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A faster half marathon – Garmin Coach setup, benchmark and first runs

On October 11, the race that made me want to run a half marathon is happening again. Maybe. It’s not cancelled yet and small races are slowly starting back up in my country. Even though it’s a large race, I’m keeping hope. I’ve also decided together with a friend that if it does get cancelled, we’ll run that half marathon on that day anyway. Not together as it’ll take me about 30 minutes longer, but it’ll be nice to know there’s a friend nearby doing what I’m doing. 

This means I need a new training plan. I’ve been running with Garmin Coach for 1,5 years now and I really like the ease and structure of the plans. However, after running with Coach Greg for almost all this time, I figured it was time for a change. I was dreading the speed work in the summer heat and wanted a slower, different plan. I considered some plans outside of Garmin, but didn’t find anything that spoke to me. I ended up with Garmin Coach Amy. Together we are aiming for a half marathon time of 2:38 in 18 weeks. I’ve selected 5 workouts a week, but will likely do 4 or 5 workouts each week depending on my schedule. Most of these runs should be easy runs, which sounds perfect for me during summer running. 

Eindhoven (half) Marathon, I’ll be ready for you. I hope you will be too! 

For more information on Garmin Coach, start at my What is Garmin Coach article. 

Benchmark run

The benchmark run is a 2 minute warming up, 5 minute all out run and 2 minute cooling down. It’s a way to see where you’re at and it’s the start of every Garmin Coach training plan. I like to compare my times as I progress. I ran my first benchmark on January 19, 2019 with an average pace of 7:15 min/km. My fastest benchmark was on March 15, 2020 on a cloudy 9°C morning. Average pace: 5:59 min/km.

Today it’s June 14 and a cloudy, 18°C day. Not my best running weather. I ran today’s benchmark at an average pace of 6:01 min/km. I’m pretty satisfied with this result. I know I’d be able to run faster under better conditions and I feel I’m getting fitter.

Tired run

The first run on my schedule is a tired/recovery run, usually meant to be done after a long run. You’re supposed to run as well as you can on the tired legs from your long run. Slow and steady, do what you can but don’t push yourself. As it’s the first run of the plan, I don’t really have a long run to recover from. I woke up extremely tired though, so it still felt fitting. It was warm and I had trouble keeping my heart rate down. A few walk breaks and a lot of slowing down led to a small 5K run at an average pace of 9:01 min/km. Not the best start, but it’ll have to do.

Hill repeats

After over one week of no running and the slow start of the training plan, I wanted to push myself a little bit. I created a hill repeat workout that had me sprinting up a hill ten times in a row. I hadn’t done hill repeats in a long time as Coach Greg’s 10K and HM plan doesn’t have them. My Fenix 6S Pro has also been telling me I haven’t been doing enough anaerobic workouts, maybe this will help.

The warming up towards my “hill” is just about 1K. The hill: a bridge over a highway. The repeats: 150 meters. I had already negotiated with myself that instead of 10 repeats, 8 would be fine as well. A bad start.

1. 5:45 min/km
2. 5:41 min/km
3. 5:47 min/km
4. 5:13 min/km
5. 5:19 min/km
6. 5:22 min/km

After 6 repeats I debated with myself and decided I was done with my workout and went home. Looking at my statistics now, I should’ve done at least those two more repeats and would probably have managed just fine. When I got home my Garmin told me it still wasn’t satisfied with my anaerobic efforts, my Vo2max went down and I’m unproductive. Thank you! I’ll just stick to the plan then.

Easy run

It’s a cloudy, but very humid morning. This means today is a very slow and sweaty run. I run in the woods, mostly avoiding the trails to keep some of my speed, but failed badly. I ran 5.7K at an average pace 9:14 min/km.

Long run

The first long run of the plan for me is a 12,87K (or 8 mile) run. My long runs are planned on Sunday’s and this Saturday I had a small party. Not enough sleep, a little too much to drink and a slight motivation issue. I told myself it would be okay to start with my first long run one week later.

Tired run

Another tired/recovery run that I did without actually having something to recover from. Due to the insane amount of mosquitoes roaming around the woods, attacking me as soon as I slow down, I decided to skip the woods today and run a round through the village. I used mostly cycling lanes, ran along the rails and arrived back home after 6.3K. I ran at an average pace of 8:14 min/km while still keeping my heart rate in zone 2. Feeling pretty good about this run.

Easy run

A short 4K run on the trails, my heart rate never left zone 2 and I was able to keep an average pace of 8:33 min/km. 

Summary
These were the first 1,5 weeks of my training plan and I feel like I could’ve done better. I skipped a few important runs and didn’t give it my all during the hill repeats. After the last easy run I developed a sharp pain that turned out to be an infection. The pain made moving almost impossible, so running was clearly not happening. I paused the training plan and decided that since I would be going on holiday shortly, I would not be bringing my running shoes to force myself to slow down and heal. Antibiotics helped too. As I’m finishing this article, the pain is gone, I’ve returned from vacation and I’ve unpaused the training plan. Back on track!

6 thoughts on “A faster half marathon – Garmin Coach setup, benchmark and first runs”

  1. Great to see you back at it. I find it really hard to stick to the recommended easy pace from coach Amy, but I must try harder to slow down! I’m only doing 4 runs a week, as 5 would just be too much for me, and I don’t like the idea of missing a run in the plan – how would I know whether the plan works if I don’t follow it? Good luck with the rest of the plan!

    1. That makes sense! As you can read though, I’m not following the plan 100% and adapt it to my own needs as I go along. I also ignore the easy pace targets and use my heart rate to guide me and assure I stay in the easy zone. For most people that’s easier then you want it to be though. Stick with it though, I do believe in the plans!

  2. Hi -great read and insight in to changing coaches.

    I am week 7/12 on Jeff’s 10k plan and what I like about Garmin Coach is the audio/time/distance beeps on the watch especially for pace/speed/hill reps but also count down on long runs. Plus the ability to reschedule / pause and change goals

    Whilst only 3 runs a week for 10k due to work commitments I’m building up to a 1/2 marathon in November ( fingers crossed it goes ahead otherwise will run around local park with friends on the day ). As Jeff goes long on his runs I may not have the time of 2 hours after work on 10k plan, so looking at Amy for 1/2, therefore interested in your plan and progress.

    I very much use the plan as a guide but don’t beat myself up if I drop a run and looks like dropping the easy/recovery run is a good option

    Look forward to reading your progress, it was you blog that helped me get started with Garmin Coach 🙂 so thank you.

    1. Hi! Thanks for your feedback! I think that’s the healthy way to use these plans as recreational runners. It’s not set in stone and sometimes stuff gets in the way. I’m not making much progress with Amy just yet, but I’m sure she’s not going to be so crazy as Jeff with the long runs!

  3. I’m starting to agree with the comments about using the coaching plan as a guide and being a bit flexible with it. I have now missed two of my planned runs this week due to some nasty soreness in my leg. I tried doing my easy run with the pain but that just made it worse, so I skipped Speed Repeats and Tempo Run. Hopefully I’ll be back on it for Saturday. My ankle/calf areas always seem to kick up a fuss after about 6 weeks of training, demanding a break! I’m starting to listen 🙂

    1. Always listen! Body first, training plan second! Or third.. 🙂 The plan does not know how you feel and it sounds like your body is asking for a bit of rest. Pausing the plan for a few days or a week can also take the pressure off. Good luck!

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