When I ran my first marathon, I got my training plan from a coach at the local running store. But when I was ready for the next challenge—I believe it was a half marathon the following year—a runner friend tipped me off to the classic online source for training plans: halhigdon.com.
Higdon is a coach and writer, and for many years has had simple, well-explained training plans on his website. If you pay, you can get email reminders and online tools to help you follow the plan. But if you just scroll down a bit on each plan’s page, you get all the details, including a chart that lays out all your workouts with the mileage and the purpose of each run.
I’m happy to print out a chart and work from that; we’ve already established that I’m a sucker for pencil-and-paper workout logs. But as of a few months ago, Hal’s plans, even the free versions, are available through a handy app called Run With Hal (free on iOS and Android).
As before, you need a paid account (in this case $US6.99 ($10)/month or $US59.99 ($89)/year) to track detailed statistics and to access premium features. But even the free stuff here is excellent. Plug in your race date, distance, goal time, and the days you prefer to run, and the app will schedule your workouts.
Unlike some running apps that just give you a set time or mileage, these workouts come with a little reading material to explain the point of the workout, and give some encouragement and tips on how to get the most out of it. For example, I told the app I wanted to run a marathon, and one of the first easy runs came with a note telling me to find a route that’s about three miles long, and then to not track my pace, because the point of today’s run is to stay relaxed and not overthink it. Meanwhile, Saturday’s long run came with a pep talk on how and why to nail the proper pace. The app really feels like it’s designed to help you meet the goals that matter to you, whereas other running apps are often short on advice but sticklers for tracking.
It’s up to you to choose an appropriate goal pace for your race, but then each run will give you a suggested pace. You can only see a week or two into the future, because the workouts are supposed to adjust based on what you report in your post-run check-ins. That said, they seem to correspond to the plans on the website, so you can still browse those to get an idea of what you’re signing yourself up for.
If I were to train for another marathon, this is probably the app I’d use—and that’s high praise coming from someone who would often rather not use an app at all.