Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Kara Goucher Half Marathon Training Plan Review

How's that for a long, wordy, title?

For the first time in years I used a pre-made training plan. Previously, after a few HM's under my belt I was taking bits and pieces of different plan and piecing them together to make my own. Take it all with a grain of salt, since I am in no way a qualified professional, just an avid runner, who can't seem to just follow recipes training plans.

I had already mis-mashed together a plan to train for the Boston Trail Half Marathon - which isn't really a trail, but rather an old RR bed turned into a crushed limestone path. But, then I found Kara's plan and tossed mine right out the window.


You can find Kara Goucher's Half Marathon Training Plan here. It's 10 weeks long, with options for higher or lower mileage each week. As we all know, I can't leave well enough alone, so I actually cut this plan down to 3 days of running each week, leaving the heart of the plan intact, with 1 easy run, 1 speed workout and 1 long run.

I can truly say, that even though I did not hit my goal, I know I have it in me. This is far and away the most physically ready I've felt to run a PR race in a long time, and I attribute it all to this plan. I want to talk a little bit about the positives in this plan, and of course, a bit about the negatives as well.


PROs :

Shorter training cycle : In training cycles past, I have felt burned out by the end, after 12+ weeks of training, I am ready to be finished, and I am ready to take a break from structured running. Kara's plan is only 10 weeks long, which is the perfect length of time. I started the plan with a good base of running (for me) and I do believe that is necessary in order to succeed with her plan, however, the unstructured mileage and days of the week kept me from feeling burned out.

Speed workout done at HM pace : I'm going to be running a half marathon. That's 13.1 miles at or around a specific pace, why would I want to focus on paces that aren't that pace? Speed workouts often seem to focus on fast paces and short distances, 400's & 800's. And that's nice, but a half marathon is 26 x 800, and I really don't want to break my race down that way. Instead, Kara's plan focuses on spending time at your goal pace, as well as slightly faster and slightly slower paces per mile to get you comfortable with the inevitable variation race day paces will bring.


Variety of speed work : The speed work in this plan is done at or around race pace - but don't let that fool you, you won't spend each week running just one more mile at race pace. The workouts in this plan are varied, including the distance, the pace, and the rest (or lack thereof) in between sets. In plans past I've felt like each week I just increased the number of 400's or 800's I was doing, and for what purpose? Each workout this go-round felt like it made me stronger.

CONs :

Long runs not long enough : This may just be me, but I feel more comfortable with one or two 12 mile runs under my belt, but the highest this training plan gets is 1 x 10 mile + 1 x 11 mile. When I use this plan next time I'll tweak it to up my long run distances slightly to include a few longer runs.

Does not include cross training : While the plan does give an option to add strength training in one day per week, I've found that is not enough for me. Hence why I had to tinker with the plan. Many folks who know I only run 3 days per week think that I take 4 rest days. Quite the contrary, I'm actively strength training and cross training, I'm not doing nothing, I'm simply not running.


Overall, I think this plan was a good fit for me, and I think with a few more tweaks it will be the perfect plan for me. I'll definitely be using this while training for my fall half, and for other, future HM's.

I was all set to talk about my plans for the next few weeks and whether or not I plan to race Pittsburgh, but I'm just not quite ready, and still not quite sure what my plans are. I'm writing this Tuesday, and haven't run yet post race, but do think I'll venture to the gym tomorrow, maybe for a run, maybe not. But at least some activity since I've pretty much been a toad since Saturday.

Anyone else used this plan before?
What's your favorite training plan to use for a HM - or do you make your own?

Linking with Amanda to share.

12 comments:

  1. At some point, I'd really like to commit to an actual training plan. I don't see that happening for a while - but maybe I can find a nice 5k plan that will suit my needs.

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    1. If you find a good 5K plan, let me know, I feel like so many ran super long runs for a 5K, like 8 and 9 mile long runs, which seems to defeat the purpose of training for a 5K!

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  2. I'm glad you liked this plan! I followed it to get ready for full marathon training, but I'm looking forward to devoting a training cycyle to this. I think it will work really well for me so I'm excited to see how it goes!! Looking forward to Pittsburgh!

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    1. Me too! I'm excited to use this plan again in the fall and see how things turn out!

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  3. Well, Kara is a beast at the half marathon, so I'm not surprised her plan worked so well for you! :-)

    I don't like cookie cutter plans, so I make my own. But I don't know what I'm doing, so for my next marathon training plan, I started reading Brad Hudson's Run Faster From the 5K to the Marathon, which is about how to coach yourself using adaptive running. Only halfway through the book and I can already tell it's going to revolutionize the way I train. So many things I thought I was doing well were actually working against me, and so many things I haven't been doing that I should have!

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    1. Ooh, this sounds really interesting, may have to see if I can reserve at the library. I loved making my own plans, but felt like I had less drive to complete them, because I don't actually know if they work. I just kind of made things up that I liked to do that I had seen in other plans. I figure Kara knows what's up.

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  4. I've not heard of this one. I always use the Marathoning for Mortals book - it has so many options for different training / walking/running - run-walk - Its a 16 week plan.It always is my go-to.

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    1. 16 weeks feels SO LONG to me. Haha, and this is why I can't just leave well enough alone and always seem to adapt my plans. 10 weeks seemed like the perfect amount, though I probably did spend another 6 weeks building up with less structure.

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  5. Thank you for this! I was just looking at this plan to possibly use for a race in August so nice to hear what it's really like. I also would cut down to 3 days of running + cross-training. That is a much better fit for me than all running too.

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    1. Let me know how you like it, it's always so interesting to me the different things people like or dislike about training plans!

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  6. I love that the speed work is at HM pace; I hadn't heard of Kara's plan before this. I like to get one 12 mile run in too before a HM, (just for confidence's sake.)

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    1. Yes, exactly! Even though I have run lots of HM's before, it still helps me each time to know that the race is only 1.1 miles more than I did in training!

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