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The Novice 1 Plan
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The Intermediate 2 Plan


15-K Training Guide - Intermediate Program

Here is the interactive 15-K training program.

Introduction: The above schedule is for intermediate runners: individuals who want to improve their performances in either a 15-K or a 10-mile race. What defines an Intermediate runner? You should be running five to six times a week, averaging 15-25 miles weekly training. You probably also should have run one or more races at distances between the 10-K and the Half-Marathon. With that as background, you now need a somewhat more sophisticated schedule so as to improve. If that doesn't sound like you, you might be more comfortable using one of my programs designed for novice or advanced runners. Following are explanations of the terms used in the training chart below.

10-Mile Training: The difference between 15-K (9.3 miles) and 10 miles is minimal. You can use these same programs to train for a 10-mile race. All of my programs are available from TrainingPeaks in interactive versions, where I send you an email daily telling you what to run and offering tips in your training. Here is a link to the interactive 15-K program. 

Runs: The runs of 3-6 miles on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays are designed to be done at a comfortable pace. If you can't carry on a conversation with your training partner, you're running too fast. For those who use heart monitors to measure their level of exertion, you would be running between 65 to 75 percent of maximum. In other words, run easy.

Rest: Rest is an important part of your training. Friday is always a day of rest in the Intermediate program. Be realistic about your fatigue level and don't feel guilty if you decide to take an additional day off. Specifically consider scheduling at least one extra rest day during those weeks when you choose to race.

Tempo Runs: A tempo run is a continuous run with a buildup in the middle to near 15-K race pace. In this program, tempo runs are scheduled for every other Wednesday, alternating with interval training on the track. A tempo run of 30 to 40 minutes would begin with 10-15 minutes easy running, build over the next 10-20 minutes to 3-5 minutes at peak speed near the middle, then cruise home in 5-10 minutes easy toward the end. The pace build-up should be gradual, not sudden, with peak speed (near 15-K pace) coming about two-thirds into the workout. (You don't maintain peak speed for the entire middle of this workout, since that would involve too much stress.) You can do tempo runs almost anywhere: on the road, on trails or even on a track.

Speedwork: If you want to race at a fast pace, you need to train at a fast pace. Interval training where you alternate fast running with jogging or walking is a very effective form of speedwork. The training schedule includes interval training featuring 800-meter reps (repeats) every other week, alternating with the tempo runs discussed above. Run the 800s at about the pace you would run in a 5-K race. Walk or jog between each repeat. Although the best venue for speedwork of this sort is on a 400-meter track, these workouts can be done on the road or on trails, either by using measured courses or by running hard approximately the length of time you would run a 400 or 800 on the track. For instance, if you normally run 800 reps in 3:30, do fast reps for that length of time and don't worry about distance. For more information on speed training, see my book, Run Fast.

Warm-up: Warming up is important, not only before the race itself, but before your speed workouts and pace workouts. Most novice runners do not warm up, except in the race itself. This is okay, because they're more interested in finishing rather than finishing fast. As an Intermediate runner, you have a slightly different goal, otherwise you wouldn't be using this program, so warm up before you run fast. My usual warm-up is to jog a mile or two, sit down and stretch for 5-10 minutes, then run some easy strides (100 meters at near race pace). And I usually cool down afterwards by doing half the distance of the warm-up.

Stretch & Strengthen: Also important as part of the warm-up is stretching. Don't overlook it--particularly on days when you plan to run fast. Strength training is important too: push-ups, pull-ups, use of free weights or working out with various machines at a Fitness Club. Runners generally benefit if they combine light weights with a high number of repetitions, rather than pumping very heavy iron. Mondays and Thursdays would be good days to combine stretching and strengthening with your easy run, however, you can schedule Stretch & Strengthen on any day that is convenient for your business and personal schedule.

Cross-Training: On the schedule, this is identified simply as "cross." What form of cross-training works best for runners preparing for a 15-K race? It could be swimming, or cycling, walking, other forms of aerobic training or some combination that could include strength training. And feel free to throw in some jogging as well if you're feeling good. What cross-training you select depends on your personal preference. But don't make the mistake of cross-training too vigorously. Cross-training days should be considered easy days that allow you to recover from the running you do the rest of the week.

Racing: Please notice that the mileage is slightly reduced during Weeks 4 and 7. These would normally be "stepback" weeks in the novice programs. You can use these weeks to relax too, or you might want to try a road race. I suggest a 5-K in Week 4 and a 10-K in Week 7, but there is nothing magic about those distances or distances. Check your local race calendar for some suitable races, and don't take them too seriously. Your main focus should be on the 15-K at the end of the program.

Runs: As an experienced runner, you probably already do a long run on the weekends anyway. This schedule suggests a slight increase in distance as you get closer to race date: from 6 to 10 miles. Don't get hung up on running these workouts too fast. Run at a comfortable, conversational pace.

The 15-K training schedule is only a guide. Feel free to make minor modifications to suit your work and family schedule. Also, consider signing up for the Virtual Program (available from TrainingPeaks) for more detailed information on what to run each day and tips for your training.

Training to improve your 15-K

Click here for a printer-friendly version of the Intermediate schedule.

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 3 m run + strength 4 m run 4 x 800 5-K pace 2 m run + strength Rest 6 m run 60 min cross
2 3 m run + strength 5 m run 30 min tempo 3 m run + strength Rest 7 m run 60 min cross
3 3 m run + strength 6 m run 5 x 800 5-K pace 4 m run + strength Rest 8 m run 60 min cross
4 3 m run + strength 4 m run 35 min tempo 2 m run + strength Rest 4 m run 5-K Race
5 3 m run + strength 5 m run 6 x 800 5-K pace 3 m run + strength Rest 7 m run 60 min cross
6 3 m run + strength 6 m run 40 min tempo 4 m run + strength Rest 8 m run 60 min cross
7 3 m run + strength 4 m run 7 x 800 5-K pace 2 m run + strength Rest 4 m run 10-K Race
8 3 m run + strength 5 m run 45 min tempo 3 m run + strength Rest 9 m run 60 min cross
9 3 m run + strength 6 m run 8 x 800 5-K pace 4 m run + strength Rest 10 m run 60 min cross
10 3 m run + strength 4 m run 30 min tempo 4 m run 1-2 m run Rest 15-K Race

15-K Training: Novice | Intermediate | Advanced


Click here for the TrainingPeaks interactive 15-K program