Realistic goal setting for a beginner

Hi all,

Been running for a couple of months now - prior history before these months is basically occasional jogs under 5k so nothing serious. 

I am working towards a half marathon in October and trying to understand a realistic goal. I think I've possibly been on the verge of training a little harder than advised in this period I've been pushing to run more 'properly' but I've been taking breaks when excessively fatigued and generally my body feels fine.

So far I have pushed my distance out to 12k with long slow runs, increasing by a km each week and have been practicing breaking 5k PB and 10k PB (the latter in the past couple of weeks only as my distance has gone up) each week too. I've also been doing some fartlek and recovery runs when semi tired.

I am seeing both my 10k times and 5k times come down at quite a rate (10k now at 53:18 and 5k at 23:19). Most of the training plans I have seen mention focusing a certain part of longer runs at 'tempo' pace as well as not going too hard too often, but I am finding it hard to judge what should be my half marathon goal pace given the fact I am eating into the shorter PBs every week, and I do as well enjoy the challenge of pushing myself with these - very motivating to get out there and run.

How should I be working out a goal pace, I suppose is what I am asking, and at what point should I force myself to stop trying to 'race' myself at 5k and 10k distances? I am early 30s and weigh an okay amount.

Thanks in advance!


    You can put your 5k and 10k times into a race calculator and that will predict your half marathon time.   For the half marathon training you should be looking to run your longer run at a slower pace, this is what builds the endurance and strengthens your aerobic system.   
    Again there are training pace calculators so put your 10k time in one of those and it will give you training paces. 
  • GuarddogGuarddog ✭✭✭
    Hi Diogenes - as it's your first half marathon, and based on your 10K time, I'd suggest a goal pace of about 9 min/mile. This would have you coming in at just under the 2 hour mark.

    If you feel that's an achievable pace then for your long slow runs you should be looking to do those at 10 min/mile pace. The factor in the long slow run is time on feet rather than distance, so you're building up to doing a +2hr run towards the end of the training. As Shades says this builds your endurance and it also gives you confidence. Generally on the half training I do once the base endurance has been established then I will step up the pace for a proportion of the run so I'm running at my race pace. So in a 2hr run I will run the last 30 mins at race pace.

    Obviously if, as you train, you find you're able to push on then you can readjust your race pace target.
  • YnnecYnnec ✭✭✭
    I'd avoid thinking about HM 'race pace' at the moment as you're obviously on a sharp improvement curve. Keep doing what you're doing (whilst incorporating a longer slower run as per Shades' and Guarddog's advice) for the next 4-6 weeks (or until your times plateau) and then plug your best 10k time into a race calculator. Use the suggested training paces for the subsequent months leading up to your goal HM in October.

    All the best.
  • JGavJGav ✭✭✭
    God advice above - based on Jack Daniels calculator your 5k time is the equivalent of a 48.25 10k.  Now you're obviously not there but because the difference between this and your actual time is quite large it indicates that you need to continue to work on endurance (long slow runs) and speed endurance (tempo sections of 1k to 1m in the middle of other runs).
  • Thanks, valuable advice all! I guess the main thing is to practice running slower when building distance as a few people have mentioned, I find it hard to force myself to run well within limits and this sounds worth working on.
  • senidMsenidM ✭✭✭
    Agree with comments above, and I also would estimate a sub 2hr for you, certainly if you carry on training as you are.

    But, as Ynnec says I wouldn't worry too much about a time in your 1st half, more just aim for a good run where you finish feeling ok, and if that's over 2 hours, don't worry.

    It just makes getting another PB so much easier!

    What would be a shame is if you went for a time, blew up and then decided that running wasn't for you - Instead, have an easy run, enjoy it and then go on for many more, once you've run a few, then your times will just come down.
  • Thanks again! Today I tried to do a 13k at a slower pace with 3x1k bursts at what a web calc said should be a 'tempo' pace for me, and still felt fresh at the end - my last 1k burst was above my best 5k pace yet. This seems like it will be useful, the slower running with tempo bursts.

    If I am honest I feel I could probably do a HM today a few mins either side of 2 hrs given how good I was feeling at a slower pace, I am used to long distance walking (20 miles plus) so maybe this helps? I won't feel motivated to do the HM for real unless I set myself a moderately ambitious goal so while I know the 'just finish it' is quite nice, I want to set something interesting as an ambition after next 4-6 weeks as mentioned above.
  • (slower pace I was running was 5:55 min/km, 'tempo' was 4:55, other than the last 1k tempo near to end which I felt good about so did it in 4:30)
    Your long distance walking will indeed have built you a good aerobic base.

    Your 10k time predicts a 1:57/1:58 half marathon, why not set that as your goal when you do your race.   If you do a 10k before your half race and do a PB you can always reset your goal.

    Go ahead and enter a half marathon if you haven't already.
  • Thanks, got one planned for October with a work group.
    Still seeing 10k improvement, now down to 52:21 and was able to run a couple of KM at 'slow' pace after which was rewarding.
  • Hi, thanks for the thread- this has been useful for me too.
  • Forgive the further questions - managed to take another 50sec off my 5k PB today. This felt tougher than anything I've done before which surprised me. Is it normal, or am I not pushing enough when improving 10k?
    I am going for the longer easier runs too but as suggested want to have the shorter distances where they can be in the next month before I start focusing on the October HM.
    I would think you're doing too much fast stuff, but 50 seconds off a 5k is a huge improvement, no wonder if felt tough.
  • GuarddogGuarddog ✭✭✭
    Don't underestimate a 5K, it's a tough run because you feel as if you should be going quicker over the shorter distance. But as Shades says - 50 secs improvement is huge, so well done. It sounds as if the longer runs are giving you the endurance base to be able to push for longer, so perhaps treat them as a speed session.
  • Thanks everyone again. Things are going well, I have improved my 10k time now to 49:35 and after the next two weeks I will probably look to tone down speed runs in favour of slow mileage and target a 1:50 time for the HM which seems the most I can realistically hope for. Starting to feel slightly tight hamstrings and hip flexors at times, nothing scary as yet but I think a sign to spend more time on slow and less on improving shorter pace. 
  • Interestingly, and I am not sure exactly why, I am starting to see much more reasonable heart rate on my easier/slower runs. I was a bit worried about that for a while but in the last couple of weeks it has dropped away a lot 
  • Last 5k was today before I abandon faster runs and I swear for me this is the most painful distance to push myself. Pure lung burning torture, but down to 21:49 which is where I am more than happy to leave it for now.
  • senidMsenidM ✭✭✭
    Great time for a 5K DtD, you'll find the speed stuff really works when you get to the longer distances, you're cruising speed will go up and seem much easier - I think about a 1:50 or quicker is definitely a possibility.
  • GuarddogGuarddog ✭✭✭
    1:50 is definitely on if all the training goes well. It's good to have an achievable target to aim for and then look to push on if you feel as if you can.
  • TTTT ✭✭✭
    Hi D2d my 5km (absolutely pushing it almost sick at the end) is 23 30 but my HM PB is 1 44 24 so if you keep on training and don't start off too quick under 1 50 should be easily doable. Keep training, that is the key to it all. 
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