Let’s say you want to run a half marathon, but you take a look at a couple training programs and you’re worried that you don’t have time to commit to every single run prescribed in the plan or if you’re really going to be able to keep going through all these snow filled days.
This is me right now. I am definitely not getting in every single run called for in training plan I’m following, and I’m OK with this. I want to take my training seriously, but I can only loosely follow a training plan for now. I have to be realistic about the other obligations I have in my life – taking care of an infant is definitely the biggest draw on my time. Add chasing a baby to homeschooling two older kids, keeping up with all the tasks involved in maintaining household of five people, not to mention lots and lots of cold, dark winter mornings and yeah… I’m lucky to get out and run three days a week.
Maybe you have a family too. Or school or a job or all of the above – and yet you still want to add “Train for a half marathon” to your list of things to do. I totally get it and I’m not going to tell you that you’re nuts. In fact, I’d like to tell you how to do it without injuring yourself. Or at the very least tell you how I plan to do it.
Most training plans call for four to five days of running or cross training each week. Even though I’m not able to get that much running in, I’m still going to sign up for the Flower City Half Marathon that is now less than 10 weeks away.
The Long Run
Based on everything I’ve ever read about training for a distance event, and in my own experience too (with two marathons and three half marathons under my belt), I’ve come to understand that in order of priority, your long run is the most important when it comes to getting ready for a distance race. That’s the training run I always make time for – even if means running long a day early or a day or two behind schedule – as long as I can get the long run in, I call that “good enough” and keep moving forward.
This seems obvious – of course you have to run long! But if you find yourself needing to shuffle your training schedule around or drop a few runs or cross training days, you should still be able to make it across the finish line in one piece so long as you can keep up with the scheduled long runs.
If you hope to improve your time, then speed work and running faster during training runs is what’s next in line in order of priority for me. As much as I’d love to set a new PR for this race (which would mean coming in under 1:48), I’ve come to accept that it’s probably not going to happen this year. And that’s OK with me too. I’m using this race as way to stay motivated and keep running through these cold months – instead of hiding inside and lounging around in a pair of holey sweatpants.
When you look all the other runs on any training plan – those middle-of-the-week 3, 4 and 5 mile runs – I like to think about these runs and workouts as adding pennies to a piggy bank. On their own, they don’t seem like they matter much – but once you’ve got a lot of them in your “running bank”, you see that they absolutely add up to something. My plan is to do as many of these as I can without compromising the needs of my family and the homestead.
Keep On Keepin’ On
Sunday marked the end of Week 3 in my training plan. It was cold and snowy and blowy out, but I suited up anyway and paid my long run dues (and said a silent “thank you!” that the long runs aren’t very long just yet!) and also managed to get in two other runs this week, with a few days of yoga too at a new studio that I’m trying out.
As always, you have to decide for yourself what’s best for you and your body, taking your current health, running experience and athletic conditioning into consideration. (In other words, please don’t do anything stupid!)
But if you keep up with your scheduled long runs, I think the outcome just might surprise you… in a good way!