Planning Far Ahead For a Marathon

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 | By Hal Higdon
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Have a question about running? You're in the right place. Every Tuesday, world-renowned coach, author and athlete Hal Higdon posts and answers athlete questions here. You can submit your question by joining the discussions on Hal Higdon's Virtual Training Bulletin Boards.


I would like to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon in November of 2015. I mainly run half marathons and, based on my times and assuming some improvement, I think that to be a realistic goal. To maximize my chances and minimize injuries, I would like to continue just doing half marathons up until my qualification race. How often should I race between now and then? Can I just back your training plans up from my target race? I generally just bounce race to race and hit training plans "in the middle." But now that I want to really maximize my chances of improving enough to qualify, I want to take a somewhat less reckless approach.

I should mention that I've only run one full marathon previously. And my time in that was about 1:30 too slow. But I've knocked about 20 minutes off my half marathon since then. So I think with an additional year of training, I can make it. But I'm just looking for some overall advice on how to go about doing that?

My plan was to run a half this fall (in November) in about 1:42 (current PR is 1:46). Then run another half marathon in the April/May timeframe in the 1:38 range. I'm currently 46, so I will need to run a 3:25 marathon to qualify.


Yes, I like your approach: Continue what you are doing. There is never any guarantee that a runner will nail a specific time going into a target race (sturm und drang can interfere), but you certainly would seem to have a good shot at nabbing a BQ based not only on your background, but also because you (wisely) are planning far, far ahead. Congratulations on your foresight.

Checking the Runner’s World race times predictor, a half marathon time of 1:38 does, indeed, predict a 3:25 marathon. (Other race-distance equivalents for you would be 21:22 for 5-K and 44:34 for 10-K.) So your preliminary goals would seem to be spot on. If you can nail that 1:38 next spring, that certainly would be a confidence builder. I’m not sure which programs of mine, or those of other coaches, you might have used for your previous races, but consider this approach: Use my Novice 2 half marathon program for your race this fall, then step up to Intermediate Half Marathon for the spring race. Intermediate will give you a dose of speedwork (one day a week) that would provide some balance. I’m not sure which marathon program to recommend this far out. Possibly either Intermediate 1 marathon or Intermediate 2 marathon, but let’s see how you do this fall and spring before making a final commitment.

The best thing you have going for you is your planning so far ahead. Good luck reaching your goal.

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