What Next?

I have my first half marathon in a couple of weeks. I expect to complete it in around 2 hrs 10 mins. I know that is slow but it will be a big achievement for me after being largely sedentary for 25 years and still overweight. I’m starting to think about what to do afterwards.

To prepare for the race I’ve been following a conservative 11 week training plan that has me running 4 times a week. I did no exercise at all for a year beforehand. It has gone really well. I have had no trouble attaining the paces required by the plan although I have found the 11 mile workouts challenging and have really needed the two days rest afterwards to recover. Although my plan requires me to run at different paces for 3, 5, 7.5, 10 and 11 miles, I have never done any kind of interval training or other speed work. I also live in a hilly area but have tried to make my routes as flat as possible because my race is flat.

I’m toying with the idea of a full marathon next year but not if I have to run for over four hours. I would therefore like to set myself some interim training goals that get me much faster and to the point where I’m capable of following a sub 4:00 marathon training plan. Trouble is I don’t know if that is realistic or what to do if it is.

Firstly, is sub 4:00 a realistic objective for me in a year? I know I can run about 9 min/mile for a couple of miles but my heart rate is quite high for that at the moment (just under 85% of WHR). I've noticed my heart rate dropping for given paces over the last few weeks but imagine one must see big improvements early on and smaller ones later.

Secondly, any suggestions for shorter term goals and the type of training to do? I’m quite keen on using a heart rate monitor and four times a week seems to be the limit for my aged body right now. I like having a race as an objective because it seems to keep me motivated to train. I’m also paranoid about getting injured. I’ve had a few periods in my life where I’ve got the bug for running, overdone it, got injured and just given up. I would rather avoid that again if possible.
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