Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How to train for a half marathon in 4 weeks.

So I read this article and it totally made me feel better about my half marathon coming up on April 27. I'm no longer doing the marathon for very obvious reasons. Make no mistake, there will be hell to pay on that course and along the way...and by no means am I at the fitness level this dude is at...but I do feel like sooner or later my legs will "remember" and my right foot won't get numb. And my lower calf muscles won't scream in protest during and after a run. And my thighs won't hurt walking down the stairs the day after running two days in a row. Does it sound like I'm complaining? I'm not, really. I welcome it, because it means that I'm moving. And there will come a time again when 4 miles is a short run, and I wouldn't even IMAGINE walking for parts of it. It'll happen, this I know. But question is, why do I do this to myself? What will make me stay on top of my running year-round? That's a blog post I'll work on soon. I have some theories beyond laziness. Hmmm...anyway, here's this dude's story. And I'm intrigued at the possiblity of doing this half marathon, also:


The Craziest Way to Train for a Half Marathon

by Michael Easter November 8, 2012, 12:00 pm EDT

Can you train for a half marathon in just 4 weeks? That’s the challenge Men’s Health fitness reporter (generally fit guy—but infrequent runner) Michael Easter gave himself when he signed up for the Atlantic City Half Marathon with just a month to train. Could an idea so ill-conceived possibly succeed? Read on to find out—and see if it could work for you.

With 720 hours to train between Friday September 21, and Sunday, October 21, signing up for the Atlantic City Half Marathon just 4 weeks prior to the blast of the starting gun seemed sensible as I stared at the calendar on my desk.

I clicked the button to confirm my entry on the race website, officially joining the ranks, and then Googled “how to train for a half marathon in 4 weeks.”

Google’s consensus: not enough time. Six weeks, various websites indicated, is the bare minimum one needs to physically prepare to run 13.1 miles. But the Internet has led me astray before—once convincing me that a simple cough was undoubtedly lung cancer, and in April telling me that the Red Sox had a solid chance to make a playoff run this year.

So I consulted an expert: Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., co-owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. She’s a fitness Jedi, frequent contributor to Men’s Health, and the mastermind behind the legendary Spartacus Workout. I knew she wouldn’t steer me wrong.

Friday, September 21, 2012, 10:35 a.m.

Hey Rachel-

I’m running a half marathon that’s exactly 4 weeks away from this Sunday. I haven’t run in a while, but last I checked I could run 7 miles. What are your thoughts? Any 4-week half marathon training advice to offer?


Friday, September, 21, 2012, 2:11 p.m.

Hi Michael,

It’s not the greatest idea.

But if you are to do it, you should build up to a 10-mile run and should only add about 10 percent volume a week, so it’s really important that you’re sure that you can actually run 7 miles.

Then you should only increase volume by about 10 percent a week so the long run would build up something like this –

week one- 7 mi

week two- 8 mi

week three- 9 mi

week four- 9 miles

Race- 13.1 miles

The total volume each week would build like this –

Week one- 11 total miles (7 mile run, plus two 2 mile runs)

Week two- 13 total miles (8 mile run, plus two 2.5 mile runs)

Week three- 15 total miles (9 mile run plus two 3 mile runs)

Week four- 20.1 total miles (13.1 mile race plus two 3.5 mile runs)

You might think about doing a sprint workout run for one of the shorter runs, and you should make sure to add hills in your runs.

In addition – focus on RECOVERY, include a strength workout twice a week, and make sure to do some stretching and foam rolling.

Let me know if you decide to go ahead with it. Overall it would be much better to have 6-12 weeks.


My takeaway: Was this possible? Yes. Advisable? No.

Whatever. Once you’ve committed to a competitive endeavor, sporting or otherwise, I believe that you should give it your all. So I set a time goal of 1 hour and 45 minutes, slightly over an 8-minute mile, figuring that would put me in the top 25 percent of finishers—if I finished, that is. (Want top training advice for your first big race? Check out The 101 Best Running Tips Ever.) Editorial comment: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA planning on having a not-so-stellar run at 8-min per mile? WOW.

The Training Begins

The first run of my 4-week program left me feeling cautiously optimistic. I ran all 7 miles, but it took me 1:05—a pace that would put me over my goal in the actual race.

From there, I did weightlifting sessions on Wednesday and Friday, combined with shorter runs on Tuesday and Thursday. I’d perform upper body exercises like bench presses, pullups, rows, and high pulls on one day, and lower body exercises like deadlifts, squats, box jumps, and hip raises on the other. The two runs took place outside, and were the exact distance that Cosgrove suggested.

