Running programme duration

I have just completed my final hard weeks of training in the sharpening phase of my half-marathon plan and now have two weeks of taper before my time trial on the 20th December. I am 25 miles ahead of my target 2000 miles for the year, and blogger Geek in the hills has suggested instead of taking half a week off after my virtual race, I should aim for 2020 for symmetry. We shall see.

With two weeks left of my current plan, I have started to think about what next. In last weeks Sunday Runday post, I talked about creating a plan, and the week before I talked about picking a peak race. This week I wanted to cover step two of programme creation and talk about plan durations and start dates.

With any plan, you want to prepare for an event to improve fitness significantly. The peak race must be far enough in the future to prepare for optimal performance but not too far away to lack urgency and motivation to train for it. Suppose your goal race is significantly in the future such as the end of the summer next year. In that case, you might want to commit to a more immediate goal, such as the next step on the distance runners progression and start the preparation for your goal event later in the year.

Choosing the ideal programme length depends on two things, your current level of fitness and the distance of the peak race. The fitter you are, the less time you will need to prepare so the shorter the duration. More extended distance events such as the marathon require more preparation time and so longer plans. Maintaining a base level of fitness at all times and never dropping training completed will allow you to skip the first few weeks of most programmes. The longer the peak event, the longer the recovery period after so remember to take at least two weeks of rest at the end of the year to recover.

Aim to peak three and no more than four times per year.

Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald

Optimal training plan duration by peak-race distance*

5k: 12-16 weeks

10k: 14-18 weeks

Half-Marathon: 16-20 weeks

Marathon: 18-24 weeks

*Running Faster, by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald

Spring in the UK starts on the 21st March next year and the start of the road Marathon season begins towards the end of April with the London Marathon (it has been moved to October again this year). If we start training at the start of winter (20th December this year), we could peak for a 5k in mid-March, or a 10k in April towards the end of April, a half marathon in May, or a marathon in June. These lengths could be shorter if you carry fitness into the new year but allow you to have an enjoyable festive season too.

Pick up a copy of Run Faster by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald and contact me on Twitter if you have picked a peak event for Spring next year and have started training already.