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1/2 Marathon Training: Week #1 Recap

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1/2 Marathon Training: Week #1 Recap

In this weekly blog series, I plan to share a training recap as I prepare for Brew City 1/2 Marathon in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It will include an overview of my training plan with the good, the bad, & the ugly which every runner undoubtedly experiences along the way. Enjoy and let me know if you have any feedback or thoughts based on your experience.


Week #1 - Tuesday, January 3rd:


Today was officially day #1… Although I’ve done a pretty decent job over the past 3-months running 3-4x/week with a foundational/base building phase, it was good to kick things off in the New Year. Brew City 1/2 Marathon is on Saturday, April 22nd which will get here quickly and is officially 16-weeks away.


The run today called for 4-miles at easy pace and I elected to complete it on the dreadmill, I mean treadmill. It’s been raining all day and I was getting pretty grumpy mid-afternoon from some work stuff stressing me out. So I decided to blow off steam and get the run completed. That way I could get back home and finish work at a reasonable hour before dinner. I spent the entire run listening to the Gestalt Education Show Podcast and seemed to run mindlessly while absorbing the content.


As I reflect on my Garmin metrics, the goal of the run was executed fairly well. Truthfully, I’m a very poor aerobic runner… From years playing high intensity sports that require quick bursts, I’ve never done well in the "easy/conversational" pace range.


For those of you who don’t know, easy pace is where all the aerobic gains happen and you should be able to comfortably hold a conversation throughout due to it occurring at relatively low intensity. The adaptations include: increasing heart strength & capillary density, and providing adequate oxygen to the working tissues. From a heart rate standpoint, we are looking for 65-79% of maximum heart rate which I hit fairly well. I was at 144bpm which is zone 3 on Garmin and I’ll work on getting the heart rate lower into zone 2 as training progresses.


Because I struggle here, I have a very hard time controlling my heart rate if I start too fast. So it’s important to stay disciplined from the start of an easy run in order not to lose control. Interestingly enough, I can maintain higher intensities more effortlessly but, of course, to be a good runner you need to build mileage and the majority of that happens at easy pace.


Up later this week is 3-miles @ easy pace with strides and 6-miles @ easy/long run pace. Nothing fancy to get started but simply knocking the rust off after a 1-week break over the holidays. I strategically planned the off week since the research on bone stress injuries tells us that bone needs rest every so often to continue adapting to the repetitive demands of running. Not to mention it was the holidays and a perfect time for some rest and recovery while hanging with family.


Thursday, January 5th:


Back to the treadmill we go! 3-miles at easy pace with 3 strides was on the schedule for today. Simple, quick, and on to the next one.


I find it’s easy to remain patient when mileage is so low. That seems like a consistent theme with my running clients too. Time is scarce alongside work, family, and other personal commitments. I completely understand! But at the same time we need to be diligent with the goal of each run to actually build that adaptation. So make sure you keep your easy runs “easy” regardless of the distance to reap the benefit of your training.


Strides are simply short accelerations to a faster pace with a slow walk in between to allow the heart rate to come back down. I like to program these strategically alongside easy runs, and especially early in a training plan, to introduce speed work in a very low stress manner. As it relates to my plan, this is a key transition time between the holiday rest week and some soon to come harder running. Patience and the principle of progressive overload should prepare the body well.


Truthfully, strides are better suited for outdoors and I can never get truly comfortable with the ramp up on the treadmill. I mean, they work… But, I find I can fluidly go from walking to a faster pace outdoors compared to the hamster wheel. In the end, they got done and that’s all that matters.


Saturday, January 7th:



6-miles in the books. Today I started at Bradford Beach and ran through Veteran’s Park, past the Milwaukee Art Museum & Discovery Center, around Lakeshore Park, and back. It’s a nice, flat loop on Milwaukee’s Lakefront. Don’t get me wrong, the route requires some agile movement at times to dodge all the geese poop… But, what can you do?!?


The goal of this run was easy/long run pace which was executed well. With so much easy running lately to get back into the flow of my program, it has been almost automatic tapping into that pace and holding strong. Plus, with the colder weather I find it’s always more effortless for the heart rate to remain at bay which is a perk of running in the winter along Lake Michigan.


The body felt strong with no aches or pains and it made for a nice week one of 1/2 marathon training. With 16-weeks of training in this plan, there was just no need to start too aggressively and regret it. In years past, well since mid-2019 to be exact, if I incorporate speed work too quickly before the slow/steady miles, it tends to aggravate the foot with a condition called metatarsalgia.


Back in 2019 and during COVID, I was running on the treadmill in a new pair of Nike running shoes. The shoe was just too narrow for my foot which functions better with plenty of splay. After 5-10 minutes I knew I was in trouble as the pain progressed to moderate and I had to hobble out of the gym. Ever since, I have been very particular about what footwear I put on my feet. It’s not necessarily a specific brand of shoe since I have a very normal foot, but one that is wide enough to allow space for the feet to breathe. That’s why I often wear Xero minimalist shoes while working out, walking the dog, and around town. While running, any running shoe with adequate space is my requirement to keep the feet happy.


Why mostly easy running BEFORE speed work? The goal is to build stress in the following order... Frequency --> Duration --> Intensity. Too often do runners run fast without having the foundation in place to do so. This is a recipe for injury. That's why you hear about me getting in the groove following a week off before adding more intensity. Smart training requires patience but will allow you to run on your terms for years to come.


Next week calls for a slight bump up in mileage, ladder down speed work, and strides. A nice transition week before the intensity continues to ramp up. I’ll actually have to complete the long run back home in Boston since I’m visiting family. Luckily, my sister is onboard and we’ll tackle that together. She’s also running the Brew City 1/2 Marathon in April so it'll be an opportunity to size up the competition…


Thanks for following along this week! If you have any questions or want to talk about creating an individualized running and injury prevention plan for you, click the ‘Healthy Running Program’ tab above and fill out the form.


Onward to week #2!

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