Sub-1:50 half marathon training: Week 4

And breathe…

This week was an easy week in my training schedule and believe me, it couldn’t have come any sooner. I’ve been feeling really exhausted when running, which is strange, because my mileage isn’t actually as high as it has been in the last 6 months, nor as high as when I last trained for a half. Also my sessions don’t have me running as fast or as hard as I have been during 10K training. However, my morning runs have been slightly longer – closer to 40 minutes than 30 – and my reps, though at a slower tempo pace, have gradually increased from 4 minutes to 10. Although this tempo pace is marginally slower than my 10K race pace – a pace I’ve proved capable of holding for nearly 50 minutes – training at it regularly has obviously knackered me out a bit! If I’m honest though, I think that the real problem is that my patience with winter has now officially worn thin – nay through – and I’ve been struggling to motivate myself to get out of bed in the mornings. The one saving grace in the last couple of weeks is that it’s no longer pitch black when I hit the park!


7.30am and there’s daylight!

I think the other reason why training is tiring me out is that my training paces are still all over the place. Since speeding up over the last 6 months my metronomic ‘steady’ pace now more closely resembles my long, easy run. I’ve been determined to practice running at my target HM pace until I’m confident I can tune into it on the day within the first 2 miles – I even bought myself a rather sexy GPS watch in the January sales this year after steadfastly refusing to give up on my Casio sports watch – but I’m still all over the place. When I think ‘steady’ and run, I set off about 20 seconds a mile too fast, as demonstrated in this week’s race pace run (read more below)! This is probably because I rarely run for more than 40 minutes at a time anymore, except for those long, slow runs, and my brain just can’t seem to comprehend a pace that needs to be maintained beyond 5 miles! I’m looking forward to the next few weeks’ training because I will start doing weekly race pace runs that are increasing in length. Hopefully these runs will help me build confidence in my ability to not only tune into that magic pace, but also hold onto the damn thing for 13 and a bit miles.

This week though, I plodded on through the tiredness and totally embraced an ‘easy week’ of training. So here we go… week 4: done.

Monday: threshold intervals
There was no hill running per sé this week (though my routes were a bit bumpy) and there was no super fast running either, though I did squeeze in this one speed session of 3 x 10 minutes at a threshold pace, i.e. faster than target HM pace but slower than 10K pace, with 5 minute recoveries. It should have been a fairly manageable session, especially considering I ran a much-longer-than-usual warm up to flat Clissold Park (I was avoiding the Finsbury Park hills – they didn’t fit in with my ‘easy week’ prescription..!), but it was so hard! I pushed towards what felt like almost a 10K pace, but held just short of it, trying desperately to not embarrass myself with huffing and puffing noises as I passed other runners, joggers and dog walkers. I’m not entirely sure why it’s so hard running reps at a pace slower than I would normally run a whole race at… Is it all in the mind or all in the lungs? Who knows…

Tuesday: Strength training
My girlfriend popped over for breakfast on the way to work on Tuesday morning. She wanted to go for a run, but as I had a strength session planned she excitedly agreed to join me in my makeshift gym in the living room, helped me carry kettlebells and a yoga mat through the house, and move the coffee table to the side of the room.


This isn’t the kinky corner of my bedroom. This is my home gym, packed away into the corner. Phew…

We took it in turns to use my limited equipment and went through some core exercises and some leg strengthening exercises. I’m quite used to the home gym business – I’ve been doing it for a couple of months now – but I don’t think my housemate was quite prepared for walking into the living room at 8.15 am to find my girlfriend watching me from the sofa as I swung my kettlebell back and forth at her… I do hope he doesn’t think we’re weird…

Wednesday: Unplanned rest day
Life can be annoying, and an inconveniently timed doctor’s appointment (slap bang in the middle of my morning, so I couldn’t realistically run before it, nor afterwards and still get to work on time) forced me to move my steady run to later in the week.

Thursday: And actual rest day
I even took the bus on Thursday and left the bicycle at home. Now that’s rest…

Friday: Rescheduled steady/HM pace run
I had a 4 mile HM pace run planned this week. I’ve tried to run a few parkruns at target race pace with varying levels of success. I often find myself going too fast and, though I wish that this were a sign that I could run the half marathon even faster than planned, I’m not not entirely convinced that I can hold a pace faster than my planned 8:15min/mile for a whole half marathon! It’s therefore really important that I learn to reign my pace in from the very beginning. After all, as the very catchy running mantra goes: every second run too fast in the first half of your 10K will cost you 10 seconds in the second half. I’m assuming that this is magnified during a half marathon, so I must be careful

This week’s 4 miler wasn’t any more successful than those parkruns. I mapped a short, undulating route that I hoped would be a good simulation of the actual race route and strapped on the spangly new GPS watch. I planned to run according to ‘feel’ for the first half and settle into a steady pace before checking the watch to find out what kind of pace that was. It was still too fast – I clocked 3 of the miles in under 8 minutes each – and though I would like to report that it felt surprisingly steady and OK and check-me-out-going-faster-than-expected, I ended up feeling knackered again. Dammit…

I’ll try again next week.

Saturday: Rest day
Seriously, this week felt laaaaaaaazy… I stayed at home, drank posh coffee, ate Jammy Dodgers and wrote up one of my week’s lectures.

Sunday: Easy run – 6 miles
My training schedule had originally called for a 10K time trial today, but I quite frankly could not be arsed. A race would have properly knackered me out for the next day, possibly two the way I’ve been feeling this week, so instead I racked up the equivalent miles at a nice easy pace with the GF who has embarked on her own HM training. We wormed our way through Tottenham with no set route in mind and I decided to throw in a race pace half mile at the end, just for good measure, lapping the block a couple more times and looking down at the watch to double check that the pace was ok… 8:01… DAMMIT!! But look, it all evened out in the end because of the hills – a successful race pace run!



3 responses to “Sub-1:50 half marathon training: Week 4

  1. I’m glad to hear that someone else has exactly the same problems with pacing as I do. And my failing is also to start too fast. But there is a happy medium too. Having never run a half marathon or full marathon I really don’t know what pace I should even be aiming at. You’re miles ahead of me in that regard. So keep going!

    • Yeah, I’m going out too fast too! It takes a lot of practice, but I promise you it is possible to learn how to pace yourself. It just takes time to learn how to listen to your breathing and muscles and feet all at once..! I’m really struggling to do it on the hills that my house is surrounded by though!

      If you want to suss out a marathon time to train towards you could try using this calculator from Runners’ World:
      It uses a current race time to predict a finish time at a different distance, and it factors in distance increases/decreases and how much they will knacker you out. Apparently your first marathon is all about finishing in one piece (I wouldn’t know – I haven’t been brave enough to try yet!), but at least you’ll get an idea about what paces to train at. Love your blog btw – can’t wait to read about how you get on!

  2. Thanks a lot. That calculator site is very interesting and ever so slightly scary. I wonder what allowance it makes for people who are stronger at shorter distances? Once I run my first half marathon in March I’ll try it again. All the best with your training.

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