The second week’s long run went better than expected. It put me on pace for my 1:45 minute goal. I was closing in on my prey—this race was my lamb to sacrificially slaughter.

But then the lamb grew fangs. I felt weaker in the gym the following week, and was exhausted toward the end of my 10-mile, final run. That night a friend asked me if I was ready for the race next weekend. “Not so much.”

Then my problem hit me: I hadn’t “recovered,” in the full sense of recovery. Yes, the days I didn’t work out I’d relax, maybe do some foam rolling, and ice my knees, but I was failing on the nutrition end of things. I thought I was eating enough, but after running the numbers I discovered that I was eating just 2,300 calories a day. I should have been putting down around 3,000.

The fix was simple: I pounded at least 3,000 calories every day. And all those carbs, proteins, and fats helped me finish my third week’s short runs and weight training sessions strong. But my failure the previous Sunday lingered heavy at the cusp of my mind.

A Miracle on the Boardwalk

I arrived in Atlantic City on Saturday evening and stayed the night at Revel, the newest hotel on the city’s famed boardwalk. After pounding enough pasta at a hotel restaurant to relieve a day’s worth of hunger in a small developing country, I navigated through the opulent casino back to my room.

The danger of an athletic event held in a town built on sin is that the night before, you must have the fortitude to avoid 24-hour gambling and cocktail service (or not). It’s harder than it sounds. As I passed men in jackets hurling red dice, scantily clad waitresses yelling “cocktails,” and the seizure inducing lights and sounds of slot machines, I felt drawn into the sin. But then I saw a man in a jogging suit at a roulette wheel, screaming something about black as he quaffed a brown liquid from a rocks glass. He’ll be the guy wheezing and throwing up at the 4-mile mark, I thought to myself as I hurried to the elevator.

I awoke at 7 a.m. and watched the sun rise over the Atlantic while I foam rolled my lower body one last time before the race. After a walk from Revel to the starting gate, the gun blasted at 8 and we were off. The first few miles seemed much farther than the 5,280 feet that they were, and my goal seemed unthinkable. But I trucked on, attempting to block out the exhausted feeling in my body.

Then something happened. As I turned a corner for the race’s final 5.1 miles, onto the slotted hardwood boardwalk—past glitzy casinos, wooden roller coasters, fried food stalls, shrieking seagulls, and the vast Atlantic—the sea air swept my face cool and salty, and somewhere, Springsteen blasted from invisible speakers. (Editorial comment: I SOOOO want to run right here!) Let the record show that when you’re running a race on a Jersey Shore boardwalk and “Born to Run” is playing, it feels like anything is possible.

Hell, at that moment, I could have won that race. The experience hurled me directly into that hard-to-find flow state, where all cylinders fire in unison, and exercise seems effortless.

And once you find that flow, the only course of action is to tap into it as violently as possible. To suck every last bit of energy from it until you can’t go anymore. So I did. Blocks of seconds started falling from my final miles, and I finished the race in an hour and 35 minutes.

A race completed at 10 minutes under my goal time, done with just 4 total weeks of training. Editorial comment: I'm not expecting said results, just being clear here. My goal is to finish. And NOT be my worst half marathon time, which I won't disclose at this moment, because I personally know people--or at least one person--who's run faster marathon times.. This was the way to do a marathon. Could I have logged a better time with more time to train? Yes. Would it have been worth it? Not to me. That’s because, with limited running time and weight lifting, I was able to maintain muscle mass while burning fat. Most long-run training plans burn muscle like a gambling junkie burns cash at the horse track. Editorial comment: This is another divergence from his way of thinking, but whatever...

5 Weeks to Your Half Marathon

Point is, you don’t need to devote a full 12 weeks of training to running a half marathon if you can already cover the first 7 miles with no trouble. The key is to limit your running time, lift weights, and focus on recovery. If you want to try a shorter, less traditional training program for a half marathon, give this 5-week plan from Cosgrove a shot. (And for more must-have tips from the pros, read these 13 Things Serious Runners Wish You Knew.)

BTW, you'll have to follow the link at the top of this article to see the 5-week plan, it's formatting funny here.

So anyway...4 weeks til my half marathon. And 4 weeks is better than 3. And better than no training at all. Right? Anyway....

(Quote I carried with me for the marathon.) Me love sarcasm.

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