My Fall Training Block – From 5k to Half Marathon

I spent the spring getting back into running after an injury, followed by some base building in the summer. By August, it was time to actually train a bit and set a baseline for what kind of times I could achieve.

I didn’t have a solid plan, and I kind of muddled through a bit. But I figured I’d step things up from a 5k time trial to a 10k time trial to a half marathon. Along the way, I’d increase my long run, incorporate some tempo runs, and maybe do some intervals.

Now that it’s over and I’m recovering from the half, I wanted to take a few minute to look back and reflect.

Finishing the Base Building

In August, I was still focusing on increasing my mileage a little bit. My longest run before August was 9 miles, so I still had some work to do there. And my average weekly mileage was still in the low 20’s – I wanted it to be 30.

So over August I stuck with easy running and kept increasing volume. Tuesday and Thursday were easy runs, but they increased from five miles to six. Wednesday and Saturday were also easy runs of three to four miles.

Sunday, at this point, was my main “workout.” It was my long run. The first Sunday of the month I was supposed to attempt 10 miles. But it didn’t go well.

I’d been out the night before at a family cookout, drinking. We got in late, and I was up super early to finish the run before I had to do some work. Things started off fine, but after 5 or 6 miles I was having some digestive issues. I struggled through for another mile, but then I had to call it quits and walk home.

My Sundays got better over the rest of the month, though. The next week, I finished my first 10 mile run – all on trails. I accidentally picked a trail with a lot of elevation, and I climbed 1,100 feet over those ten miles. I was tired, but I made it. The next week, I stuck with ten miles on the street, and it felt easy by comparison.

Preparing for a 5k Time Trial

As I came to the end of August, I took a down week. I kept running 5 days a week, but my easy runs were only 3.25 miles, and my long run was only 7. This let me rest up a bit as well, because I wanted to try a 5k time trial the next week.

I woke up Tuesday morning and jogged to the nearby park for a warm-up. My loop was just about 3 miles, so perfect for a 5k. After I warmed up, I hit the street.

I was hoping to finish at about an 8:00/mi pace, and I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. I went out a little fast in the beginning (7:55 for the first half mile), eased into 8:00/mi for the next mile, and then sped up a little towards the end.

The end was a bit of a struggle, but my pace didn’t waver. I kept under 8:00/mi the remainder of the race and kicked a little in the last tenth of a mile. When I hit 3.1 miles, my time was 24:38. I beat my goal, and even did slightly better than my old PR from when I was 30.

Things were starting to look up a bit.

Training Up to a 10k

My next goal, at the end of September, was to finish a 10k time trial and see how I’d do at that distance. I knew I could run the distance, it was just a matter of maintaining my speed over the six miles.

Without a whole lot of time, I figured I’d keep focusing on my long runs and incorporate some tempo running. This would help me maintain pace over the distance, and tempo running is a similar pace to a 10k (at least for me).

I kept up with the 10 mile long runs. My pace improved slightly, and I still maintained an easy effort.

In the third week, I decided to work a mini-10k into the middle of my long run, just to make sure I could maintain something above my easy pace for 6 miles.

I warmed up at my usual easy pace (~10:00-10:30/mi) for 2.5 miles, and then I kicked it up a gear. I eased into a moderately more difficult, but still sustainable, pace. Over the six miles, I averaged 8:57/mi. I then rounded out the run with a cool down to bring me to 10 miles.

It was exhausting, but it felt good. I figured if I could run 6 miles at that pace in the middle of a long run, I could definitely run a better pace in a stand alone 10k.

Meanwhile, on Thursdays, I started doing a tempo run workout. I started with a simple 20 minute steady state tempo. I used my 5k time and Jack Daniel’s VDOT calculator to determine my pace. The first workout, I did 8:15-8:30/mi. In the second, I picked up the pace a bit, and I held a pace of 8:00-8:15/mi throughout the workout.

The 10k Time Trial

After three weeks, I took another down week. Similar to the previous month, it was time to rest up a bit, recuperate, and prepare for the time trial.

The 10k time trial went similar to the 5k. Same route, but a little over two laps this time.

Based on the 5k, and the idea that I should be “improving” over the course of the month, I was a little optimistic in terms of pace. I wanted to beat 50:00. Definitely not out of the question, but it was a bit of a stretch.

My plan was to start a little behind my target pace and speed up over the course of the run. I went out a bit too fast in the first half mile (3:59), but I managed to pull it back over the next mile and a half and settle into a 8:10-8:15/mi pace.

My splits were pretty even until around mile 4, when I found myself slacking a bit. I think it was the lack of a crowd to race with and the length of the race causing me to lose focus. Plus, likely, getting a little tired. I fell off my pace and hit a split at 8:23/mi. Not good.

I had been planning on trying to run a negative split anyway, so I took that as a sign that I should kick it into another gear. For the next mile I did, coming in at 4:02 and 4:00 at the splits.

But then I started to yo-yo a bit. I fell off, and hit 4:06, pushed it for the next half mile, and hit 3:55, before falling off again during the closing quarter mile.

I came in at 50:22. All in all, it was still a great time, and it was a personal PR. I hadn’t broken 50 minutes, and I realized my stamina wasn’t quite there. But I’m sure given a little more time, there’s no question that I’ll break 50 minutes and then some.

Final Month to the Half Marathon

The last thing on my to do list for the year was to finish the half marathon. I figured I was in decent shape, and I had enough volume to finish. But did I have enough stamina to finish strong?

I kept the focus on long runs, but I started to make them fast finish long runs. Over three weeks, I ended my long runs with first 3, then 4, then 5 miles at about half marathon pace.

I also kept up with the tempo runs. My weekday workout was 3×10 minutes at tempo. The workouts felt great.

Two weeks out from my goal race – my last real workout before a little taper – I thought I’d try something new (and harder). I did some 800m intervals, and after a quick recovery jog, I capped it off with 2 miles at half marathon pace. It was exhausting, but I felt good.

At that point, it was time to prepare for the half marathon. I’m going to write a separate post about my taper and my recovery. And I already wrote up a reflection on the time trial itself.

You can read more about my lessons learned from a half marathon time trial here.

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