Sub-1:50 half marathon training: Week 6

January’s snow scuppered mine and many other runners’ spring training, along with many people’s race schedules. I’m lucky that my target race isn’t until April and that my training won’t suffer too much from a week of slower (and slippier) running. However lots of runners have were concerned about taking part in this weekend’s rescheduled Southern Counties Cross Country Championships because of the very real possibility of slipping down a muddy hill and breaking body parts that may be essential for their big Spring race.

I’ll be honest, when I considered how muddy the race venue on Hampstead Heath was inevitably going to be I worked through pretty much every feasible excuse I could think of to avoid running the race. But I knew that a bit of hill running would be good training, and… well… telling people I ran in a championship race just sounds kinda awesome, doesn’t it?

In the aftermath of the race I’m glad I took part. As I mentioned last week, half marathon training feels like I’m running in a much slower gear than usual because I’m now running longer reps at the lower end of my threshold pace, and so as terrifying as the prospect of clambering and clawing (and believe me, I clambered and clawed) my way up muddy hills was, it was good to get back in my fast gear for an afternoon. Well, as fast as you can be when you’re calf deep in mud and halfway up a hill that can only be described as Travelator/Get Your Own Back hybrid (anyone for some 90s TV references?)

I’ll get a decent review of the cross country race up in the next day or two, but in the meantime here is the weekly round up of my calf-battering, carb-demolishing, race-pace-nailing half marathon training:

Monday: Race pace mile reps
Yup, I am still determined to nail that race pace. My schedule called for 3 x race pace miles with 3 minutes recovery in between. This session wasn’t meant to be a snazzy or over-technical threshold run with carefully calculated recovery periods. Instead I hoped it would give me chance to practice hitting that pace, three times over. Just like last week, I took my race pace session to my local hilly park so that I could simulate the ups and downs of the half marathon’s route. After all, there’s no point practicing my race pace on a track-flat road, is there?!

I’m rather enjoying these weekly steady sessions. My training has been rather structured since last Autumn and even though these steady runs are part of a training plan, this steady, natural-running-pace kind of run makes me feel really quite calm. It’s the kind of pace that makes me feel like I’m going to drift off into the world of running for an hour or two, where no one can interrupt me or nag me or annoy me… I think that this is the kind of running that has the power to transport you into that oh so mystical ‘zone’.

3 miles at race pace felt too good. I ran a fourth. Two at 8:30, two at 8:00. Considering two reps included a big, F-off hill, and two reps included a smooth descent I think we can safely say I nailed that race pace.

Tuesday: Strength training
Did you know that Charmed is now being repeated on E4 during weekday mornings? And 90210? That’s what I was watching while squatting, lunging and doing my press ups this week. Now that I am no longer an overly hormonal teenager I’ve noticed that Rose McGowan is actually a really irritating actress.

Wednesday: Threshold
I cut my threshold reps back this week in preparation for this weekend’s 8km cross country and squeezed out 6 x 4minutes with 60 seconds rest. I hit the upper end of my threshold pace and, after a couple of weeks of longer reps, this felt like a jog in the park!

Thursday: Rest
Thursday is my long day working out of London – lots of traveling and teaching, and no time for running. This Thursday was also Valentine’s day and I had been persuaded by the GF to trade in my romantic pessimism and indulge in the V-day tradition. I’m glad I did, because we went out to the incredible La Vina tapas bar in Harringay for one of the best damn steaks I have ever eaten and a really wonderful date. I’m sure that all the iron that I consumed and the giggling that we did is good for my training. The half a bottle of vino on the other hand…

Friday: Long run
By some miracle I woke up on Friday morning without a hangover and got ready for my long run. My long run routes have been really flat the last couple of weeks as I have headed South towards the Thames. This week I decided to head out on a bumpier route to compare my legs. I managed 13.5 miles again and in only a few minutes more than my flatter route. That, my friends, is progress.


I took the Parkland Walk out of Finsbury Park and followed the disused railway line all the way to Highgate, stopping briefly while some filming took place beneath a railway bridge and to take a photo of the amazing elf that lives one of the railway arches (does anyone know where it came from??). I dodged the magical allure of Hampstead Heath and stuck to the main roads, running around the perimeter of the Heath, through Hampstead village, and down to Regents Park (that downhill is so much fun). Of course, what goes down must come up, and so I went over Primrose Hill, up to Chalk Farm, past a very amusing and apt sandwich board, and back up (up…) to Finsbury Park, where I returned home and sank into the bath for a long, long time to think about how I could persuade my tired legs to co-operate at tomorrow’s cross country…

Saturday: Tempo run

My rather sloppy knees as I enter a second lap of the 8K SEAA XC course

I had originally scheduled in a hard and fast 5K parkrun for this week, but then the Southern Counties Cross Country Championships were rescheduled and I faced the prospect of an incredibly tough 8K cross country race. I was terrified and in a bit of a tizz before the race, forgetting my safety pins and convincing myself that I was going to be late. In the end I was nearly an hour early and spent some time scouting out the course and beating the toilet queue. The race was a great chance to catch up with friends from Mornington Chasers who I no longer get to see at weekly training, including my old running buddy Sarah (who put in a storming effort as part of her own half marathon training) and Edd (who lazily didn’t run, but did a smashing job of hanging out, taking photos and cheering us on). A full race report is to follow…

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Sarah was determined to get her muddy legs into our post-race photo, much to a passing Chaser’s amusement.

Sunday: Rest
Aah… Rest… And quite well deserved I think.

How has your week’s training been? Have you got any races or time trials in your Spring training schedule?




3 thoughts on “Sub-1:50 half marathon training: Week 6

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