Training plan: Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon

Don’t you love the start of a new training cycle? Your training plan looks all perfect before you begin, not yet marred by skipped speed workouts and abbreviated long runs. Motivation abounds, and just the thought of your goal race is enough to get you out the door to run, or to make you choose the heavier dumbbells at the gym.

A couple weeks ago, I signed up for the The Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon. I’m in that phase during which I’m in love with everything about this Labor Day weekend race: flat and fast, highly organized, not too far from home. I’m daydreaming about hanging out with my running buddies at the post-race party, and about spending part of the long weekend at the beach. My first marathon was the Country Music Marathon in Nashville in 2007, so I’m well familiar with the slick, highly organized format of the Rock ‘n’ Roll race series—it might be crowded at the start, but I’m already looking forward to the well-stocked aid stations and ice-water-soaked towels at the finish line.

The race finishes at the beach. How cool is that?

The only downside I can forsee is the potential for unforgiving late-summer heat on what looks to be a largely shade-less course. But there will be plenty of time to worry about that when the honeymoon phase is replaced by the sinking dread of reality.

Starting at the end of the month, I’ll be following my beloved FIRST plan, in which I run only three days per week, but run them hard; swim or cycle at a decent intensity level for at least 30 to 60 minutes two or three days a week; and take one or two days off. My running days will consist of a tempo run, a speed workout and a long run.

A reminder of why I like FIRST: The training plans are designed by two exercise physiologists and marathoners who noticed their marathon times got better, not worse, when they trained for triathlons. I first tried it leading up to the National Half Marathon on March 21, 2009, and I ran my best time by several minutes. More importantly, I crossed the finish line uninjured.

In their helpful and entertaining book, Runner’s World Run Less, Run Faster, the FIRST guys suggest the following paces:

  • Track repeats should be run at 5K race pace or slightly faster. No problem; that’s what I’d be doing already … if I were currently doing any speedwork.
  • The long run should be about 30 seconds slower than your goal marathon pace. Which I would totally be doing … if I were currently doing any long runs.
  • The tempo run should be “comfortably hard,” 15 to 45 seconds slower than 5K pace. This means I’ve got to start picking up the pace to somewhere between 7:45-minute miles (ha!) and 8:15-minute miles.

Runner’s World also offers some helpful translations in its three-days-a-week half-marathon plan, which follows the spirit of the FIRST plan with fewer specifics to wrap your brain around.

Have you done the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon before? What did you think? Anything you wish you’d known before the race?


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16 responses to “Training plan: Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon

  1. I haven’t done it, but a friend of mine ran it a year the heat was described as “unforgiving.” Egads! Be careful!

    I haven’t followed a FIRST plan, but once I’m back in a training program I’d like to. As I’ve been chirping everywhere, swimming and biking has been making me more well-rounded, but also a better runner (during my tiny IT band runs!). Lots of luck starting a training program – it’s a great feeling. 🙂

  2. Joe

    Be careful, the heat does wicked things. Make sure you acclimate yourself properly and good luck.

  3. I did this race in 2008. A tropical cell moved in over the area during the week and a the humidity was brutal! It is flat yes, but there is lack of shade. Be sure to enjoy the many other activities that are going on at the beach that weekend. It is always fun!

  4. Liz

    That training plan is really intriguing me! I usually follow Hal Higdon but since I had the fracture last time maybe a plan with only 3 days of running would be better for my body.
    I’ve never done any of the rnr series but it sounds like it will be a fun time for you!

  5. lizard151

    I did it in 2008 too, and it was HUMID. But it was also, hands down, the most organized race I’ve ever run at this size. There was like 5 minutes between corrals, so there was plenty of room at the start. But the heat was nasty–I took more than 5 minutes off my VA Beach time at the Philly Distance Run 3 weeks later. But it’s definitely flat and lots of fun. And I’m not officially following the FIRST plan, but I’m counting on 3-4 days of running and lots of cross training to get me through Marine Corps this year. I’m tired of only running, and I’m tired of being sore in the same places all the time. With cross training I’m sore in all kinds of new places all the time!

  6. That sounds like a fun race – and flat too!
    I will be looking over the FIRST plan once I get a clean bill of health. Curious to know – what is their longest training run for the half?
    Thinking of running a half in Vegas this December. My husband doesn’t know yet …. ; )

    • I think there are a few different plans for various ability/intensity levels, but the plan I have printed out has the longest as a 12-miler. I actually amended that before the National Half to run no longer than 10 miles before the race, and it *still* worked out fine, since the long runs were at a faster pace.

      Good luck with the Vegas half … at least you know you’ll get a fun vacation out of it!

  7. Have fun! I did this in 2008 and 2009. The heat was brutal in ’08; last year was better, but still hot. The course had a decent amount of shade, but when it’s hot, it’s hot. It’s a very well-organized race – one of the best I’ve done – but I won’t be back because of the cost of the weekend (VB is crazy expensive for a holiday) and the fact the “free” after-race concerts continue to go downhill.

  8. i did this race last year. it was alright. flat, yes. sunny/shadeless, yes, but of course the weather can vary as you know. plus you train all through the summer so hopefully by september you are more than prepared! i love the beach so… getting to spend time on the beach before/after the race was my favorite part 🙂

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