Goal: 1:20 Half Marathon

Set Goals

The last long race I ran was the Fairfield Half Marathon (Fairfield, Connecticut) in 2003, which I completed in 1:29:16 (6:50 mile pace) on about 40 miles per week of training. In the intervening years, I have run shorter races, many with my two sons who are competitive runners, but it has been 10 years and I am itching again to test my abilities. One learns and improves through testing ones abilities, discovering strengths and weaknesses, and experiencing success and failure.

So I set a goal to run the Fairfield Half Marathon on June 23, 2013 (10 year anniversary) with a target finish time of 1:20 (6:00 mile pace).

Design Plan

To achieve my goal, I must design a plan to take me from where I am today (about 40 miles per week of training, 10 years older) to a 1:20 half marathon in five months. Think it can be done? Although I am confident that barring any injuries, I can do it, I won’t know until June 23. On December 26, I ran a half marathon training run in 1:35 (7:15 mile pace), so I have work to do.

Why do I need a plan? Why not just run? A plan will help me travel from point A to point B, allow me to measure progress along the way, learn about what works and what doesn’t, and enable me to make adjustments to the plan if I am not progressing to my goal. A plan also helps me hold myself accountable. Yes, if I have a planned workout and I don’t do it or unjustifiably modify it, I have no one but myself to blame if I fall short of my goal because I did not execute my plan.

My plan is to:

  • Have fun, explore and learn, and be focused on the goal
  • Build aerobic base through increase of weekly mileage from 40 to 60 miles
  • Ensure I can run the half marathon distance by increasing my long runs
  • Lower my pace from 7:15 to 6 minutes per mile through tempo runs and threshold intervals
  • Follow a hard/easy days and hard/easy weeks modality to reduce risk of injury and aid in recovery
  • Increase my strength and lower my risk of injury through core exercises and strength training
  • Enable recovery through sufficient sleep, good nutrition, and taking a rest day when necessary

In my next blog post, I will publish my plan to create transparency and accountability.

Execute Plan

Once I have a plan, I just execute. Simple, right? Adhering to a plan requires commitment without being dogmatic, the ability to balance what is absolutely necessary to achieve the goal and what is nice to have. I am not an elite athlete, I work and commute 80 hours a week, I have a family with children (including two sons who run), and I have hobbies and the need for downtime. And with any journey like this one, I will learn things about myself that I didn’t know and will have to adjust and adapt the plan if necessary. And it may even become necessary (let’s hope not) that I may have to modify or abandon my goal (last February I experienced a foot stress fracture and had to stop running for three months).

Measure Progress

How do I know that my plan will help me achieve my goal?

  • I will track and measure my progress using an online tool (read about tools to track your workouts here).
  • And I will participate in a less than handful shorter races to test my fitness relative to my goal (I am putting money in the bank to achieve my goal, every race represents a withdrawal so I will do maybe 1 or 2).

From past experience, I know it will be important to track my workouts holistically, that means running, core exercises, strength training, cross training (other sports/aerobic activities), sleep, recovery, weight changes, heart rate, injuries, mental and emotional states, and so on.

Analyze and Adjust

Measuring progress will help me determine whether I am on track to achieve my goal, and importantly confirm what I am doing right and identify what is not working and has to change. Achieving goals requires commitment and discipline to adhere to a plan, and also to adjust and adapt quickly if something is not working (often the plan can be fine-tuned to improve the probability of achieving the goal).

Achieve/Miss Goal

I won’t know until I cross the finish line of the Fairfield Half Marathon on June 23 if I have achieved my goal. Yes, I will be able to assess my probability of running 1:20 in the weeks leading up to the race, and on the morning of the race, I should have a reasonably high confidence that I can do it or not. In 2003, I hit the wall at 12 miles and started to walk when a runner who passed me encouraged me to finish, and I did in 1:29:16. So anything can happen.


Hopefully I will achieve my goal. Whether or not, it is important to retrospect following the race about what I learned from the training, the race itself, and the recovery period following the race. What worked well that I want to repeat. What did not work well, and importantly why, and what can I do different. My ability to retrospect will be driven by my willingness to be truthful with myself, to be willing to explore and admit that I made mistakes, and to learn from this experience and apply these lessons learned.

This is also a good time for me to plan for my next adventure and think about goals…you understand the rest.



