Planning Far Ahead For a Marathon

BY Hal Higdon

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.

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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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About Hal Higdon

Hal Higdon is a Contributing Editor for ‘Runner’s World‘ and author of 34 books, including the best-selling ‘Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide’. He ran eight times in the Olympic Trials and won four world masters championships. Higdon estimates that over a quarter of a million runners have finished marathons using his training programs, and he also offers additional interactive programs at all distances through TrainingPeaks. Hal uses TrainingPeaks to power his interactive marathon and half marathon training plans — check out more of Hal Higdon’s training plans on his website.