Note: I'm thoroughly behind on these posts, so you'll see a series of them over the next week or two as I try to catch up.
How do you decide how far/long to run when you aren't following a predetermined training plan? I have a few short races (5Ks and 8Ks) coming up but I'm not planning to follow a training plan for them. I just finished my most recent half-marathon on July 19th and now I'm at a loss as what to do now in terms of distances, etc. I almost always run with a training plan but I'm not sure if I should now or not. Or, if I should be, what I should be looking for in one.
Oh, did you ever come to the right place, Erin. I am soooo not into training plans, at least not anything even remotely formal. I've talked about it at length in the past. In short, training plans bore me and I don't want to stick to them. They're not fun for me, so I just don't do them.
Does that potentially harm me? Eh, maybe. I likely won't be qualifying for Boston without a plan, but let's be clear... I likely wasn't going to qualify for Boston with a plan, either. I'm out to enjoy the run, maybe do a bit better than the last race, but I won't be heartbroken if I don't. It's not worth my energy to get all worked up about that stuff. I want to save that energy for when I'm hitting the roads.
So how do you decide how far you want to run? Well, you can either do it run-by-run, or try to do a certain amount of miles per week. At the beginning of the week, try to figure out how much you want to run, and then just allow yourself to get those miles in however you want. If you want to do 20/week, allow yourself to do that as 4 5-milers, 5 4-milers, a couple short runs and then a longer weekend run, whatever. Just try to get the total mileage for the week.
The normal disclaimers still apply, of course. You don't want to jump up into distances if you haven't worked up to it. Increasing long runs by no more than a mile each week and total mileage no more than 10% each week is a decent way to start.
But, after that, let your schedule and feel for things be your guide. I find that's much more enjoyable than having to do a tempo run on a certain day because it's on a schedule. Have fun with it.