The Plan


Every journey starts with a single step.  But in the case of this Chicago Athlete, my journey to the April 10th Milwaukee Half-Marathon truly began with somewhere around 10,000 steps.  Before I fully committed to writing this series, I wanted to be sure I could slog out a 5 mile run walk.  Most 12 week half-marathon training programs suggest you be comfortable running 4-6 miles.  With only 8 short weeks to prepare I wanted to be sure I could at least 5, before developing a rather aggressive plan that will just get me across the finish line.  This will not be my first half; but, I do feel like I am starting over.  I’m hoping that by April 10th I’ll be able to make the words of the great Toby Keith ring true and find that I may not be “as good as I once was, but I’m as good once As I ever was.”


If you care to join me on this crazy journey or are just looking to shake off the winter rust, I am sharing my training plan with you.  While I am not a certified coach, I have written numerous plans that have helped myself and others get across the finish line at multiple races.  I know that what follows will make many shake their heads; but, I have to trust that I know what works for me and maybe for you as well.  I’m also always welcome to feedback and advise as all athletes should be.


With that disclaimer out of the way let’s look at what the next 8 weeks has in store for me.  I’ve built a day for circuit training, an hour of cycling on the trainer and two rest days (see clock) into each week.  You’ll notice that I also mix up the days I run on any given week.  This actually helps me to avoid what I call workout fatigue.  This also gives me some flexibility to move things around as needed when life gets in the way.

Week 1: A short mileage week (10.5 miles).  Designed to get the body used to being active again.  I also need to drag the bike out of storage and set it up on the trainer. 


Week 2: A “recovery” week (9 miles).  After not having run more than 5 or 6 miles in a given week.  It will be important to assess and address any nagging issues.


Week 3: A “load” week (19 miles). This is where many will shake their heads.  Most plans stress building in 10% increments in order to avoid injury.  I have already run 6 miles prior to starting this plan so that 7 mile Sunday run is not much of a stretch.  I also want to add in an extra day to give the body a stress test of sorts.


Week 4: A “step up” week (15 miles).  While it is less than week 3 in mileage.  My hurdle has always been that 8 mile mark.  Especially, if it is still too cold to get outside.  If I can get through this week, it will build my mental confidence for April 10th.


Week 5: First “Long Run” Week (19 miles).  You may notice that the mileage matches Week 3.  The difference is by now those shorter runs should feel a little easier and breaking into the double digit long run to really test if 13.1 will be achievable in 3 more weeks,


Week 6: Second “Long Run” Week (21 miles).  A slight bump in mileage with a long run just a mile short of goal distance.  There is a great deal of conjecture in the athletic community about whether it is necessary to go more than 10 miles for a half and 20 miles for a full.  For me, if I can get to 12 miles I know on race day I’ll be able to gut out 1.1 more miles to get to the finish line.


Week 7: An “abbreviated taper” (13 miles).  With such an aggressive training plan it will be hard to adequately taper for race day.  However, with a goal of just crossing the finish line, a week and a half should be enough recovery time from the two previous longer weeks. 


Week 8: Race Week (19.1 miles) It’s no coincidence that Race Week approximates the distance of weeks 3 and 5.  Those two weeks will be key to building the mental fortitude to get through my first half-marathon in almost two years.


Hopefully, in 8 weeks time I will be sharing how this plan helped me across the finish line at Milwaukee.  I am by no means recommending my plan will guarantee a couch to half success.  With any endeavor it is important to consult a trained professional and get medically cleared as well.  I’m just a weekend warrior sharing what I think is going to work for me!  Should this plan seem too aggressive for your needs I highly recommend you explore the new Chicago Athlete Coaching program.  If you are interested in receiving information about early enrollment, email 

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James began his journey in Triathlon 7 years ago; and participates in events as a mid to the back of the pack ever since. What started out as an attempt to lose a few pounds quickly became a change in lifestyle. Now when he’s not juggling responsibilities as a husband, father and Technology Coordinator for a District; you are likely to find him swimming, biking, and running all over the Northern 'Burbs of Chicago and beyond. The consummate gearhead, he is always experimenting with the latest gizmos and gadgets of the endurance industry. Happy to strike up a conversation or offer a few words of encouragement, you can find him at numerous events throughout the triathlon season in the Chicagoland area.


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