Well, it didn't take me long to find an alternative training plan that I preferred over last year's. After all, you are speaking to the girl who decided one week before her wedding that she didn't like her dress, so she went ahead and bought an entirely new one.
Last year, I (closely) followed Cool Running's half marathon training for beginners. Though I have been running for years, I had never covered distances over 6 miles, so I felt that was appropriate for me at the time. As I got into the training, I realized I could run most of the training runs with ease, at a pace well above what they recommend training at. For this reason, I decided to set a goal completion time of under 2 hours for the half.
This year, I would like to be able to beat my time of 1:58:31. My pace for the Run to Remember 2012 was 9:03/mile, and I would like to be able to get it under 9:00/mile this year for the John Kelley Half. Hell, if I could shave 10-15 seconds off my pace, I would be one happy person.
I came to the realization if I wanted to improve my performance, I'm going to have to up the bar with the training. We all know, one does not improve by sitting still, and that's essentially what I would be doing if I used the same exact training program that I used last year. So I've decided to challenge myself and follow Hal Higdon's intermediate half marathon program.
No matter how long you have been running, you have likely heard the name Hal Higdon. He has run over 100 marathons and is probably even more well known for his writing, having contributed to Runner's World for longer than any other writer. He has put together some pretty fantastic training programs, each geared towards runners of different levels.
I chose this intermediate training program because it focuses more on pace than on mileage. I noticed last year, it was very easy to get hung up on my weekly mileage, making sure I got in each mid-week run, and making sure my miles all added up to what they should at the end of the week. I get why the beginner's program is fashioned that way - you want to make sure your body is ready to run 13.1 miles, no matter how fast or slow it is done. It was mentally (and physically) exhausting. Hal's intermediate program focuses on length of time spent running and emphasizes speed work every week. Speed work is something that I started incorporating last year when I was getting bored with the weekly runs, and I realized how useful it really is in helping improve your pace. Plus, it adds something fun and different to your weekly schedule.
Like last year's training schedule, there is one long run that increases weekly as well as two "rest" days where you can choose to cross-train or recover. The mid-week mileage does not get out of control, which will make it much easier to fit in some strength training and stretching. I have to admit, last year, some of the mid-week runs were tallying 16 miles between Tuesday and Thursday, and I would many times forego the stretching and strength exercises due to time constraints and overall exhaustion. We all know skipping out on stretching is a no-no!
I'm really excited to be changing things up a bit this year - and I'm even more excited to see if this new training program will help me improve my pace for the half in May!