While running is not solely about finish time, there is something incredibly satisfying about putting in months of hard work and running a hard-earned PR on race day. Eric started working with me in the summer of 2018 to train for an October half marathon, after a few years of long distance running on his own. His PR at that time was a 1:53 from recent race. In the past year of coaching, he’s taken six minutes off of this half marathon time – and is continuing to make progress as he trains for his next race.
- March 2018 (pre-coaching): 1:53 half marathon
- October 2018: ~1:49 half marathon (course measured long due to race error)
- April 2019: 49:35 10K (hilly course)
- June 2019: 1:47:01 half marathon
How did Eric take six minutes off his half marathon PR? Obviously, the biggest factor is always the athlete’s work ethic and consistency. I might write then plan, but they are the ones who keep showing up and putting in the hard work. Coaching simply optimizes that hard work, making sure that the athlete’s training time is as effective as possible for their fitness and goals.
The biggest marker of success in an athlete is consistency. Like most of my runners, Eric consistently puts in the hard work over the long weeks of training. He rarely skips a run, pushes himself hard in his workouts, and keeps his easy runs truly easy.
In the build-up for his 10K and half marathon PRs, an abnormally snowy and cold winter struck the Pacific Northwest. Despite snow, slush, ice, and bitter cold, Eric remained consistent in his training. This optimized his preparation for both the 10K race and the half marathon and made him mentally tougher for pushing in those races.
For any long distance runner, weekly mileage serves as the foundation. The more mileage (up to a certain point), the higher the runner’s endurance and aerobic capacity. For Eric’s training, we maintained a mileage of about 40-45 miles per week, with one to two hard workouts per week. This mileage was enough to develop him aerobically while also balancing the intensity of the hard workouts.
Like many long distance runners, Eric is strongest at long intervals and tempo runs. We certainly do an abundance of those in training (more on that in a moment). However, we also work on speed, especially in the earlier weeks of a training cycle. Typically, this included short fartlek intervals, such as 1-minute or 2-minute repeats at 3K to 5K effort.
One of the contributors to Eric’s 2-minute PR in the half marathon from October to June was training for a 10K in April. During 10K training, we focused on developing speed and his speed-endurance at 10K pace (the higher end of threshold pace). When Eric then shifted his focus to his June half marathon, he was more economical at his half marathon pace.
Cutback Weeks and Recovery
Frequent cutback weeks are a staple in Eric’s plan. Typically, I structured his plan to include 3-4 weeks of hard training followed by one cutback week. The cutback week decreased both mileage and intensity. These cutback weeks allowed Eric to recover throughout training and therefore handle progressively more challenging workouts.
The closer to a goal race, the more specific Eric’s training became to his goals. For his half marathons, the six to eight weeks closest to the race focused on half marathon specific training. A majority of his workouts in these race-specific weeks were stamina workouts, either at the higher end of threshold pace (long intervals at 10K pace/45-50 min race pace) or long tempos at the slower end of threshold pace/goal half marathon pace.
Race Pace in Long Runs
Progression long runs are a staple in Eric’s half marathon training. In my coaching philosophy, I structure these runs based on the race distance. Typically, the long run starts out easy and then progresses into race pace or effort for the final few miles – such as a 13 mile long run with the last 3 miles at half marathon effort. This provides enough of a stimulus to practice running race pace on tired legs, without turning a long run into a race effort itself.
Over the summer, Eric has continued to work hard for his next half marathon. I’m confident that his hard work will pay off yet again for his next race!
Do you want to run a PR in the half marathon or another distance? Learn more about my coaching services and contact me here!
More Athlete Highlights:
How Emma Trained with a Busy Schedule
How Reframing Training Set Jess Up for Marathon Success
How Periodization Helped Aimee Run PRs in the 10K to Marathon
How Polarized Training Helped Laura Set PRs in Multiple Distances