Whether you're coming back from a four-week layoff or you've been running sporadically without focus, you can still get to the start - and finish - of a 5-K, 10-K, or half-marathon with this time-efficient three-week plan.
Week 1: If you're targeting a 5-K or 10-K, make sure you get in two distance runs of five to seven miles, but at your half-marathon pace. Half-marathoners should do one 10-miler at a comfortable pace. Some faster work, like intervals, is also key according to exercised physiologist Robert Fitts. One day, run a set or repeat 800s on a track, trail, or road, a little slower than race pace. Do fewer repeats than you think you can handle say, three or four 800s if you feel capable of five or six. Half-marathoners should do these one mile repeats a little faster than 10-K race pace. Another day, Fitts advises, include six to eight one-minute pick-ups at three-quarter speed during a five-miler.
Week 2: Follow the same program as week 1, but make one distance run a tempo run, says coach Tony Ruiz. Runners doing a 5-K or 10-K should do 20 to 25 minutes at about 30 seconds per mile slower than race pace.
Week 3: Atlanta-based coach Roy Benson recommends one hard workout, like four to six repeat 400s. For the 5-K, do the 400s at five to six seconds faster than race pace. For the 10-K and half-marathon, run the 400s 10 seconds faster than race pace. Do easy Runs the rest of the week.
From Runners World, June 2006.