So you have signed up for a big race like Gate River Run or 26.2 with Donna but not sure where to start or what kind of training plan to use? I will go over the main points that you want to think about when deciding on a training plan, where and when to begin training and whether you need a coach.
There are many different training plans out there, some are free and some you pay for. There are also many good coaches that offer different types of services. You will first want to determine what your goals for the race are; whether to just complete it, to set a PR (personal record) or run it with a friend. Then decide what level of runner you are and how many miles you are currently running.
A good training plan should have several training blocks and be anywhere from 12-24 weeks. The 26.2 with Donna is about 24 weeks away which is a good amount of time to start training if you are a beginner and do not have much of a base. The Gate River Run, which is only a 15k race, is about 26 weeks away and beginners would want 14-16 weeks to train properly.
Once you build a base and run 3-4 times a week consistently for about 4 weeks then it is time to add some speed work, tempo runs and bridge runs…but not all at once! I like to start people off with short 1 minute fartleks which will give people the idea of what it feels like to increase their heart rate, but then recover. Speed work helps your body physically adapt to that hard effort so that your long runs feel easier. Tempo runs can start at about one mile and build each week. These are great for those people trying to PR in a race. These tempo runs should be at race pace or a little faster. It is difficult to expect your body to run a specific pace on race day if you have never run that pace for more than a mile. Running bridges helps build leg strength and muscle endurance and since the 26.2 with Donna and The Gate River Run both have bridges, it is also excellent training. Believe me you do not want to wait until race day to find out how fun the bridges are! Then of course there is the long run. A good training plan will have you build 2-3 weeks and then recover a week. These runs with always depends on your level of training and whether you have any injuries.
Deciding on whether or not to get a coach depends on your level of knowledge and experience as well as your accountability. A coach is great to not only make sure you are on track for what you need to do to hit your goal but also to keep you from doing too much. I know many athletes are overly eager and do too much too soon and get injured. I am a coach and have found that even I perform better with a coach because he made sure I recovered properly. For those people that are busy juggling work, kids and family, a coach can adjust your training schedule accordingly. Instead of you trying to “make up” workouts which can be a bad idea, a coach can schedule a series of workouts to keep your training on pace with your goals without interfering with your life. I also incorporate strength training which helps prevent injuries and get you up and over the bridge in both 26.2 with Donna and The Gate River Run!
The most important thing is to find a plan or coach that works best in your life, schedule and budget. Be realistic with your goals whether you are a beginner or a seasoned athlete. Plan for holidays and bad weather and know your limitations. Ask a lot of questions and use your resources. There is plenty of information but do not get overwhelmed with too much information. Think about nutrition, shoes, training gear and group runs. This is such a great city to run in and plenty of great people to run with. Remember this is fun, so go out, run and always smile for the cameras!