Picking a training program may be the hardest part about running a long-distance race like a half marathon or full marathon. That’s because if your program doesn’t work for you or is too hard or too easy, you won’t stick to it and you won’t be motivated to run or well prepared on race day.
I love the Hal Higdon training programs—they are really accessible for busy people and make your distance doable. For the half, the longest distance you have to run is 10 miles. For the full, it’s 20 miles. You only run 4 days a week, and you don’t actually run the full distance until race day, relying on the thrill and adrenaline to go the last few miles. And, it works. I used a Hal Higdon training plan to do my first half and I was well prepared and ran well.
A year or so ago I decided to step it up a bit and try the Nike+ training plan. I liked it because I was already using Nike+ to track my runs, and it gave me notifications to remind me of what I needed to run each day. You don’t really have to do anything—just put in your race distance and date and it will let you know when to start training. It displays your training plans a week at a time, and it explains all your workouts pretty concisely. It also gives you three different levels to choose from for any distance: beginner, intermediate and advanced. If you have Spotify premium, you can also link that to your Nike+ account to create Pace Stations based on your favorite artist or kind of music and the speed of music you want to hear.
Hal Higdon also has a training app, as well as Runner’s World. I used the Runner’s World one briefly, and although it wasn’t bad, it has no audio feedback, which means you either need to know your route already or have a really good idea of how fast you run to know your distance.
There are also programs that center around a walk/run approach. You train to accomplish your distance with a combo of running and walking, never aiming to run the whole distance.
I did read about a method of marathon training that basically cuts out all the maintenance miles and only has you do 3 runs a week. I have heard good and bad things about these programs, the bad being that you really shouldn’t attempt them your first time out. The good is that for those who tend to get injured when they run too many miles, you can run fewer miles and still train effectively. So although it sounded attractive for my schedule, I’m doing Nike+ and running 5-6 days a week. Next time out, I may try it.
My first training plan was super low-tech. I printed out the page and put it on my fridge, marking off each workout as I went. I did yoga or swimming for my cross training two days a week. Done and done! The Nike+ plans are much harder—even the beginner ones—and it took me probably three races before I even got close to making my goal mileage each week. But, I like the challenge now. I know it’s going to be tough, and I know I won’t make it every week, but I feel really accomplished when I do.