Sub-1:50 half marathon training: Week 3

I dropped the ball and missed a run. Last week I ran through a snow storm (well, the London equivalent of a snow storm) and diligently ran all of my planned sessions despite the slippy paths. I thought myself to be an undeniable running force, determined to the end. But then Saturday’s Southern Championships cross country race was cancelled, and then parkrun was cancelled too! It’s difficult to muster the will to run on your own when a whole day’s running has been legitimately cancelled.

I planned to make up for it by running on Sunday morning before going to work – I even left my housemate’s birthday party so that I could get 8 hours kip in before a run – but when my alarm went off at 8am the injustice of having to work on a Sunday hit home.  I began a bed occupation, determined to enjoy every possible minute in the duvet cocoon I had invested so much of my own body heat and energy into creating. I got up at 10am, just in time for some breakfast before cycling to work.

Like I said, I dropped the ball.

If we overlook this weekend’s missed tempo run though (please let’s overlook it…) training still seems to be going well. Below is my week in training, including the dilemmas of speedwork without a treadmill or track and a confidence boosting long run.

Monday: Hill sprints
My meticulously designed training plan called for 10 minutes flat threshold, 5 hill sprints with 90 second recovery, and another 10 minutes flat threshold running. This would have been fine (well, as fine as hill sprints can ever be) if Finsbury Park wasn’t still ankle deep in snow. Many Londoners and Finsbury Park enthusiasts will be familiar with all of its bumpy bits, which is why hundreds of children had been encouraged to sledge down it all weekend, compressing all that fluffy snow into solid, runner-repellent ice. My favourite hill had become a health hazard and so I found myself running on the snow covered grass instead of the path, which had itself been churned up by dogs (no doubt going crazy for the white stuff) to reveal sludgy mud, not much better for running on than the god damn ice. Oh well, I completed the session, albeit with a form almost as sloppy as the surface I was running on. Good cross country training at least, eh?

Tuesday: Strength training
Despite fear of the recurrent DOMS I completed a 40 minute strength session in my front room while watching Charmed and 90210 out of the corner of my eye (I’m an unashamed fan of E4 and all of its audio-visual tripe). I did a combo of leg and core work using my beloved kettlebell and followed the session with porridge, lecture writing and remarkably less discomfort than in previous weeks. This of course begs the question: if I stop aching after a strength session should I a.) increase my weights/reps, or b.) enjoy the easy lifting? Answers on a postcard please folks.

Wednesday: 30 minute progressive run with 10 minutes at target HM pace
Hmmm… how on earth do you execute a decent progressive run without a treadmill? The session requires you to slowly increase your pace to a target pace (in this case 10 minutes of increasing from a steady pace to HM pace) followed by a period of time at that target pace (in this case, 10 minutes), followed by slowly decreasing pace again (over a period of 10 minutes). The trick is to maintain pace despite aching legs and also not to increase or decrease too quickly. This is a session that teaches you control.

It’s hard to be controlled when you’re running in hilly parks, so I measured a long, straight road not too far from my house using and decided to run a 0.5mile straight back and forth. Once I knew where my turning points were on the road (a T junction and a railway bridge) the plan was to run a steady 9min/mile for the first 0.5 mile stretch, increase to about 8:30 on the second and then hold target HM pace for two whole stretches back and forth along the road, timing myself down each to ensure that my run did indeed ‘progress’ steadily and then decrease appropriately. Despite passing my neighbours several times as they walked to the tube and bus stops and getting a few funny looks the session went pretty well. Tuning into that HM pace is getting easier, but I’m still checking my watch an awful lot for reassurance.

Thursday: Rest day
Thursday is my rest day and it couldn’t have come any sooner. My body was aching and my appetite was out of control. I had two breakfasts to try and reign my rumbling tummy in a bit – some granola and yoghurt and a mini pannetone on the train to my lecturing job, and some porridge with oatmilk, banana and honey when I arrived in the office. It satiated the hunger for a few hours, but by lunchtime the students were looking quite edible… I think I’m going to have to start eating a bit more during training.

Friday: 13 mile long run
I was so looking forward to this week’s long run. I actually plotted out my route on Wednesday in preparation! Some of my favourite long runs have been with fellow Mornington Chaser, Kayleigh, along the River Thames via St. Paul’s Cathedral. I still miss running with the Chaser’s but have months to go until my jobs allow me to train with them again. Instead I mapped a route that would let me enjoy some of those much missed paths again, albeit alone and on a Friday lunchtime.


The run was fabulous and erred on the easier side of steady. The river was as beautiful as always, St Paul’s was fun to lap, and I can’t help but smile as I run over Tower Bridge and remember that this is my city and I can run on and around and over and under all of these landmarks as often as I damn well please. The best part of this week’s long run was clocking 13.1 miles faster than several of my half marathon races where I have been sweating out of my arsehole. 13.5 mile run in 2:07:00. If I can run that on an easy day, then surely a PB is in the bag…?

I followed my long run with a trip to the supermarket for lunch and cooked myself steak with roasted sweet potato and squash, and steamed carrots and peas, and followed that with a 10 mile cycle ride to the movies. Needless to say I left my bike at the movies and collected it the next day.

Saturday: Ball dropping
As I said earlier, I totally dropped the ball on Saturday. First of all the Southern Championships cross country fixture was cancelled (read more about that here and perhaps also read Simon Freeman’s thoughts about race cancellations).  Loads of parkrun events were cancelled this week too because of snow and ice in the parks and my local park was one of them. I was quite tired of running on the ice anyway and decided to take the day off. Instead I went to collect my bike from South Kensington and cycled home via Look Mum No Hands for lunch and Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club’s jumble sale. £30, 1 pair of velvet platforms and plenty of black chiffon later (I’ve decided that 2013 is going to be the year of disco goth chic) I got home to my aforementioned housemate’s birthday party with aching thighs and an excellent party outfit.

Sunday: Rest

Next week I have just 3 runs: 10 minute threshold reps, a continuous race pace run and a 10K timetrial! Here’s hoping that my training is on track…


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