A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Looking back on half marathon training

on March 8, 2014

I found it helpful, after my 10K, to look back at my training plan to evaluate what did and did not work well during the process. I’m looking back now at my half  marathon training and the race experience itself so that I can make notes for future reference for my next half marathon. Had I mentioned that yet? I signed up for the half marathon in Des Moines in the fall to see how I can do in a less crowded, less humid and hopefully non-broken toed half marathon!


The training plan I used to get ready for the Princess Half Marathon was essentially the Hal Higdon novice plan. Within that plan, he offered the flexibility to stretch the plan out with lighter weeks between the increases in mileage (similar to the Galloway plan), which I did opt to do, and long runs up to 10 miles. I ultimately ended up going up to 11 miles as I’d mis-measured my weeks
and ended up with an extra week of training. With the Higdon plan, the long runs on the weekends steadily increase in mileage as do the weekday runs, ultimately coming up to 5 miles on weekday runs.


  • I felt very prepared to travel 13.1 miles after finishing this plan. I wasn’t concerned that I would not be able to complete 13 miles on race day having gone to only 11 miles in training. I think the longer weekday runs definitelyhelp in that respect, in building a strong cardiovascular base. From a motivation perspective, it was also huge for me to know that regardless of how fast I traveled, if I finished the race I was getting a distance personal record by finishing the half marathon. Every step after 11 miles, I celebrated that I was going further than I’d ever gone before. When my legs were feeling tired, it helped keep my spirits buoyed by reminding myself how much I’d already won at that point.
  • The drop backs every other week were helpful for my personal schedule, in that it can be hard to get in long runs when I’m on call. It also helped to work around travel and other days when run time got crunched.
  • My only injuries during this training cycle were due to general clumsiness, not anything directly run-related, which is a testament to the wisdom of a slowly increasing plan.
  • This plan didn’t call for any speed work or other specialized runs, which was helpful for a true novice. It was intimidating enough every time I had a step up in mileage – knowing that I just had to cover miles was enough. I think I would have been too intimidated to stick to the plan if I was worrying about how fast I was running in addition to how far I was running.
  • The Higdon plan called for a one week taper, but I chose to do two weeks and I’m glad for that choice. I’m the kind of person who is more likely to push too hard, so I don’t want to risk over-doing it so close to the race.
  • Practicing my fueling and hydration before the race was so helpful. I didn’t worry on the course about whether I should have water or Powerade or how often I should take a Gu because I’d practiced all of that on my long runs in the few weeks before the race.

Minuses: I confess these are all my failures/issues, not the training plan issues.

  • I did not do a great job with strength training, despite the numerous times I set that goal here and the research I did that told me how truly important it was! This was specified in the training plan but I tended to focus on the runs, not the other boxes in the training plan. If I truly want to meet a bigger goal with the Des Moines half marathon, I’m going to need to work on that more rigorously.
  • By the end of the training cycle, I was burnt out from being on a training plan. That’s not surprising since I had essentially been on a training plan since August, between the 10K and the half marathon. I don’t know that I needed a drop back week quite so often. I think next time, I may schedule that for just weeks I’m on call or traveling, and then maybe allow a couple of extra weeks overall to stick in a light week when I need it.
  • I was really flexible about what days I did each workout, which sometimes resulted in running 5 miles back to back on the weekend or trying to put in an extra run after my long run. That was okay and I came through it safely with the first training cycle, but looking at more speed work and other high quality runs in the next training cycle, I need to try to respect the spacing of workouts a little more.

I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to step up to the next Hal Higdon half marathon plan or go to a different plan (currently reading the Train Like a Mother half marathon plan), but I’ve got plenty of time to decide.


Overall, this training cycle was a good experience, resulting in me crossing the finish line feeling good enough that I’ve already signed up for another half marathon. I’ll keep you posted about what training plan I choose and what new goals I set. Do you tend to stick with the same training plan each time you run a given distance or try out different options?

11 responses to “Looking back on half marathon training

  1. I did a modified version of the Novice 2 Hal Higdon for my first two halfs. Like you, I’m a two week taper kind of person! I’m also terrible at making time for core/strength training. This training cycle I’m on a new training program and it’s nice simply because it’s switching up what I was used to doing. It’s also a bit more challenging, but I felt I was ready for that with half #3. I think it would be worth it to try a different plan for your second to help figure out what works best for you, but that’s just my opinion 😉

    • You never know how something new will work out until you try it right? 🙂 Good luck sticking with the strength training! I’ll confess that I did planks on push ups on the floor at the library today just to get something in. Don’t worry! No witnesses!

  2. Kristin says:

    Great post and it sounds like you had a good training plan plus you listened to your body which is always important.
    My half marathon is next Sunday and I wouldn’t change anything about my training. I have a running/swimming coach (he’s a pro triathlete) so I trust everything he gives me! 😉

    • So cool that you have a coach! It would be nice to have such a readily available resource for questions and for motivation on the days it is hard to get out there. Good luck with your half marathon next Sunday! I’ll send speedy vibes your way.

  3. Good post and review of the training plan. I think Hal Higdon offers really good training plans as well as very useful advice on his site. I make my own training plans but they are based on information and other training plans I read online at some point, including Hal Higdon’s.

    • I read a lot of them when I was deciding what to do for this half marathon and will probably read through a lot when I decide what to do for the next one. I like the idea of writing your own based on several different plans.

  4. That is so exciting you’ve decided to run another half! When in the fall does it take place?

    I followed the Jeff Galloway plan for the PHM last year and felt very comfortable going into the race. For my 2nd half and first 10-miler, I didn’t follow plans. I just made sure that I safely increased my miles until I felt like I was ready for the race and that worked out wonderfully as well. For the marathon, I followed a VERY strict plan…for a race that long, I wouldn’t go any other route than a training plan.

    I understand that feeling of training plan burn out. After a while, you just want to run for fun! It doesn’t take too long to get that racing itch back though haha :0)

    • It’ll be October 19th, so the weather should be nice for training and for race day. I think I’ll go with a training plan for that race but may just wing it for my other goal for the year of improving my 5K time. Any 5K plan I see is either getting you to cover the distance, which I can do, or 5 workouts a week which is far more intense than I’m interested in for that particular goal! Thus, I think just an easy run, a long run and some speed work each week will be my approach to get ready for a faster 5K sometime later this spring. This is all about trial and error right?

      I absolutely agree that a strict training plan for your first marathon is essential! Clearly it worked well for you. 🙂 That is such a huge undertaking that clear guidance is definitely needed.

  5. […] back at my thoughts on my half marathon training cycle for the Princess Half Marathon, there are a few things I learned from that process that […]

  6. […] to decide on a training plan. For my first half marathon, I used a Hal Higdon plan (more on that here) and highly recommend it for your first race of any distance really. It was easy to follow and hit […]

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