You Be the Coach: How fast can Allison run in the half marathon?

One of the most difficult questions for any coach to answer is: how fast can I run in my upcoming race? 


Just think about all of the questions that your coach will ask:

  • How long do you have to train?
  • What’s your current mileage?
  • What’s your current personal best – and how long ago was it?
  • Is the course hilly or exposed to wind?
  • What will the temperature be?
  • Have you been doing race-specific workouts?
  • Is your long run “good enough” – and what is it like relative to what you usually do?
  • Have you been running consistently for 20 years or inconsistently for 1 year?

As you can imagine, my typical answer is: uhm, I’m not sure! In episode 6 of Q&A with Coach, I answered a similar question and dubbed it the most difficult ever submitted to the show.

Still, educated guesses about finish times are possible – and fun. Some of my favorite memories are hanging out with my college track teammates, predicting what we would run in our upcoming races.

And now it’s your turn to be the coach.

Today is another “You Be the Coach” opportunity. I’ve realized that as Strength Running grows (guys, there are over 25,000 subscribers – that’s huge!), the real strength of SR is its community. That’s YOU.

Collectively, we can accomplish more. Together, we can improve at a faster rate. There’s strength in numbers.

So let’s dive into this complex question. I’m pumped to hear your thoughts.

How fast can Allison run?

A few weeks ago, Allison sent me an email with a tough question:

Hi Jason,

I am a 29 year old female and I’m training for my first half-marathon. I was training for it last year, blew my knee out and strained a ligament, and was on crutches for a week. Then I took a very long break from running and now the knee is in great shape. I just don’t want to hurt it again.

I started training for the half-marathon about 6 weeks ago, and I have two more months until the race. I know it’s not much time. Right now I’m increasing my distance. My longest run in the week is 12k, next week it will be 15k, and I’ll cap it at 18k.

I noticed when increasing my distance I was able to maintain my pace. It’s at 8:40 per mile right now. But I’ve never trained for a half marathon. My 5k PR is 21:00 and in peak fitness, I could run a 10k at the same pace, I just can’t get faster on shorter distances, which leads me to think I can keep, or even speed up my pace in half marathon training.

So back to my training question: do you think it’s a realistic goal to maintain, or even speed up, my pace as I increase from 12k to 21k, in the next two months? Or, is that not how the body works?

There’s a lot going on in Allison’s question:

  • we know her age
  • the fact that this is her first half
  • she’s healthy, but not training as much as before
  • we know her 5k PR
  • her current “easy” pace

So, what do you think?

In the comments below, tell Allison what you think of her situation. Can she run 8:40 pace for the half marathon in two months?

More importantly, explain WHY and what she can do between now and the race to help her run this pace (or faster). What should her long run progression look like? Should she do any faster workouts?

Leave your reply in the comments below. Later this week I’ll chime in and give my answer, too!

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