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OK, I'm not new to running but have begun my first organized training plan to prep for a 1/2 marathon in December. Ultra intense work schedule pretty much eliminated working out for over 2 months so I'm starting at just about square one. Tomorrow I have my first long run and the schedule says 8 miles. This seems strange to me since I am 1) doing a beginner program, 2) have only been training for a week and 3) I feel like 8 miles is a goal for a month or more into sustained training. When they classify the run as "conversation pace" do they mean run / walk the distance but get 8 miles in?
It sounds like the beginning training plan you picked is assuming you are already up to 4-5 miles at a time. (Not truly a beginner plan, huh?) Don't put in the 8 miles if you can't. It's better to do less mileage now, but to be consistent than it is to hurt yourself at the beginning of your training and not be able to run the race. Do what you can and don't feel bad now...especially since it's the beginning of your training. Then work yourself up to the mileage. Missing a long run early in the training isn't going to kill you.
In a conversation pace, you run slow enough that you carry on a conversation. Keep a consistent pace so that you don't slow down to a walk throughout the run. Try running half of the mileage on your training plan to see if you are comfortable with it. If you aren't, find a new training plan.
The "beginners" training guide tells you to do 8 miles so that you can get some time on your feet to build some strength. You are definitely going to need that strength when you run your half marathon. If you dont feel that you can run the 8 miles then run for about 60-80 minutes and dont even bother looking at the mileage. Dont bother with speed yet either. Run as slow as you need to to just keep running and try your best not to stop. Do not ignore your long run because it could be important for strength which is important for injury prevention when you get into speed workouts
I ended up doing about 4.5 - 5 miles instead of the eight. Having only done 6 training sessions of any kind prior to this I felt like trying an hour or more of continuous running with no foundation would invite injury. I have been doing endurance strength work as a supplement to the regime so I hope to be up to the eight mile mark soon.
I agree with you in thinking 8 is too much this early in your program. 4 or 5 is OK, and if you are training consistently you can increase that by a mile a week. Another good idea is to take "step-back" weeks about every 4 weeks, where you back off your weekly mileage by about 20% to allow for recovery and rebuilding.
I ran my first half-marathon last year afer yearsof never running more than 3 miles. My tough work schedule only allowed me 3 runs per week (plus I play indoor soccer one night per week and sprint quite a bit then so counted those as a speed work-out). I added 10 minutes at a time until my weekday runs were 5-6 miles and I then added one mile per week to my long run that I did on the weekend. I got sick about 8 weeks before the race and only had a couple opportunities at the 13 mile distance before I had a premature taper due to shin splints. I babied the legs the last week and still ran a time at a pace nearly half a minute per mile faster than any practice run. I don't know where you are in your runs but this should show you there are ways to manage even with limited time. Good luck!