While you may not want to write your own half marathon training plan from scratch, by understanding how training plans are built and WHY things are placed where, you can make better decisions when you modify your own training, whether it’s a simple day-switch or more extensive changes. This week in You Don’t Know the Half of It, I’ll break down writing half marathon plans.

This post is Week 3 in the You Don’t Know the Half of It: Half Marathon series. I recommend reading the series Understanding Training Plans to make the most of this post.I’ll use principles in both to help us out today.

Woman sitting tying her running shoe. Titled You Don't Know the Half of it: Half Marathon. Week #3 Writing Half Marathon Plans

Don’t Know the Half of It: Writing Half Marathon Plans

Meet Jane

Jane runs four days a week, about 20 miles a week. This is her third half marathon. She typically races 5Ks and  has run a couple of 10Ks. Today is May 1. Her race is June 30. In her first two half marathons, she started too fast and couldn’t handle the tail-end of the race. Her goal is to finish strong this half marathon.

Step One: Determine the macrocycle

We learned about macro, meso, and microcycles in training periodization. You can read about it here.

A macrocycle is a long training season that ends in a goal race and recovery from that race. There might be multiple races within the macrocycle, but it will lead up to a race where peak performance is desired.

Let’s start Jane’s macrocycle the week of May 6 and end her macrocycle the week of July 1 (week after her race).

Writing Half Marathon Plans - Racers running across a marker on the road, feet and colorful shoesStep Two: Choose mesocycles

A mesocycle is a discrete training phase for a specific purpose (physiological, psychological, or both). In it, you introduce a specific training stressor to encourage your body to adapt and make gains.

Mesocycles can be blocks of 2-10+ weeks. Since Jane has 8 weeks to train for this half marathon, I’d keep it simple and give her two mesocycles of four weeks each.

I’ll build her long run in both mesocycles. Given Jane’s experience with 5K and 10K racing and her propensity for starting too fast, I’ll prescribe a mesocycle of steady-state running which will be close to her half marathon pace. And, I’ll prescribe a mesocycle of fast-finish workouts, to give her practice finishing strong on tired legs.

Step Three: Choose microcycle

Jane wants to keep a 7 day microcycle, corresponding to a week, because that’s easiest for her work/life schedule. She recovers well from her weekly mileage, I don’t see any reason to change it.

Step Four: Fill in plan

  1. Start at Jane’s typical week and build from there.
  2. Mark races, recovery weeks, mesocycles
  3. Fill in long runs
  4. Determine weekly mileage
  5. Fill in quality runs
  6. Fill in easy runs

Writing Half Marathon Plans - Base: 5/5/4/6 Week 8: steady state, 7 --22 Week 7: steady state, 8 --24 Week 6: steady state, 6 (recovery)  --20 Week 5: steady state, 9  -- 26 Week 4: fast finish, 10 -- 29 Week 3: 10K tune up (Recovery) -- 23 Week 2: fast finish, 12 -- 32 Week 1: fast finish, Race Week 0: Recovery

How to use this information

You can use this information to completely build your training plan from scratch or change a free plan you find online. Whether you DIY or hire me to design you a plan, by understanding how training plans are written, you can make better day-to-day decisions when life throws you scheduling curve balls.

In the next two weeks, we’ll wrap up the half marathon series with pacing and fueling strategies for the race itself. See you then!