When I first took up running I knew I couldn’t just head out the door and run 10 kilometres. I needed time to get into shape and build up my lung capacity. What’s more, I needed a running training plan to help me reach my goals.
I first tried the Couch to 5K app, which helps turn beginners into regular runners in as little as eight weeks. It offers a steady 3-day-a-week training plan designed to ease newcomers into the sport of running, tracking your progress online and through the app with various training tools and tips.
I liked it for the first week or so, but found that I was able to build up my distance fairly quickly and the sessions became too easy (#humblebrag).
My wife, who was already a seasoned runner by then, started using the Runkeeper app for her running training plan. The free version offered a wide variety of training plans from expert run coaches like Jeff Gaudette and Mike Deibler.
Impressed with the Runkeeper app I switched over and settled on one of Gaudette’s training plans. What I appreciated about his plans is that many sessions exceeded the target distance. For example, if I was doing a 5K training plan over eight weeks, I’d have several long runs that went for 8 or 9 kilometres. The idea being that after running that far, a 5K would be a piece of cake.
He also varies the pace throughout the plan, so on a Monday I might have an easy 3K run ending with three 20-second sprints, on Wednesday I’d have a tempo run with 1K slow, 2K fast, and 1K slow, and then on Friday have a steady 6K run. That kind of variety kept me interested and excited to continue on with my training every week.
For the first 8-10 months I just ran to build up my endurance and get into better shape. Injured off-and-on, I didn’t feel confident enough in my running ability to train and compete in a race. After my sciatica healed, and I finally felt healthy and strong, I decided to enter the Moonlight Run in Lethbridge (2017).
A Running Training Plan for Racing
Now I needed a running training plan designed specifically to prepare me for a race. Luckily, Runkeeper had just what I was looking for. With a race training plan, you work backwards by entering your race date, distance, and desired outcome. Then customize the plan even further by adding the number of days you want to train per week (3 or 4).
Runkeeper had training plans for 5K, 10K, and half-marathon races. Since I entered a 6K race, I chose a 5K Jeff Gaudette plan, knowing that his long runs would include distances at up to 8K and 9K.
Coming off an injury I didn’t have time to complete the full duration of the plan, so I skipped the first two weeks and started in the middle of the plan. It prepared me well, and I was able to complete the 6K race in 35 minutes. Mission accomplished!
Unfortunately, my experience with Runkeeper hasn’t been that great since the company was purchased by Asics and the app was revamped in the spring of 2017. Gone were most of the free training plans, replaced by basic plans that looked more like the Couch to 5K program. How disappointing.
It seemed as if Runkeeper was trying to drive people towards its premium version, called Runkeeper Go. I fell for it and paid $55 to upgrade for a year. It hasn’t been worth it. Some of the more advanced training plans are available, but only when I log-in online. For some reason these plans aren’t available through the mobile app, which is just weird and annoying.
Still, I was able to find another Gaudette plan online and so I completed a sub-60 10K training plan before I raced in the 10K at the Calgary Marathon. Then I did a sub-55 10K plan last summer to prepare for the 10K at the Lethbridge Police Half-Marathon in the fall.
Since then I’ve just been doing my own thing. I went outside and ran for pure enjoyment, doing mostly 6-10K distances around west Lethbridge. Over the winter I’ve spent three or four days a week on the treadmill running various distances to stay in shape.
Now I find myself looking for another running training plan as I start to look ahead to a busy race season this spring. My running goals for this year are to compete in a 10K race in March, my first half-marathon in May, and another half-marathon in September. I need to start training now.
With that in mind I’ve signed up for a sub-2:00 half-marathon plan (Gaudette, Runkeeper) starting on February 6th. But I’m not enamoured with Runkeeper anymore and when my year is up I’ll be cancelling the premium upgrade and looking for something else.
Perhaps Strava or Garmin have training plans that would better suit me. Or maybe I’ll design my own running plan.