Running to Berlin, Week 3: Half Marathon Tune-Up Race

The purpose of a tune-up race is working on your racing chops, and getting some answers answers about your fitness level. That was the main focus for the week. Read on for all the details about the training week, and the half marathon.

Weekly Summary

  • Total Distance Run: 100 km (62 miles)
  • Long Run: 21.1 km (13.1 miles) @ 3:44/km (6:00/mile)
  • Medium Long Run: 16 km (10 miles) @ 4:29/km (7:12/mile)
  • Workout: 8 x 1000m @ 3:36/km (5:47/mile) with 60 second recovery

After a solid four week training block, this week marked a bit of a drawdown in terms of mileage. To make space for recovery, as well as a tune-up race to round out the week, as well as the first part of my training cycle leading up to the Berlin Marathon.

Safe to say my return to racing didn’t quite live up to what I expected from myself. Based on the progression of workouts and long runs over the past month, I thought I would be able to perform at a significantly higher level than I managed.

This is all part of my preparation for Berlin, however. I am fully prepared for ups and downs along the way. What matters is that I line up at the start on September 25th knowing that I’ve done what I can to maximise my performance on that day. And this was another contribution to that, despite the lackluster half marathon race.


Another Monday, another recovery double. No stroller jog to start this week, as it was a long weekend/bank holiday, and that let me get out twice without having to bring the kid along in the stroller.

Remember, the first rule of running with a stroller: Always run without the stroller unless it can’t be helped.


After an easy run with the stroller in the morning, I was ready for another track workout with the club in the evening.

Because I had a race scheduled later in the week, I took the volume down from the 10-12 kilometres of “hard” running I usually do during these workouts. Instead, I went for 8 x 1000m at what I thought was the faster end of what could be my half marathon pace.

I averaged 3:36/km (5:47/mile) for the reps, with the last one being the fastest at 3:33/km (5:43/mile). The reps felt controlled, but my heart rate was a bit higher than my perceived effort indicated. 

I wrote that down to this being the first workout in any real heat and humidity. But, it was perhaps a subtle sign that I was overestimating my fitness ever so slightly.


Nothing special about this Wednesday. I’m just getting out the door with the stroller, and running the regularly scheduled 10 kilometres, trying to recover to the best of my ability.


This was a bit of a roller coaster of a training day. Going out for my lunch run with the stroller, I felt relaxed and light on my feet. You can see that the pace is a bit faster than I usually do for these runs. That was without pushing effort at all. Heart rate was also well within the normal range for these runs.

I took this as a good sign, and I was starting to look forward to this week’s shorter medium long later in the day. As the day progressed, though, I started to tire. By the time I was getting out for my run, I felt mentally drained, and was not looking forward to getting out at all.

Some days you won’t feel like doing whatever’s scheduled. Yet, when you get out, everything just clicks into place. This was not one of those days.

Instead, the run matched exactly what I felt before getting out. Getting through the scheduled 16 kilometres was more than enough of a challenge.


Because I felt so sluggish on Thursday evening, I decided to move things around a bit going into the weekend. I shifted my regular Saturday full recovery day to Friday, hoping to get out of the hole.


On Saturday, I then got out for a short easy run. Not for the training stimulus, or because I thought it would be beneficial for the race next day. I just wanted to confirm that I wasn’t coming down with something, and that I generally felt OK.

I did, which meant I was good to race the next day.


By now, I’m sure you’ve surmised that the race didn’t go as I’d hoped. I was certain of at least being capable of running in the 1:17:30-range, even on a bad day.

It ended up being a bad day, but I did not run 1:17:30. I was a full two minutes slower, clocking in at 1:19:30.

🔗 Read the full race report from Rekordløpet Half Marathon

You can read the full report from the race at the link above. But to sum it up, it was a rough day. With another day of reflecting on the race, I have some additional thoughts on the race.

A more sustainable training approach has made me soft

The heart rate data shows that, compared to earlier half marathon races, I should have run faster. I’m 4-5 beats lower than what I’ve previously averaged in half marathons.

Intuitively, this might not look like a significant reduction. But the pie chart showing time in zones for my last three half marathons illustrates the difference.

This was simply not a true race effort, but instead a notch below. That’s not to say I could have run faster yesterday—if I could, I would. I’m just not conditioned to handle running at true race effort.

I put that down to three factors:

  1. A long period without racing. My last true race effort was more than 14 months ago.
  2. In the past, I used to run my “threshold” runs at a higher intensity, more closely resembling half marathon race intensity.
  3. These threshold sessions were usually continuous, or at the very least consisted of longer reps between 3-5 kilometres (2-3 miles).

Essentially, it boils down to becoming good at what you practice. Obviously, my main focus now is preparing for the marathon. I’m still reasonably certain that my current approach to training optimises for that—despite the poor performance this weekend.

Still, this race highlights the importance of actually practicing racing. Which I plan to do more, as the opportunities arise in the coming months. If you want to follow along, make sure you subscribe to the weekly Run161 Newsletter.

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Next week is all about recovery for me. In other words, the main focus of next week’s report will be all about the importance of making space for recovery, even during a big training block.


July 27, 2023


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