THE AMAZING HEART RATE
This half-marathon plan fits nearly any runner: beginner; experienced; coming back from injury; just had a baby; irritated by running because of said injury, expectations, aging.
Every workout is measured in minutes, not miles. You’ll run four days a week, with one day of optional easy cross training like a yoga or Pilates class. Speedwork is minimal in this plan, as it focuses on maximizing your endurance.
For nearly every mile, you’ll aim to keep your heart rate at or under 140 beats per minute (bpm). Why 140? Based on Maffetone’s Formula (180-age, with a few qualifications), 140 is a solid number that works for nearly every body. Because the half-marathon is an endurance event, keeping your heart rate under 140 greatly expands your cardiovascular/aerobic base, greatly decreases your chances of injury, significantly lessens post-run fatigue, and makes running feel very doable and even fun. (Truly!)
You will have a handful of weekly Free Runs, where you can run as fast as your heart desires.
Fair warning: Your initial pace at 140 bpm will surprise you. You will likely be 2-3 minutes slower than your current average run pace, and you’ll walk quite a bit to keep your heart rate within range, especially when you climb hills. You will be frustrated and possibly teary and maybe even think about dropping the program.
We’ll keep you going, though, and over the base building period of the first six weeks, your average pace at 140 bpm will begin to drop. Over the following fourteen weeks, you will morph into a cardio monster who can run for hours and hours with no pain and no anguish.
Although you’ll have an AMAZING half-marathon in twenty weeks, consider this plan as your introduction to a long-term investment in your running. Its (priceless) yield? Low on injury and fatigue, and correspondingly high on enjoyment and performance.
THE PREREQS: Before you sign up, you need to please:
1. Be able to currently walk for 45 minutes without stopping. If you’re running right now, you’ve been averaging less than 20 miles a week for the past three months
2. Own a reliable heart rate monitor, and you need to wear it all the time while training. The majority of your time, you’ll be training with a heart rate <140.
3. Be able to say adios to your ego and put your pace expectations away for this training cycle. Which is easier typed than done. Your training splits will likely be 2-3 minutes slower than they currently are. You will be passed by other #uncoached, #unloved runners who have no idea about the magic you’re creating within. You will think people in cars are talking about your turtle-like speed. (They aren’t, but it’ll feel like that.) For at least the first six weeks, you will likely walk up most hills and take regular walk breaks. Race pace will be a different thing, and we’ll cover that in depth, but your training is going to be s.l.o.w. Remember, you’ll have a group of #motherrunners doing the exact same thing, so you’ll have plenty of camaraderie and compassion.
4. Have time—and patience—to devote to 20 weeks of training. During week one, you’ll run for three hours over the course of four workouts. By week 17, the biggest week of training, you’ll be running six hours, five minutes over the course of four workouts. The longest run distances are two, 175-minute runs.
BIGGEST WEEK OF TRAINING: Six hours, five minutes.
LONGEST LONG RUN DISTANCES: Two, 175-minute runs.
The first three weeks of the plan are previewed above and to the left. (Quick key: EE: Easy Effort; XT: Cross Training; FR: Free Run; LR: Long Run)