna peek? (My typical long run day last year was Friday so we’ll start from there.)

Fri – Long run (details above)
Sat – Swim 1.75 miles
Sun – Swim 1.75 miles
Mon – Rest
Tue – Hour afternoon walk with Pilates in the evening
Wed – Hour Bike Ride
Thu – Hour afternoon walk with Pilates in the evening

2011 – This year I decided to take a similar approach. This year’s race training involves a few subtle shifts in priority, and a little more running. This year looks more like this.


Thu – Long run (details above)
Fri – 2 mile recovery run, weights (dumbbells)
Sat – Swim 1.75 to 2 miles
Sun – Bike 20+ miles
Mon – Run 4 to 5 miles
Tue – Hour afternoon walk with Pilates in the evening (or Hour Bike Ride only)
Wed – Rest

I wouldn’t suggest anyone consider following either of these two plans. On the contrary. The moral of the story is to (cliché warning) just do it. Seriously. This is just me having a little fun and making it up as I go. Think of it as a “How To”, or perhaps as a “How Not To”, train for a Half Marathon.

We’ll just have to wait and see what the extra miles do anything for my race time this year. Only time will tell. Bottom line, if you’re racing this year, I hope your training, however you approach it, goes well and you stay healthy. If you’re running the PF Chang’s in Phoenix this January 16, 2011 we’ll see you out there!

5 thoughts on “How (Not?) to Train for a Half Marathon

  1. Kristy Deffendall says:

    Do you do any speed work or hills in your short runs? I noticed that one short (3 to 6miles) run with speed work or big hills about 3 to 4 days before my long runs really helped my time and endurance…that is after I got over the soreness of the 1st few!
    Good luck this year. I did my 1st Olympic distance tri in Chattanooga this year…didn’t train well, but finished. The run was a killer…July in TN at 11am was a scorcher! I’ll train better for my next one!

    1. Sorry it took me so long to reply. I haven’t done any speed work at all. In fact, I’ve trained much slower this year than last. I’m pretty sure that I’ve trained slower because I’ve trained more. If I had it to do all over again, going back thirteen weeks from this coming Sunday, I’d stick with my minimum effective dosage approach, much more in line with what I did last year, and add speed work. In fact, speed work is on my list of to do’s training for October’s race. However, this half is probably going to be slower than last year but I’m okay with that. It was an experiment. One that will likely backfire but one I’ve learned from none the less. Glad to hear you made it thru the Olympic Distance. Any vertical finish is a good finish!

  2. Seth Basen says:

    Hey Owen,

    Hope you’re having a great holiday! Enjoyed this post. Guess I’d first ask what motivated you to radically change your program from last year. Were you dissatified with your performance or was an injury involved? Or did you just feel like tinkering? And that’s fine too. I do it all the time. I think, so long as good common sense is along for the ride, it’s fun and courageous to make it up as you go along. Good way to discover unexpected avenues of improvement.
    I’m also training for PFC…26.2 in 3 weeks. And I’ve now got shin splints for the first time ever. I think this is likely owing to a slightly hastier (and more vigorous) return from IMAZ recovery than was prudent. I kind of set myself up for this by registering for PFC in the first place. If I looked at the calendar for a few more seconds that day 10 months ago, I’d have seen that only seven weeks divided IMAZ from PFC and not have registered for the latter. So now I’m being stubborn and plowing ahead on angry legs. I’ve decided to quit run training for the duration in favor of biking / swimming and rely on my base. I will tape the leg and go for it on 01/16. I think the 3 weeks break will pay dividends on race day and I can lick any incurred wounds after. Next race (Ragnar) isn’t until end of Feb anyway. Lesson learned however 😉 Good luck, Owen!

    1. Seth: I wanted to see if running more miles would do anything for my performance overall. Thirteen weeks is a long time to train and it’s not. I’m sure you know what I mean. Be that as it may, I enter something like this, I like to have a plan of some sort. There are of course always variations but the plan is the plan and I stick to it about 92%. For example, there were a few weeks I ran 5 on Monday, and 5 on Tuesday. The long run on those weeks was hard. Another week I didn’t run at all besides the long run. I guess I listen to my body? Something like that.

      I am signed up for my first Olympic distance triathlon on October 2 in Scottsdale. I’ll for sure take a more established approach; probably something out of one of my many training books. I am also planning to do the Tucson Full Marathon at the end of 2011 with my dad and some of his buddies; if he runs it that is. If not, will switch gears and run PFC in 2012. Heck, maybe both, in some form or fashion. Good to hear you’re feeling (mostly) good. I haven’t had shin splints since I was a teenager (knock on wood). You’re trained yourself into a teenager!

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