For my Half Marathon this past April, I used Smart Coach from Runnersworld.com to build a training program. First and most importantly, it is free! It is also customized. You are asked to enter:
- a recent race time
- the distance you are training for
- your current weekly mileage
- how hard you want to train (maintenance, moderate, hard, very hard - explanations are given)
- which day of the week you'd like to do your long run
- how many weeks until your race
- which week you'd like your plan to start
The top portion summarizes the information you provided to Smart Coach. Then you can see your schedule: it breaks down each week for you - the type of run (easy, speed work, tempo, distance), how far to run, and pace. It also tells you which days to rest or cross train. At the very bottom is an explanation of each kind of run and the notation they use in the schedule for things like intervals of speed work.
I found Smart Coach to be very user-friendly. I saved a copy to my web browser for quick reference. I also printed up a copy for the fridge, and a small copy to stick in my work planner (as a reminder and something to be accountable to so I couldn't make excuses!)
I'm using Smart Coach again as I train for my second half marathon this fall. I'm currently finishing up Week 6 of 16.
If you've run in a race, have you used a formal training plan? What did you use?