  1. Mick Grant · · Reply

    Love the openness. One useful tempo run could be called a “PMP” run (predicted marathon pace). Several goals, but mainly learn goal pace, gradually go longer at goal pace and gradually run goal pace at a lower HR. You should decide over time what HR is sustainable for 13.1 miles and get your PMP run at that or lower. All these things are fun to explore. Go for it!

    1. Thanks. You’re confirming what I included in my plan. I start with a PMP run of 2 mi @ 6 min pace and build to 8 mi @ 6 min pace about 2 weeks before race. Not sure if I should go beyond that, would be worried about taking money out of the bank. What do you think, is 8 mi fine, too little or too much? Will need to think about HR – given that I am increasing length of PMP, will be challenging to drop HR (both related variables). Like you said, I will explore, analyze, and adjust.

  2. Depends on if you’re aerobic or anaerobic. Chances are you’re aerobic at 8 miles! Need to see what your HR does the last couple miles. Check your HR. Most books dealing with HR training don’t take into account aging. I’d say to get to 10, only if your HR/effort is reasonable. Need to see some hard data for a few runs first. (HR at different paces)

  3. […] have completed 3 runs totaling almost 20 miles, so I should achieve my weekly goal of 45 miles (my ultimate goal is to run the Fairfield Half Marathon on June 23 in 1:20). Monday I ran 7.5 miles at an easy pace on trails, Tuesday I ran 10×400 intervals on the […]

  4. […] a week ago I set a goal to run the Fairfield Half-Marathon on June 23 in 1:20. I completed my first week of training and it’s worth a quick retrospective to assess whether […]

  5. […] my initial half-marathon post, I focused on the design of the plan as one of the key success factors to help me achieve my goal […]

  6. […] 45 miles this week and met my weekly mileage goal, which will help me build my aerobic base for the Fairfield Half-Marathon on June 23. Second, I took a few risks this week to learn about myself and I learned some valuable things. […]

  7. […] I learned in the process. This week was my 3rd week of training to achieve my goal of running the Fairfield Half-Marathon in 1:20 on June 23, and I started the week not very motivated after two solid weeks of 40 and 45 miles. Running at […]

  8. […] weeks ago, I set a goal of running the Fairfield Half-Marathon on June 23 in 1:20. Although it’s still early, I feel good about the progress to date and am physically and mentally […]

  9. […] I completed week 5 of my training, with a goal to run the Fairfield Half-Marathon in 1:20 on June 23, I am increasingly focusing on how to continue building the aerobic base while staying healthy. For […]

  10. […] is week 6 of my training for the Fairfield Half-Marathon on June 23, with a goal time of in 1:20. I have 3 goals for the […]

  11. […] to build an aerobic base. Recall (if you’ve been following and reading) my goal to run the Fairfield Half-Marathon on June 23 in 1:20. Every week of training is important to achieve my goal. I ran 50 miles in week 6, including a […]

  12. […] weeks ago I ran my first 17 mile long run, part of my training to run 1:20 at the Fairfield Half-Marathon on June 23. On Friday, I ran the same 17 mile course and improved my time from 2:06:38 to 2:03:11 (reducing my […]

  13. […] am thrilled with my overall progress towards my goal of running the Fairfield Half-Marathon in 1:20 on June 23. And it is reassuring that after a week of fever and cough, I am healthy once again as confirmed by […]

  14. […] including my 3rd 17 mile long run, I should reach about 450 miles of aerobic base building since I started my half-marathon training. I hope everybody has a fun, safe and healthy training […]

  15. […] run 435 miles in the past 10 weeks since I set my goal to run the Fairfield Half-Marathon on June 23 in 1:20 (would have reached 450 miles were it not for one week of reduced mileage due to illness). I feel I […]

  16. […] as my previous stress fracture) during an 8-mile run, and I realized that my goal of running the Fairfield marathon on June 23 in 1:20 quickly vaporized. I rested the next day, and then attempted a 10×400 interval workout with my […]

  17. […] weeks have passed since I stopped training for my half-marathon goal because of a stress reaction. I wore an Aircast boot for three weeks to stabilize my foot and aid […]

  18. […] (mid-April 2014). For those of you interested n following along, I will post periodic updates. My 1:20 half-marathon goal hasn’t changed. Just […]

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